Down to Earth: Race and Substance in the Andes



Abstract — The racial identities of Indians and mestizos in a highland Peruvian region are closely associated with their relative positions to the earth. The agricultural Indians are closer to the earth and the town-dwelling mestizos are further from it. This distinction is maintained and reinforced through the use of material objects in everyday life, especially earthen objects (adobe bricks, clay pots, dirt roads) and to earth-touching objects (shoes, floors). This distinction accords with the relativity and fluidity of racial identities of individuals. The origins of this notion are traced to political and religious ideology in colonial and post-colonial Peru.