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The Cosmic Race

Metraca

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Latin America: The bridge to a mixed-race future

There’s a little known early 20th-century essay titled The Cosmic Race by José Vasconcelos. This essay claims that the improvement of communications, the debunking of Darwinist racist theories, and the weakening of national borders will start a racial mixing process. In this process, all the races of the world will gradually mix to create a new human type: The Cosmic Race.

This cosmic race will incorporate the best of all cultures, leading humanity to the third stage of development Vasconcelos calls The aesthetic stage. In this state, humans transcend the domination of necessity and develop a culture that is inherently more humane and universal than any other in history. In the words of the author:

What is going to emerge out of there is the definitive race, the synthetical race, the integral race, made up from the genius and the blood of all peoples and, for that reason, more capable of true brotherhood and of a truly universal vision.

For Vasconcelos, every civilization completes a historic role. For him, the purpose of European civilization was to mechanize the world and develop an automated industry. From this perspective, the historical task of European culture is complete, and continuing that project would be detrimental to the future of humanity. In Vasconcelos’ words:

The days of the pure whites, the victors of today, are as numbered as were the days of their predecessors. Having fulfilled their destiny of mechanizing the world, they themselves have set, without knowing it, the basis of a new period: The period of the fusion and mixing of all peoples.

The white European project ended in 1945, with the almost self-destruction of the continent by an episode of industry scale murder. 1945 showed the world this type of civilization was ultimately self-destructive and unsustainable. Jumping a few decades, the current climate change crisis and rebirth of fascism is due to the insistence in this model of predatory development.

For Vasconcelos, the end of this period opens up the path for a new one. In this process, a particular group of people pushes the appearance of the cosmic race: Iberoamericans or Latin Americans to use a more common term. Before diving into what makes Latin Americans a particular part of the process, I first need to address what the Cosmic Race theory is not. Race is a charged term, so we need a clarifying explanation.

What the cosmic race is not

The first thing I want to get out of the way is that the cosmic race is not a Latin American version of a Eurocentric social Darwinist theory. This essay doesn’t claim that a fusion of races will result in a superior one that will dominate the planet. It doesn’t claim that Latin Americans, or any other group, are the last stage of human development either. Claiming this would be looking at the theory from a white supremacist European lens. Also, it’s not a redemption tale for nations of oppressed people or some Latin American futuristic utopia. The cosmic race is mainly a cultural theory. It is the gradual fusion of worlds ethnicities into one, a process of global mestizaje*, that will lead to universal culture.

Where will the Cosmic Race arise?

With that out of the way, the natural question is. Where could this happen? Some will be tempted to say the logical place for the Cosmic Race to develop is the United States. Its racial diversity and the idea it’s the melting pot of the world make it a natural candidate. I think it’s possible, but challenging due to current circumstances.

First, the melting pot ideal of the U.S is a myth. The territories that make the mainland U.S. were occupied by Europeans four centuries ago. Contrary to what is now Latin America, the British invaders deliberately prohibited racial mixing. They implemented this prohibition through a combination of systematic displacement, genocide, slavery, and apartheid aimed at the non-white population. The effect of these tactics and strict racial laws is that today, after 400 years, the races in the U.S. are still mostly separated. More than a melting pot, the U.S. is a collection of segregated containers.

Despite the racist roots of American institutions, racial mixing is accelerating. Just as Vasconcelos predicted, migration, instant communication, couple matching technology, and the active resistance to the built-in racism of American institutions and laws drive the process. Though, the white supremacist roots are still a dominant force of this country’s institutions that could limit or slow down the process. For the cosmic race to appear in the U.S., we will need a bridge between cultures that accelerates the process.

The other America

The invasion of modern Latin America is different than the U.S. After 1492, Iberian powers didn’t come to the continent to settle and work the land, like their British counterparts. Iberians went on a military adventure to conquer territories, extract resources, and make themselves famous. As a consequence, the caravels didn’t carry settlers and their families, but adventurers, criminals, drifters, and practically no women. These conditions made mixing more of a possibility. Also, catholic priests calling out the brutality of the conquest had the effect of outlawing legal slavery and the official dehumanization of indigenous people early on the conquest process. For these reasons, racial mixing was not as patrolled as in the British colonies.

What happened in the colonies didn’t matter to the Spanish crown as long as the gold, silver, and natural resources kept coming in. Slavery, mass murder, and segregation did indeed happen as a de facto practice in the Encomienda* system, but not as an official state policy as in the British, French colonies and the United States. The result of this indifference is a 500 year-long process of mestizaje. This process was less intense on the centers of power, where more whites lived, and much stronger in peripheral territories of the empire, where whites were less numerous. To quote Vasconcelos:

Spanish colonization created mixed races, this signals its character, fixes its responsibility, and defines its future. The English kept on mixing only with the whites and annihilated the natives. Even today, they continue to annihilate them in a sordid and economic fight, more efficient yet than armed conquest.

The Iberoamerican mission

If mestizaje didn’t happen in the U.S. wave after wave of immigrants from all over the world. Why would it happen now? All things the same, mixing shouldn’t happen on a large scale. But, there’s an unseen force that could drive that change. From all the waves of immigrants to the U.S, the most recent Latin American one has one key difference: It’s the only truly mestizo culture of the world. It carries 500 years of cultural syncretism in its back.

Latin America is not entirely mixed. There’s a lot of indigenous, black, and white people besides the majority of mestizos and mulatos*. Despite this, most of the population has some level of mixed blood, and a good part of it has a shared culture of language, literature, and political history. For these reasons, even though racism exists, these countries are much less uptight than any other to ethnic and cultural mixing. This characteristic makes Latin Americans more adapted to be a bridge between the different races and cultures of the world. As a consequence, Vasconcelos believes the historical role of Latin Americans is to bridge all the nations and give birth to the 5th race, the cosmic race.

What will happen to the whites?

For all the little Adolfs out there that may think the cosmic race fits into the white-supremacist Replacement Theory, this is not the case. Thinking of replacement is looking at the cosmic race process from a European lens, as it is what whites have historically done in the American continent: Exterminate and segregate.

On the contrary, the cosmic race will absorb other cultures, as any stronger cultural entity does. It will incorporate the remarkable characteristics and achievements of all groups of people, including whites. In the words of Vasconcelos:

In the beginning, the whites will try to take advantage of their inventions for their own benefit, but since science is no longer esoteric, it is not likely they will succeed. They will be absorbed in the avalanche of all other races, and finally, deposing their pride, they will combine with the rest to make a new racial synthesis, the fifth race of the future.

A Latin American utopia?

Latin Americans themselves are not the cosmic race, but the vanguard of an inevitable and necessary global process. For this reason, the culture of the Cosmic Race won’t be Latin American. It won’t be anything we’ve yet seen for that matter. It will be a new culture that we can’t adequately describe, but that will undoubtedly be more inclusive and compassionate than any that have walked the Earth.

Notes

*Mestizaje: The mixing of Indigenous populations of the Americas with white Europeans. In this text it’s used as a general term for racial mixing.

*Read Bartolomé de las Casas “A short account of the destruction of the Indies”.

*Mulato: Mix of black and white.

*Encomienda: Spanish slavery institution used to subjugate indigenous groups, very similar to a feudal system.

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