Racial and Ethnic Identities Among Mexican-White Couples in Texas



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This qualitative study explores the complexities of racial and ethnic identification Mexicans in romantic relationships with whites in four locations: Brazos County, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. Using data from 90 in-depth, semi-structured and open-ended interviews with 50 couples I examine racial and ethnic self-identification among Mexican partners, the racial and ethnic self-identification of white partners, and how white partners perceive the racial and ethnic identities of Mexican partners.

Findings show that the racial identity of partners of Mexican descent fluctuate depending on the social and geographical space, supporting and adding to S?enz and Aguirre?s (1990) research. Furthermore, fluctuations in racial identity among Mexican partners showed that these identities operate in different ways. For the purpose of this research, I was primarily interested in the use of ?Hispanic? given its history as an imposed identity. Thus, I examine not just how identity is adopted but why, examining the use of ?Hispanic? as an identificational last resort given the lack of fit in other categories; the power of using ?Hispanic? as both an exclusionary label and as a semi-inclusionary tool; as well as the resistance to it.

Secondly, data on white ethnic identity showed that increasingly whites are moving beyond selectively adopting ethnicity as symbolic and adopting ?white?. Data from this research concludes that this is a discursive tactic employed by whites to retain white supremacy. Additionally, I examine how some white partners develop a racial awareness about themselves and their familial environments, developing a sense of racial literacy. In doing so, these whites strive for antiracist practices as a form of resistance.

Lastly, the analysis of data from this dissertation finds that whites, in particular men, employ coercion and their relative power in their relationships and marriages to determine the meaning of the situation or the identity of their partners. Thus, whites impose the identity of ?Hispanic? on their partners even when these do not identify as such. These are important coercive tactics given that romantic space is generally considered the most loving and safe space. Therefore, these findings prove otherwise, that romantic space is actually one of the most coercive spaces.