Stuff Mexicans Like #10: Las Güeras (WAY-duh: Light skinned/blonde women)

21 May

This is me at my favorite taco joint in Juriquilla. I was cold, so I was permitted to stand at the grill and touch their utinsels. A special guera privilege. 🙂

Most scientists concur that the human race began on the continent of Africa with exclusively dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed people (the dark hair, skin, and eyes allow protection from the sun). After generations of migration and mixed breeding, however, deviations, adaptations, and mutations or defects began to pop up in the world. Many people who migrated to colder climates with little sun exposure began to produce offspring with hazel, green, or even blue eyes (the lighter the eye color, the more light can be absorbed). Others came out with light brown, blonde, or even red hair (the lighter the hair color, the more sunlight can be absorbed). Little by little, the migrants also produced children with light brown, tan, and even white pigmented skin (the lighter the skin, the more benefits one can absorb from rarely exposed sunlight).
These “defects” with light skin, light hair, and light eyes were rare, unique, and therefore highly valued and coveted. Although there was no intellectual, emotional, physical, or spiritual superiority to these people (in fact, they were inferior physically due to their vulnerability and inability to adapt in warmer climates), they were treated as though they were better than others. They were given better education, treatment from family and society, and offered more opportunities because of their unique pigmentation alone. Even today, having blonde hair and blue eyes is the epitomy of desirable physical features and is associated with the highest social status one can achieve.
White Privilege
We all know that being white has its benefits. One can count on one hand the amount of societies conquered by dark-skinned peoples. One does not have enough fingers on both hands to count the number of brown-skinned societies conquered by light-skinned persons. White is synonymous for Power, Prestige, and Wealth. In her now famous 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh broke down some of the most common but often overlooked unearned priviledges/birth rights given to anyone happening to be born white. Here is an excerpt: 

 1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

20. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the place I have chosen.

24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

Baby Dolls in Mexico
Almost all little girls, by natural instinct to nurture and create, are attracted to baby dolls and Barbies in childhood (and beyond) and playing the role of the Mother. Most Mothers want to provide dolls for their little girls, to develop these innate abilities and satisfy these natural urges toward caretaking. However, what effect does it have on a young girls mind, emotions, and beliefs if none of her dolls look like she does? Is there a difference if the little girl comes from a conquistador group (white!) and plays with dolls representing los conquistados (dark-skinned) vs. little girls from a conquered society (brown-skinned) playing only with dolls from the conquistadores (white)?
A dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed child has little-to-no chance of producing a light-skinned, light-eyed, light-haired baby in the future. Knowing this, why would a Mother give her daughter dolls to play with with these unattainable features? What psychological effect does this have on that little girl? What does it tell her about her own color and her own babies who do not posess these features? How is her self-esteem affected? Her World-View? “Mexicans Confront Racism with White Doll/Black Doll Video” (December 2011)
In an informal survey of dolls and race in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, our town located in central MEXICO, where the overwhelming majority of citizens have dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes, I counted the number of dolls (large babies as well as Barbie dolls) with dark colored eyes, hair, and/or skin in the two largest, most popular chain stores in town: Mega (Comercial Mexicana, owned by the owners of Costco) & Bodega Aurrera (Walmart, owned by the owners of Sam’s Club). The results were startling, but much better than two years ago, when I could not find even ONE doll with dark eyes in either store to purchase for my dark-eyed Mexican daughter.
                                  MEGA                    BODEGA AURRERA
Total Dolls:                 128                        104
Brown Skinned:          15 (11.7%)             5 (4.8%)
Dark Haired:               18 (14%)               18 (17%)
Dark Eyed:                  20 (15.6%)            17 (16%)
The remaining 85% + of the dolls in both stores had blonde or red hair, white skin, and blue, green, or purple eyes, a vast discrepancy with the real-life Mexican society physical representation. You may be saying, “But Michelle, we are in San Miguel, “Mexico Light,” where there are more than 5,000 light-skinned foreigners here in town on any given day, thus the high number of light-skinned baby dolls.” NO! San Miguel actually has more dark-skinned, dark-haired dolls than the rest of the republic! We foreigners with dark-haired, dark-eyed children purchase more of these dolls than Mexicans, thus the higher availability here in town.
Supply & Demand
My friend, Adriana, owns a Papelería here in town that also offers a nice variety of toys. She tells me that the two dark-skinned official Barbies she has in the store have been there collecting dust for more than two years while the blonde dolls, even the poorly made generic ones, fly off the shelves. She’s stopped buying dark-complected dolls for resale. I asked Adriana’s sister why she thinks people don’t want buy the “dark” dolls at the store and she said it’s because everyone just wants “pretty dolls.”
Little Mommy Doll
My three-year-old, María, has always wanted a Little Mommy interactive doll by Fisher Price. They are widely available here in town, but generally sell for more than $850 pesos. A month ago, I found one at la Placita (the Tuesday/Sunday market) that was a better model with more features than any offered here in San Miguel. She sits down, stands up, speaks, responds when you touch her, sucks on her bottle, and commands you to do things. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! “Cuánto es?”  I asked, getting mentally prepared to talk her down to 500p (about $40 USD) for the little treasure. “Esteeee….. 200 pesos,” said the booth keeper. I stared at her in disbelief, wondering if I understood correctly. “Bueno… 150.” (approximately $12 USD)  She lowered the price on her own, figuring I was having second thoughts. I snatched her up and María is still quite happy playing with Paola regularly.
Paola is brown.  
Being called güera/güero by anyone is considered a compliment, while being called morena/moreno (dark-skinned), or worse, negra/negro or prieta/prieto, (black skinned) is a depreciation. Racism is alive and well in Mexico, although rarely recognized or challenged. Perhaps 2012 will bring the much promised, much hoped for Mayan prophesy of a Drastic Change of Universal Consciousness. Until then, enjoy the steals on expensive American dolls in Mexico. Brown dolls only.

19 Responses to “Stuff Mexicans Like #10: Las Güeras (WAY-duh: Light skinned/blonde women)”

  1. Meredith Moraine June 8, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    This is a favorite topic of mine, one that seems to be off the radar for a surprising number of people. A friend with the prevailing coloring of this country told me there was no racism in Mexico. After picking myself back up off the floor, I asked her how many political leaders, actors, singers, models, etc. had her coloring. How about the rich Mexicans flooding San Miguel every weekend and holiday? She either hadn’t seen the dominance of whites over the majority mestizo population, or she hadn’t seen it as racism.

  2. Fred August 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Mexico and much of Latin America has always had its own “Apartheid” system.

  3. Very large/fit, highly intelligent, white, 30 year old US Army NCO January 8, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Saying white people are inferior, how silly. We only invented everything and set the standard that the rest of the world mimics or fails to mimic. fyi, I have a thing for hispanic girls, pretty hardcore style.

    • garrisonmi January 11, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Hola, white. Wow. Let me guess. You are from the southern United States? I ask because it’s rare to meet someone so blatantly racist up north in the country. I am not sure to which “inventions” you are referring (atomic bombs, weapons, automobiles that are presently destroying the Ozone Layer?), but the world began with brown-skinned people and brown-skinned people continue to be the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s population. Popular music in white United States was and continues to be a copycat version of African American music (blues, jazz, hip hop, R&B, gospel), not the other way around. When we think about the most important figures in the US with the most profound contributions, most people think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (African American) or President John F Kennedy (known for his continous labor towards freedom, equality, and opportunity for all) or President Abraham Lincoln (recognized for his slavery abolition act) or Oprah Winfrey (African American).
      What I find about racism (as well as machismo) is that they both cannot survive in self-confident individuals. They both require insecurity and fear in order to survive and thrive.
      I would ask you, white, what is it that scares you about people who do not look, think, believe, behave, or speak like you do? What is the threat?

      • Vicente March 8, 2015 at 11:52 am #


  4. Samantha January 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    I am a person of mixed race, white and black. While teaching English in Mexico, I’d be called morena by men on the street, usually followed by tu es preciosa, chula, hermosa. Never anything insulting, different attitudes in Veracruz ?

    • garrisonmi January 11, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Hola MissDior! Thanks for your comment! I think I may have been misunderstood. Mexican men love and adore morena women! Morena women are the norm here and guapa es guapa, no matter what color you are. I wouldn’t expect people to insult you, Mexican people, as a whole, are exceptionally well-mannered and peace-loving. I doubt that very many people even thought a negative thought about your color while you were here, but I am positive that they did consider it (curiously, possibly questioning the validity of Mexican racism)) and that most people in Latin America (and probably world wide) when asked to choose what they consider to be the more “beautiful person” would almost always choose the lighter skinned of the two options (unfotunately).
      My nieces are black and white and 2 came to live with me in Mexico for a while. They were treated well. Most people assumed they were Mexican and deferred to speaking to them in Spanish (ignoring me) although I was the only one who spoke Spanish. 🙂 When my older niece attended a public school in Queretaro, she was an instant celebrity (as was my very white, tall blonde son).
      Nevertheless, racism appears here on television, in movies, in the street and with job opportunities (the vast majority of housekeepers and gardeners are native Mexicans- very brown-skinned with indigenous features and often speak Spanish as a second language). The poorest people in Mexico are indigenous children.
      Vera Cruz, as a coastal state, is filled with African and Cuban influence and one can see very very brown-skinned non-indigenous peoples everyday. They are certainly more open minded because of that, but I think people were kind to you because Mexicans are kind. I think you must be kind to attract that, aslo. Ans I am sure you are beautiful and beautiful people recognize beauty.
      Thanks for opening your life, your heart, and your mind to Mexico! That’s wonderful! Please spread the word about Mexico’s majesty! Be Love.

  5. Elisha January 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I’m curious. What you do in Guanajuato, as I was there two years with my fiance who is from the state, and I saw only a total of 10 guerosbetween the city of Guanajuato, Leon, La Piedad, and the hundreds of other cities between Nuevo Laredo and there. We too went to market liking for toys, but failed miserably. It is so sad to witness the timelessness of prejudices. It goes without saying that if you are a guera. You certainly are treated differently, as an honored guest more than anything. It saddens my heart!

    • garrisonmi January 11, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Hi 1/2 dozen, thanks for your comment. I teach Spanish, give emotional therapies, and have a new & used bookstore. I live in San Miguel de Allende, where at least 6,000 foreigners (mostly United Statesian and Canadian) live here in our pueblo year-round.
      When I lived in Querétaro (about an hour from San Miguel), I was treated as very special. I was offered things others were not. I made friends quickly and easily everywhere I went. Now that I live in a small town filled with white folk (many of which speak little-no Spanish), we are no longer considered a novelty here and I found that it was/is extremely difficult to make friends. I am generally not treated as special here (maybe even the opposite!) except on rare occassions that always blow my mind for the outrageousness of the privileges that I receive on those events.
      How great that you lived in central Mexico! Good for you! I hope to see more foreigners opening their minds and hearts to ther neighbor to the South! Be Love.

  6. Stronger Than All January 12, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Garrisonmi, the greatest music ever created was by White people: death metal. Furthermore, White inventions have changed the world. Ask yourself: what inventions have Mexicans created? Latino culture in general has not offered anything of significance. White people have gone to the moon, split the atom, charted the depths of deep space, and created the most amazing art and literature in the world. Look at our movies, books, and awesome music. When I go to metal, hardcore, country and western, rock, etc concerts I see Latinos loving our music. But no White people listen to Mexican music. What about our incredible medical and technological inventions. Even your Mexican music is based on the German oom-papa beer-drinking music. Just like the blues played by Black slaves in America was based on Europen beer drinking music. White music brought the element of swagger and a drunken cadence that gives music power and soul. African music is based on polyrythms and syncopation, but there is no swagger until you introduce European music into the mix. Your racism is merely jealousy becuase you know Whites have built and created the greatest things in human history. I am White and proud. And I have many friends who are Latino who do not suck up to Black people like you do. In fact, they understand how Black people have destroyed America and are the cause of most of the problems here. Also, why are so many Latino people in America? Because they know we have built the greatest nation in history. All White nations are great. That is why the Muslims are moving to Europe. I am sad for my White brothers and sisters who fought for equality and civil rights just so Brown people like yourself enjoy the fruits of our labor and hate on us Whites. How many Latinos fought in World War 1 or World War 2? If it wasn’t for the millions of White soliders that died fighting for freedom, you’d be speaking Japanese and cutting up sushi instead of making tamales. Yes, Brown, I am proud of my White people. El Gringo Orgulloso for life!

    • Luis Villagomez June 21, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      The author of this post is WHITE like you so shut the f up

    • Vicente March 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      All you bring is war and a multitude of failures, no one gives a shit about your self absorb race. Pathetic sun burnt brained ignorant racist you are wrong on all counts and every minority should band together because you make sure that your race are the only ones with access to an amazing education to invent or run things, I see you devil you will burn.

  7. 皮埃尔 May 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Not just whites, basically every foreign people is treated better than us here no matter if its black or asian plus the video or the white and black doll is dumb,according to psychologist we tend to like people who look like us and i bet many of these children have family or friends who are ligth skinned,life is more than just white or black and while i agree that there is racism in mexico its not as bad as in other countries,besides many mexicans hate pale skin cuz some of them think its unhealthy.sorry for my English

  8. Sam Harris June 15, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    I am guera “sigh” even in america people have a hard time believing that I am Mexican. I am a mestiza and doesn’t bother me to say that either. People don’t realize we are such a mixed race. In Jalisco where my family is from there are very very light skinned Mexicans. Both of my grandfathers had light eyes and very light skin. But light skin is valued in many many cultures. I know in latin america, in Europe and even in the Middle East being pale is a huge desire. To me it just doesn’t matter. I always feel that I have to prove what I am and I get tired of it at times. People always going “how can you be mexican” I am like seriously. I have a mix of dark and light skinned people in my family.

    • Vicente March 8, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

      You only mention your white side why never mention the Indios who originally existed in the Americas, are you trully proud of your Amerindian blood?

      • Melissa May 14, 2015 at 9:02 am #

        Most Mexican people hate their Indian side and “try to be as white” as they can although whites laugh at them for “trying” to be white.

    • Melissa May 14, 2015 at 7:36 am #

      Mexicans are a mixture of European Spanish and native Indian. So ur grandfathers had light Hair and eyes because of the European blood in them. and most of the mexicanas that are “gueras” are bottled gueras (fake blondes). it cracks me up when a Mexican or non-white person says ” I’m not white and I have light eyes or hair”….Well first, Latinos have white in them, and second…. if a non-white person has light skin, eyes, or hair it is because they have white/European blood in their bloodline

      • kylevpirate March 5, 2016 at 3:12 am #

        Mexicans are not a race. Yes most are Mestizos which the term is not used anymore with a variation of degree. Some predominately European other Indigenous and those in the middle. I would wager Sam is predominately White European but I have no idea.

  9. Michael May 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    Oh my what lovely dialogue even the arrogant self absorbed white guy who thinks whites invented everything (you poor thing you) Go back to school or read a book because whites did not invent everything and the societies they built especially the USA was built on the backs of Brown people. Don’t you remember all of the cotton exported by the free labor of those black slaves, who never saw a penny…but I shall not digress.

    I’m Black Spanish speaking Belizean with a white grandmother. From my experience racism does exist in Mexico. Even though when I go I am always treated with love and respect. However, I’ve observed the difference in treatment with my white blue eyed family. They are treated with much much more dignity and respect and admiration!!!!!! My goodness. Especially when the mexicans see a beautiful blonde … she can get anything she wants.

    When I see the novelas, movies, white collar workers… yes its obvious….Mexicans can be very racist, and maybe even a bit of a caste system where the upper class have nothing to do with the lower class ( which are predominately brown) I see this in every country in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and even among black countries where lighter skin is more coveted and respected than the darker skin…Generally the only thing coveted on a black male is our..well you know…even though the rumor is maybe 60% true…anyhow digressing again.

    Since we are talking about Mexico. I love Mexico, the people, culture, music, futbol, como cotorrean!! La comida..Mexicans are generally loving, affectionate, fun people to be around. Mexico is a beautiful country! Too bad things are not like before in such a beautiful country with such beautiful people.

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