Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
In the scholarly literature about Andean ethnic hierarchies, often a distinction is being made between mestizos and Indians. Mestizos looked down upon ‘Indian’ people for their rural lifestyle, indigenous languages and poverty. Mestizos are associated with the urban, modernity and social mobility. These ethnic categories are envisioned as the poles of a continuum, which indicates that they are not fixed, but that people can move along them. As De la Cadena has argued, men from rural communities have more possibilities than women to develop mestizo identity markers. This shows the strong interconnectedness of ethnicity with gender. Yet contemporary Peru is rapidly urbanizing and globalizing. It is my argument that within this context of social change, Indianness or Lo Andino is being reinvented. Drawing from ethnographic research conducted in both Lima and the Cusco-Machu Picchu area and comparing the case of the Quechua-singing Rocker Fredy Ortiz with the women weavers of the tourist village of Chinchero, this paper deals with people’s self-identifications. It shows how people’s current ethnic identifications no longer fit in the Indian/mestizo hierarchical model. I will argue that it is not that the rock singer and weaving women wish to leave their ‘Indian’ roots behind and change into a mestizo, but that they wish to distance themselves from the negative connotations of ‘Indianess’. The way they go about this distancing subsequently leads to a variety of ethnic identifications and ‘doing’ ethnicity in new Andean ways.