Whitening, bleaching, branqueamento(por.), blanqueamiento(sp.)

Whitening, bleaching, branqueamento(por.), blanqueamiento(sp.) is the social, economic, and political practice of mixing, mestizaje, to achieve whitening or becoming a white person in Latin America. The process of whitening was embrace by the white elites in the latter 1800s and early 1900s in Brazil and Hispanic countries, to convert its demographically significant black and native population into whites.
A Redenção de Cam(Redemption of Cain) illustrates
whitening, black grandmother, mulatta daughter
plus white husband, white child


Social, economic, political factors

Socially, blacks or negros were low on the Spanish class and casta system. Being called negro in some Hispanic culture would be taken as an insult. White was regarded as better. In order for a black person or mulatto to progress, he or she would have to marry a lighter skin person-- indian or a white person. In Latin America, many blacks accepted this concept and sought to improve themselves by chosing white or lighter skinned Indian mates. Socially one could become white by emulating cultural forms deemed more white, like listening to opera and avoiding things black and African, like dancing to son or samba

Economic factors determined white status in Latin America. In the colonial period, a white father could purchase white status for his mulatto offspring, gracias a sacar. A black person who acquired wealth would not be looked upon as black. He would be everything else but a negro. In Latin American, money whitens. 

White elite and immigration

The white elites being outnumbered demographically, saw no value in black and native culture and felt their country would forever be populated by undesirable races, thereby remaining under-developed, encouraged mestizaje, mixing, so in a few generations the population of their countries would be white. This sentiment developed from the Spanish casta or breed class system with its racial hierarchy of blacks being at the bottom and indians being above blacks, all breeds in between, and whites at the top. Later, with pseudo-scientific notions of Social Darwinism, mixing to whiten, mestizaje, became entrenched. To alleviate the "backward" race problem, the white elites of Latin America tweaked immigration policies to encourage European immigration on a large scale, to eventually whiten the population and banned African immigration. In Brazil, after the third generation, the black population was expected to vanish.

By the 1920s, most Latin American countries pursued and encourage mestizaje, mixing. Unlike North America, where black genes were viewed as corrupting("one drop rule"), in Latin America white genes were viewed as cleansing and purifying. Miscegenation was encouraged to improve, purify, and "better the race." The latter reason is cited as to why no institutional racism, segregation, or no racial barriers ever developed in Latin America. The creation of the mulatto in Brazil or notions of the cosmic race (raza cosmica in Hispanic countries was viewed as the final stage of whitening, "the mulatto escape hatch." Not surprising the mulatta was viewed as a sex symbol in Latin countries.

Works Cited

Wade, Peter(1997). Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. Pluto Press, p. 69. ISBN 0745309879, 9780745309873

Sue, Christina A (2013). Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico. Oxford University Press, ISBN 019992550X, 9780199925506