identity

Here’s Why Mexican and Jewishness Have Always Been A Thing

In Mexico City, on a rainy evening this past July, on the eve of the 2017 Latin American Jewish Studies conference, I decided to have a meal that would bring me a little closer to my research on the history of Jewish migration in Mexico. Just a short stroll down Avenida Masaryk, and I found myself sitting at Klein’s Deli in Polanco, a Jewish owned restaurant that has been around since 1962. “Una orden de tacos de salami kosher, por favor,” I asked the waiter from my booth. (Kosher salami is pork-free, beef salami that satisfies the requirements of biblical Jewish law.)

CREDIT: MEXICO – JANUARY 01: Jews In A Synagogue In Mexico, 1940 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

This culinary fusion between Mexican and Jewish cuisine made me feel right at home; I was raised in California and grew up speaking both English and Spanish on a regular basis. But while the intersection of Jewishness and “Mexicanness” is nothing new for me, for many others, this religious identity sounds surprising, foreign even. Certainly, Mexico is a country with deep Catholic roots. But the lack of knowledge about Jews in Mexico, has always intrigued me, particularly when you consider that Jewish roots to Mexico are as old as its Spanish and African ones. Yet, just as official Mexican history has long silenced the country’s African heritage, Jewishness has remained a marginalized category of Mexican identity within the country and throughout the global Jewish diaspora.

Unlike the erasure of Mexico’s African roots however, which is about separating blackness from “Mexicanness” — the silence surrounding Mexico’s Jewish history is largely connected to the preservation of whiteness, a racial category that does not conform to the nation’s unifying ideology of mestizaje, or racial mixing. For Mexico’s Jewish community, whiteness has meant different socio-economic privileges and other forms of mobility.So how did Judaism first begin in Mexico? Modern Jewish migration to Mexico began in the late 19th century, when the dictatorial regime of Porfirio Díaz welcomed migration from Europe and the United States.

Among these early Jewish migrants, the majority were single men of German and French background, who did not publically identify as Jews. They often married Catholic women and assimilated into the Mexican elite. The privileges that some of these European immigrants enjoyed during the Díaz regime was in part, informed by the legacy of the Spanish casta (caste) system, where your race determined your social position in colonial Mexico. Spaniards were always positioned at the top of the social order, followed by mixed-race individuals, and then African and indigenous peoples.

“However, unlike the erasure of Mexico’s African roots, which is about separating blackness from “Mexicanness” — the silence surrounding Mexico’s Jewish history is largely connected to the preservation of whiteness, a racial category that parallels the nation’s foundational concept of mestizaje, or racial mixing.”

As Jews and other Europeans migrated to Mexico in the decades following the country’s independence from Spain, the casta system continued to grant European migrants with certain privileges due to their Western heritage. During the Díaz regime, Jews in Mexico held political office were involved in global and private banking and participated in colonization initiatives in the northern regions of the country.

At the turn of the 20th century and the decades that followed, Jewish migration to Mexico hit record levels, with families arriving from Central/Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, through the ports of Veracruz and Tampico. Increased levels of migration from these countries were influenced by decades of political and economic instability, the shifting of empires into nation-states, along with immigration quotas and restrictions in the U.S.

As time passed, the children of these first-generation Jewish immigrants began to set roots in the urban landscape and formed vibrant Jewish communities in Mexico City. The center of Jewish life blossomed along la calle Jesus María in el Centro Histórico, near where the first synagogue was established, along with kosher meat markets and bakeries; today, this neighborhood is known as the Garment District. Beginning in the 1930s, the Jewish community began to move into different ethnic enclaves, moving east into colonias like Roma and Condesa. (It should be noted that many of Mexico City’s historic Jewish neighborhoods have been gravely affected by the recent earthquake, which has claimed 230 lives to date).

Increased levels of Jewish migration to Mexico collided with a Revolutionary period, which unified the Mexican national identity around the ideology of mestizaje, or racial mixing. Outwardly, the political ideology was meant to challenge the Euro-centric racial hierarchy of the casta system, defining the modern Mexican as a racially mixed subject. In practice however, mestizaje continued to exclude the majority of Mexico’s ethnically diverse population, silencing the histories of those communities who did not fit into the narrow Spanish / Indigenous mold.  Under mestizaje, Jewish immigrants became ‘unwelcome foreigners.’

CREDIT: Historical Synagogue, Centro, Mexico City. Image credit: Angélica Portales

Throughout the 1930s, Jews were the targets of xenophobic immigration legislation and fascist, anti-Semitic groups, like los Camisas Doradas, The Guilded Shirts.  The self-isolation of Mexico’s Jewish communities, compounded by age-old trends of Christian anti-Judaism and the institutionalization of mestizaje as the core to Mexicaness, helped popularize the idea that  Jewish immigrants were unassimilable foreigners in Mexico.

While exclusion from the official discourse of mestizaje has created an ambivalent relationship between Jewishness and Mexicaness, it has also meant the preservation of racial and economic capital (read: whiteness) for the Mexican Jewish community. The privileges that whiteness has, overtime, afforded Jews in Mexico, are made evident through high levels of education, above average literacy rates in both Spanish and English, and the high rate of employment, particularly entrepreneurship that continues to be seen throughout Jewish communities in Mexico City.

Today, there is a growing diaspora of Mexican Jews in the United States, a south-to-north migration that began in the 1980s. The inclusion of Mexican Jews into the U.S. Jewish community challenges us to think in new, dynamic directions about the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and racial fabric of Jews in the Americas. As we welcome in Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) this year, it’s important that we remember that the Jewish community has a long history in Mexico that should also be recognized.

Max Greenberg is a fourth year doctoral student in the UCLA Chicana and Chicano Studies Department. Their research examines Jewish migration and racial formation in Mexico. 

READ: This Is How Jewish Latinos Get Down With The Food During Hanukkah

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The Music Video For New Shawn Mendes And Camila Cabello Hit ‘Senorita’ Is Pure Fire And No Wonder Fans Think Theyre A Couple Like OMG

Entertainment

The Music Video For New Shawn Mendes And Camila Cabello Hit ‘Senorita’ Is Pure Fire And No Wonder Fans Think Theyre A Couple Like OMG

camila cabello / YouTube

There is one thing in music that is not up for debate: the Camilizer fandom is one of the strongest. No matter what the pop star is doing, her fans will always show up with full support on social media and irl. That fandom is making power moves again now that Cabello’s new collab “Señorita” with Shawn Mendes is out. In less than 24 hours, the video already had 14 million views.

Camila Cabello got her fandom ready with one tweet and it worked.

Credit: @Camila_Cabello / Twitter

Cabello’s Twitter is a powerful tool. When she tweets, her millions of followers listen. It is clear that she has learned how to harness social media for the betterment of her career and it is paying off. Tbh, she kind of deserves the success she has garnered so far. Like, she skipped her quinces so she could audition for the X Factor and the rest is music history.

Cabello stans are here to tell you that “Señorita” is a song that is here to stay.

Credit: @joyfulseavey / Twitter

No one is surprised to hear that Cabello was able to put out a hit. She is proving herself as a powerful musician. We still can’t get “Havana” out of our heads and it has been out for two years.

Like, this is what the Camilizer fandom is doing the rest of the weekend with this song in the background.

Low key, a lot of people will be giving this song all of their streams this weekend. Who wouldn’t want to spend the next couple days bouncing to this song?

People are crying over the new song because they have been waiting for new music.

Credit: @InZaynFor5H / Twitter

Take some deep breaths and relax. You don’t want to miss any of the music or video because you can’t see or hear over your own sobs. Is it even worth listening if you are crying so intensely?

Fans had theories about how the singers prepared for their intimate moments on screen.

Credit: @ShawnMendes / Twitter

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to have bad breath when you have to kiss someone over and over again. It is also kind of cute that Mendes was so concerned that he ate mints to make sure he had good breath for Cabello.

The video and the passion between the singers is reigniting speculation that they are secretly more than friends.

Credit: @_emgm_ / Twitter

Some people might call it good acting and on-screen chemistry. Camilizers call it them sharing their truth while hiding behind the facade of music and the arts. Whichever it is, they know how to make a convincing couple on the screen.

Here is the full video for Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes’s “Señorita.”

Congrats, you two. Seems like you really did the thing with this video.

Keds Latest Designs Proves That Avoiding Cultural Appropriation In Fashion Is Totally Possible

Culture

Keds Latest Designs Proves That Avoiding Cultural Appropriation In Fashion Is Totally Possible

Keds

It’s always really cool to see a big name brand embrace the art of our Latinidad. It’s like a nod to all of the great Latinx artisans who add beauty and color to our culture. In fact, seeing consumers enthusiastically welcome these goods feels like further validation. With this in mind, it makes this new collaboration all the sweeter for us art and fashion lovers.

Keds is collaborating with designers Thelma Dávila and Lolita Mia on a line inspired by the Latina-created brands.

Instagram / @Keds

In what the shoe company is calling a “collaboration fiesta,” Keds released three fun and vibrant new designs.

Some of the shoes borrow inspiration from Thelma Dávila’s colorful Guatemalan textiles. Alternatively, other pairs utilize Lolita Mia’s festive fringe as embellishments. These touches combine with Keds’ original platform shoes to make a unique product.

Of the partnership with these new brands, Keds’ website says:

“It’s so rewarding to be able to be a part of the professional and personal growth of women who decided to follow their dreams. Entrepreneurs (especially female ones) are always brave, they’re risk-takers that believe strongly in themselves. And we believe in them too. We’re so excited to introduce you to our latest for-women-by-women collaborations.”

The Thelma Dávila brand is named after its Guatemalan founder.

Keds

The company specializes in designing and crafting unique pieces by hand. Furthermore, their products utilize Guatemalan textiles, leathers and non-leather materials. Obviously, this collaboration is built on a solid relationship between the two brands. Since last year, Keds retail locations have carried Thelma Dávila bags and products in stores.

On their website, Keds said the design collaborations were intent on “taking geometric design and color cues from [Dávila’s] native culture, our classic Triple Kick gets transformed into a fiesta-ready standout.”

Founded by jewelry artisan and entrepreneur, Elena Gil, Lolita Mia is a Costa Rican accessory brand.

Keds

While studying abroad in Italy, Gil made a significant personal discovery. She realized that ethnic crafts and traditions were very alike across regions. Specifically, they were similar in cultural importance. In light of this, she decided to start her own brand. Lolita Mia’s handmade products embrace what Gil has coined a “Universal Ethnic Luxury.”

Of the collaboration with Lolita Mia, Keds’ website reads:

“[The] aesthetic shines through in these playful renditions of our platforms in the form of fun, festive fringe and punchy tropical shades.”

The Ked × Lolita Mia collaboration has two designs while the Ked x Thelma Dávila collab is made up of one.

Instagram / @lolitamiacr

“Triple Tassel” is a multicolored platform with purple, pink, orange and white tassels attached to the laces. “Triple Decker Fringe” is an off-white platform slip-on with multi-colored fringe and golden embellishments on top. The “Triple Kick” features a neutral platform with Guatemalan textile accents around the bottom.

Each design is priced at $70 a pair. Moreover, they are available exclusively on Keds’ website. Be sure to order yours today and add a little extra Latinx flare to your summer looks.

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