The Origins and Development of Racism and Eugenics in Latin America

Proceedings of ‏The 3rd International Conference on Advanced Research in Social Sciences and Humanities

Year: 2020


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The Origins and Development of Racism and Eugenics in Latin America

Cristina Gomes



This article aims to describe historical population changes in Latin America – the crisis of indigenous groups, the arrival of enslaved Africans and, later, of free European immigrants to replace both the indigenous and Africans in the labor market during the colonization, and the subsequent propagation of modern racism and eugenics in the new independent republics as a result of the change from the ancient to modern regimes of slavery in Europe. The article adopt the perspective of discrimination and racism as constructs built on human interactions in contexts of unequal power relations between individual and societies, based in beliefs, values and ideologies, and reproduced by policies and institutions in almost all societies, particularly in Latin America, favoring white population and excluding indigenous and Afro-descendents for centuries. The method describes and analyzes the historic origin, dynamic, and evolution of indigenous and African discrimination based on a literature review of the predominant concepts, visions and discourses on slavery, racism and eugenics, and on their cultural and scientific expressions and interrelationships in Latin America. This review focuses on the analysis of the historic processes, policies and networks through which eugenicism originated in modern Europe and the United States and the results show the various mechanisms by which it spread throughout Latin America reinforcing discrimination and underpinning the disadvantages of indigenous and black populations. The results also articulate the arguments regarding how slavery and eugenics reproduced and strengthened the persistent racism against indigenous and Afro-descendants in the region, as an ideological obstacle to economic and human development, and to achieving universal citizenship and rights, as well as democratic and human rights values.

Keywords: eugenics, racism, slavery, ideology, Latin America.