In many Latin American countries, various racial terms circulated and became linked to cultural identity during the first four decades of the twentieth century, such as mestizaje (José Vasconcelos, Mexico), mulataje and transculturation (Fernando Ortiz, Cuba), and hybridity and racial democracy (Gilberto Freyre, Brazil). 1 The circulation of these enduring concepts signaled a time in which many Latin American nations celebrated a century of independence from Spain and Portugal, a drawn-out process that began taking place in the nineteenth century. The construction of national cultural identities during this time entailed engaging with the different local histories of Iberian colonialism. These were vastly celebrated by a criollo sector [European-descended ruling classes] that identified strongly with European roots. As a system of domination, though, Iberian colonialism had produced lasting social and racial inequalities, triggered by the exploitation of indigenous peoples and the trade and enslavement of Africans since at least 1492. The reality of a large, impoverished, and socially discriminated indigenous and Black population at the turn of the nineteenth century inevitably collided with criollo ideas of integrated, harmonious, multiracial societies that circulated in nineteenth century art and literature, as well as other cultural expressions. Narratives and images of racial and cultural mestizaje were used to construct original and attractive images of Latin America, América Latina, for a world in which progress and novelty were becoming values in themselves. In this context, the concepts mentioned previously appear controversial, because while they represented Latin American societies as original and homogeneously hybrid (both racially and culturally), the reality of social inequality created by colonial racial dynamics remained largely unresolved. Given that racial inequality still exists, these ideas were not influential and conflictive just in their own time, but continue to crisscross conceptions of national identity and culture today. Cultural imaginaries in Latin America have been tied up with socioracial power dynamics ever since colonial times.