The Cosmic Race

The National Council of La Raza has just wrapped up its annual conference in Chicago. While I think Tom Tancredo was engaging in hyperbole when he described La Raza as “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses” (that describes instead MEChA and the Brown Berets), there’s more to the comparison than people might realize.

La Raza’s attempt to explain away their name as meaning “the people” or “the community” instead of “the race” notes correctly, and approvingly, that the phrase was coined by former Mexican secretary of education Jose Vasconcelos in the 1920s as “La Raza Cosmica.” But maybe they didn’t look closely enough at the theoretical underpinnings of the concept. Here’s what Guillermo Lux and Maurilio Vigil wrote about it in Aztlan: Essays on the Chicano Homeland:

The concept of La Raza can be traced to the ideas and writings of Jose Vasconcelos, the Mexican theorist who developed the theory of la raza cosmica (the cosmic or super race) at least partially as a minority reaction to the Nordic notions of racial superiority. Vasconelos developed a systematic theory which argued that climatic and geographic conditions and mixture of Spanish and Indian races created a superior race. The concept of La Raza connotes that the mestizo is a distinct race and not Caucasian, as is technically the case.

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