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Movement Embraces Indigenous Past

Identity: Census request for specific ethnic labels helps galvanize those of Latin American descent who reject historic European influences.

January 02, 2001|ANTONIO OLIVO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The idea that people must give up these aspects of culture in order to be American, to blend into the larger country, is being seen as not necessary," said Jose Barreiro, a Cuban Indian and editor of the Akwe:kon Press, an indigenous journal published by Cornell University in New York state.

"People can retain their cultural identity and yet be part of American life," he said.

In contrast to Mexica and other indigenous groups, some people feel just as strongly about keeping "Latino" as an ethnic term of inclusion for people of Latin American descent.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 3, 2001 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Indigenous names--A caption accompanying Tuesday's story on the Mexica movement misidentified the high school shown in the photo. The picture was taken at Roosevelt High School.

Alan Clayton of the Los Angeles City/County Latino Redistricting Coalition opposes identifying people of Latin American descent as anything but Latino.

"It hurts the community politically," he said. "Then you'll have people who say you shouldn't count as Latino because you marked yourself as something different on the census."

Gregory Rodriguez, a fellow at the New America Foundation, argues that "inclusiveness is essential to the Mexican identity.

"To turn now against a [Spanish] conquest that was evil is to negate the birth of an entire people, however painful," he said. Mixed blood, or mestizaje, "is what being Mexican is all about."

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Associated Press contributed to this story.

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