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At the end of the 20th century, recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in Latin American constitutions has undergone significant evolution, while legal reforms officially “turned” some of these countries into multicultural nations. For many scholars, this multicultural shift was particularly prominent against a background of many years, during which the legal systems of Latin America ignored, excluded, assimilated and repressed indigenous peoples, portraying “The Indian” as an anomaly in a society of free end equal citizens. This article examines the images, representations and treatment of the Indians and “the Indian Question” in Peruvian and Mexican Criminal Law during the first half of the 20th century. In both countries, I will argue, the sphere of criminal justice played a significant role in remaking Indians and redefining citizenship, as this became an important arena in which different assimilationist and integrationist approaches towards the Indians were confronted. In a broader context, the historical-comparative examination of the cases in these two countries can also further our understanding of the ways by which racial classifications within criminal law and criminological discourse were sometimes used not only to exclude “problematic” social groups but also to promote, to some extent, their inclusion into “the national community”.


2014 Law and Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop selection.