Cultural Whitewashing

Cultural Whitewashing

White-washed has many definitions, some formal and others adopted for specific topics of discourse. The well-known use of the term is the tendency of Hollywood to use White actors to play Asian roles in movies. The most infamous one being John Wayne cast as Genghis Khan.

John Wayne as Genghis Khan, The Conqueror, 1956

In light of the current cultural renaissance across America, where Americans are rethinking about their historical context, it is important to consider the disassociation of the Mexican culture from El Paso.

In the case of El Paso, the use of the term of “white-washed” is intended to define the idea that ancestral culture is displaced by an adopted American lifestyle as defined by the White minority in El Paso. Generally, cultural whitewashing is the denial of the Mexican culture. It is also the loss of the Spanish language favoring English, as well as the adoption of American style in clothing and in the community.

Another element of whitewashing, in the cultural sense, is the appropriation of cultural icons when convenient for commerce or other uses but ignored when it does not fit the accepted narrative. For example, El Paso is the Mexican food capital, but not El Paso is close to its sister city, Cd. Juárez.

In the case of El Paso, whitewashing is about creating a narrative that displaces, hides or minimizes the Mexican culture. The infamous Glass Beach Study is a prime example of this. However, it goes deeper than that.

The whitewashing of El Paso has created a dynamic, where the majority, the Hispanics, have somehow joined the minority in denigrating Mexicans, as in citizens of México. The use of the term Front Chih has been used to denigrate those from Cd. Juárez. There is a constant undercurrent of blaming Mexicans for high school and local taxes, as well as other community issues, although the evidence proves otherwise.

Mexicans are the common scapegoats for the community’s ills.

But it is a dichotomy where the majority, the Hispanics or Latinos of the community, who trace their ancestral origins to México, are the ones denigrating the Mexicans. It is as if the El Paso Hispanics are ashamed of their cultural origins.

To understand how El Paso has been whitewashed, it is important to have a difficult discussion about the history of El Paso and how it has been distorted over time. To be clear, this discussion is not about racism nor the color of skin.

It is about displacing the historical record to fit a specific narrative championed by a minority.

The national narrative is already too white. It is too Protestant. Thus, it is difficult to bring back the buried history to correct the historical record. However, we can ignore the distorted record, or we can openly discuss it. The choice belongs to each reader.

At El Paso Politics and in El Paso News, we will strive to bring this discussion to the fore upcoming article.s

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