Racial Gringuidad and the Ethnic Identities of North American Lifestyle Migrants in Ecuador

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Matthew HAYES , St. Thomas University, Fredericton, NB, Canada
This paper explores the position of the “Gringo” in the racial order of Ecuador.  The paper is based on 69 qualitative interviews conducted in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with lifestyle migrants from North America now residing permanently in Ecuador.  They are supplemented with ethnographic field notes.  North Americans in Ecuador are particularly concerned about their ethnic identity there, and describe their growing community in racialized terms, as Gringo.  I posit that the “Gringo” is a racial category, and while it does not carry the same negative connotations in Ecuador that it does elsewhere in Latin America, it refers to a particular phenotype, often also marked by cultural symbols, such as clothing.  The paper discusses what racial gringuidad supposedly means for North American lifestyle migrants in the Ecuadorian context.  These narratives tell us more about the lifestyle migrants themselves than about the real meaning attached to their apparent physical differences.  The paper then identifies strategies or practices that lifestyle migrants in Ecuador have adopted in the face of their Gringo identity, or 'Gringuidad.'  First, some North Americans have begun to police the behaviour of the North American community in a bid to optimize Ecuadorian perceptions of “Gringos,” reinforcing their racialized self-identity rather than deconstructing it. The second strategy consists of individual attempts to further integrate into Ecuadorian society, particularly by learning Spanish.  These practices illustrate a fantasy of ethnic mobility.  Yet, even as integration promises to diminish “Gringoness,” the Ecuadorian “Other” with whom lifestyle migrants desire to integrate is raced and classed in the Ecuadorian social order, thus potentially reproducing existing inequalities.  The paper explores the intersection of North American racialization in the context of Ecuador, where the meaning of race is often quite different.