The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In “Las pretendidas razas inferiores de México,” published in El Universal in 1921, Mexican anthropologist Manuel Gamio responds to a previous article published in the same periodical by Francisco Bulnes, a Mexican intellectual and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs under President Porfirio Diaz. In his article, Bulnes declared the indigenous people of the Americas inherently inferior to Caucasians. In response, Manuel Gamio contends that no race is inferior to another and that people of all races have equal aptitudes. Gamio also explains that Bulnes misrepresented the opinions of other authors by citing their work without providing significant context. For example, Bulnes supported his argument with quotations presented out of context from Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales, in which Andrés Molina Enríquez argues that the issues facing indigenous Mexicans can be attributed to various rectifiable causes. Gamio cites various authors whose views contradict those of Bulnes, claiming that Bulnes failed to address the views of pro-indigenous authors in his article. According to Gamio, Bulnes also ignored the many positive characteristics of Mexican indigenous people, choosing only to portray them in a negative light. Gamio argues that Bulnes’s article is useless as it merely criticizes the Mexican indigenous population without suggesting means of improving their situation. As indigenous people make up a large portion of the Mexican population, Gamio explains, it is important to understand their culture in order to lift them from poverty and incorporate them into Mexican society.
Manuel Gamio (1883-1960) was a leading Mexican anthropologist as well as an archaeologist, and sociologist. He was also a proponent of the indigenismo movement, which advocated the appreciation and preservation of indigenous South American cultures and fought for rights and improvements in the quality of living for indigenous people. At age nineteen, Gamio abandoned his study of engineering to work on a rubber plantation owned by his family. On the plantation he learned Nahuatl from indigenous workers and became interested in the study of native Mexican cultures. Gamio began studying anthropology and earned a Ph.D. under the supervision of Anthropologist Franz Boas at Columbia University. Gamio returned to Mexico in 1910, during the Mexican Revolution, and founded the Escuela Internacional de Arqueología y Etnología Americana. From 1913 to 1916, Gamio served the Mexican Ministry of Education as inspector general of archaeological monuments. During this period he performed fieldwork throughout the Valley of Mexico. In 1922 Gamio was the first anthropologist to examine the city of Teotihuacan. Applying Boas’s theories of cultural relativism to his study, Gamio argued for the need for a greater understanding of indigenous culture and practices in context. Gamio’s findings influenced the Mexican revolutionary government’s policies with regard to issues that affected the indigenous population of Mexico, such as land distribution, education reform, and social services. In 1916, Gamio published the book Forjando patria: pro nacionalismo [Forging a Fatherland], which traced the development of anthropological and archaeological practice in Mexico and advocated for greater efforts at the assimilation of indigenous Mexicans. “Las pretendidas razas inferiores de México,” published in 1921 in El Universal, reflects Manuel Gamio’s promotion of the anthropological study of indigenous Mexican culture. Gamio proposed that a thorough understanding of indigenous culture was integral to improve the lives of indigenous Mexicans through public policy.