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Yahritza and its Essence: unfortunate comments and the eternal debate on racism in Mexico

Yahritza and its Essence: unfortunate comments and the eternal debate on racism in Mexico

Is January. The band Yahtirza y ​​su Esencia, made up of three brothers —Yahritza Martínez, Armando and Jairo—, talk with a journalist in Mexico City about the premiere of their latest song, you changed. The journalist asks about the Mexican capital. They respond with a complaint about the noise of the metropolis and acknowledging their preferences for food from Washington, where the spiciness is less pronounced and “the seasoning” is different. The interview has gone viral in recent days —six months later— and has unleashed a wave of slurs and racist insults against the three young people of Michoacan roots, whom they accuse of not respecting Mexico and profiting from the country’s culture. Experts consulted by this newspaper say that these criticisms stem from the “misunderstanding” of the Chicano population, who are born and grow up in the United States with the customs of that country, but who maintain their Mexican roots.

The group of the three brothers has grown in a short time. Only two years ago, the three brothers helped their father pick fruit in the mornings in the agricultural valley of Yakima (in Washington); the eldest of them, Armando (the only one born in Michoacán), also worked as a hairdresser, and the two youngest studied at school. The song I’m the only onecomposed by Yahritza when she was 13 years old, opened the doors of the scene for them, and her first album, obsessed, entered several of the lists of the American magazine bill board. This takeoff has already led them to participate together with some of the big names in the current Mexican regional, such as Natanael Cano, Grupo Frontera or Banda MS.

The interview with the media I’m a group triggered a series of racist insults, against the physical features of the brothers. Among the comments, expressions such as “grinds”, “nopal face” or “you have the nopal in the mug”, used in a derogatory way against those who deny their Mexican identity or are not proud of their roots. The Cultural Studies researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (CFN) Luis Escala tells this newspaper that these comments stem from a misunderstanding rooted in Mexico. “These people were very quick to give their opinion from their stomachs and not from their heads. It is the historical and deep misunderstanding that Mexicans have towards the migrant communities in the United States, especially the second generations. It is not understood that they are another generation, that is, Mexican Americans if you will. […] They are submerged in a culture that is no longer Mexican. Their life horizon is set in different guidelines”, explains the researcher.

A historical discussion

Another of the viralized videos for which Yahritza has received criticism is the one in which she appears talking live on networks with another user. She is there, she tells him that she should speak in Spanish, because she is a Mexican singer who sings in Spanish and because she is her chat speak in Spanish. Yahritza argues that this is not reason enough, and seems to explain that English is his usual language, the one she uses on a daily basis. And she affirms: “I am going to speak in Spanish when I want, and I am going to speak in English when I want”.

Among the written comments of the users in the publications of the brothers there is a repeated term: “Pocho”. The concept has pejorative connotations in some cases, and refers to those Mexicans who embrace American culture and who may have difficulty speaking fluent Spanish. The historian specialized in music from CIESAS, Luis Omar Montoya, has a greater impact, and considers that the center of the discussion lies in the historical theme of pochism, that is, the controversy about those who use the image of Mexico to profit but move away from typical customs. Montoya gives as an example another of the Mexican artists born in the United States who has been surrounded by controversy, Ángela Aguilar, who during the World Cup claimed to be 25% Argentine. “Mexican culture, like so many others, is a very powerful culture; and in economic terms it is very lucrative”.

The US population of Mexican origin is large, around 40 million people, according to the State Department. And Mexican artists have a focus on their neighbor to the north with the aim of boosting their artistic careers. A current example is the small record company from Rancho Humilde (located in Los Angeles). The Chicano label has promoted artists such as Fuerza Regida, Natanael Cano or Junior H, some of the great exponents of the corridos tumbados, the regional subgenre that has gained muscle on the charts in the last year.

The historian considers the issue of racism important to understand how criticism against the brothers has developed, who have the traits of the majority of the Mexican population that has strong indigenous roots. “When these things happen [estas polémicas], the Mexican will always attack, demean or attack the other Mexican based on their skin color, their features”, he indicates. The indigenous population touched 20% of the total Mexican population —19.4%, specifically—, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) for 2022. The agency indicated that there were 23.2 million in the country of people aged three or more who self-identified with an ethnic group.

An apparent slowdown

In the midst of the controversy, Yahritza and Jairo uploaded a video to the networks to apologize. “What motivates us every day to write songs and make music is the great pride of having Mexican blood in our veins. It does not matter where we were born, we are proudly Mexican, and we greatly appreciate the affection of the public […] We apologize wholeheartedly, it was never our intention to offend anyone,” said the 16-year-old.

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