La Raza Cosmética
Beauty, Identity, and Settler Colonialism in Postrevolutionary Mexico
Critically examining beauty pageants, cinema, tourism propaganda, photography, murals, and more, Natasha Varner shows how postrevolutionary understandings of mexicanidad were fundamentally structured by legacies of colonialism, as well as shifting ideas about race, place, and gender. This interdisciplinary study smartly weaves together cultural history, Indigenous and settler colonial studies, film and popular culture analysis, and environmental and urban history. It also traces a range of Indigenous interventions in order to disrupt top-down understandings of national identity construction and to “people” this history with voices that have all too often been entirely ignored.
“Varner does a remarkable job of tracing how postrevolutionary Mexico constructed racial and gendered hierarchies of indigeneity that led to Indigenous erasure. By highlighting Indigenous women’s active participation in the beauty pageants, films, and tourism campaigns that formed part of this racial project, Varner illuminates these women’s efforts to contest the idealized narratives of indigenismo and mestizaje.”—Bianet Castellanos, co-editor of Detours: Travel and the Ethics of Research in the Global South
“Natasha Varner’s book insightfully traces how nationalists used the female Indigenous body to construct settler colonialism in postrevolutionary Mexico. In the process, it creatively bridges Indigenous studies in the United States and Latin America.”—Rick A. López, author of Crafting Mexico: Intellectuals, Artisans and the State After the Revolution
“Placing the visual politics of beauty at the center of a wide-ranging analysis, La Raza Cosmética reminds us that the racial politics and modernist designs of settler colonial nationalism depend on the presence of Indigenous women—and, in Mexico, of their simultaneous displacement by the logic of mestizaje. Drawing together subtle cultural interpretation, rich historical context, and deft theoretical insight, Natasha Varner has crafted a powerful and compelling narrative, one not to be missed.”—Philip J. Deloria, author of Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract