Black People : Afromexicanos: Their Unacknowledged Legacy

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by chuck, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. chuck

    chuck Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 9, 2003
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    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Afro Mexican (Spanish: afromexicano) is a term used to identify Mexican people of African ancestry or African people with Mexican ancestry. African Mexicans, now largely assimilated in the general population, have historically been located in certain communities in Mexico. They are currently found in the coastal areas of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Veracruz, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán.

    The term Afro-Mexican, as used in this article refers specifically to black African ancestry. The term is not widely used in Mexico outside of academic circles. Normally Afro Mexicans are called "black" (in Spanish negro).

    1 History
    2 Vicente Guerrero
    3 Palenques
    4 The end of slavery
    5 Mixed population
    6 Current situation
    7 Costa Chica
    8 Costa Chica communities
    9 Notable Afro Mexicans
    9.1 Historical figures
    9.2 Artists
    9.3 Politicians
    9.4 Fictional figures
    9.5 Others
    10 See also
    11 References
    12 External links

    When the Spanish first arrived in Mesoamerica, they brought free Africans with them. Among them was Juan Garrido, a conquistador who belonged to Juan Ponce de León's entourage. Garrido was born on the West African coast, the son of an African King. Garrido went on to join Hernando Cortés in the Spanish conquest of Mexico. These African contributed to the conquistadors success in New Spain, but they did not share in the victory because of their status. [1] The decline of the Amerindian population and the difficulty of making Native Americans into slaves and later the Pope's prohibition against enslaving them, prompted the Spanish to import large numbers of from Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, the Congo, and Angola.

    During the colonial period in Veracruz, Spaniards placed restrictions on contact between Africans and Natives to discourage the formation of alliances [2]. Intermarriage between the races, whose descendants were called Lobos in the caste system of New Spain and Zambos in other parts of Spanish America, was heavily discouraged by some individuals in the Catholic clergy. Africans soon outnumbered Europeans in certain areas, and the Spanish implemented many tactics to ensure that they remained the dominant racial group in Mesoamerica.

    In the early days of the colonial period, slavery was very harsh, and lead to rebellions. In 1609 there was a black rebellion in Veracruz, lead by Gaspar Yanga and Francisco de la Matosa. After fierce battles, Yanga came to negotiate a peace with the viceroy Luis de Velasco. A black community, called "San Lorenzo" (Later renamed Yanga) was founded and still exists; it would be the first of several. But this would not stop the hostilities. Spanish authorities suspected a new rebellion, in 1612, they imprisoned, torture and execute 33 slaves (twenty nine males and four women). Their heads were cut off and remained in the main square of Mexico City for a long time as an example.

    These settlers are from Oklahoma Indian Territory and made a free African village in Nacimiento, Coahuila and a few villages along the Texas-Mexico border. Some of the Indio African in yucatan traveled to the country of Belize. Though there is an African presence in Belize some forget their roots. In recent years, some Afro-Mexicans include blacks who immigrated to Mexico from Caribbean countries such as Cuba, or from Africa to earn money in Mexico as contract workers. Many Afro-Mexicans also went abroad to find better economic fortune, mostly to the United States, where they and their U.S. children are called Hispanic Americans and Mexican Americans of African descent.

    Vicente Guerrero

    The story of the past five hundred years involves the saga of the Afro-Mexico of the villages and small towns where over generations efforts have continued to maintain an African cultural and social tradition. And the story also involves the efforts of a far larger group of Afro-Mexicans who have lived in the regions that had the Afro-centric villages, but who recognized that the vast nation of Mexico was at root Indigenous, and that Indigenous and Black unity was needed to effectively fight the oppression of the Europeans and Europe worshipping Mexican elite. From this sector of Afro-Mexicans has come most of the best known leaders of the politically progressive mainstream of the nation.

    Vicente Guerrero exemplifies the progressive tradition and how it has been carried forward from fathers to sons and daughters and grandchildren.

    The mule driver Vicente Guerrero rose to become Commander-in-Chief of the Mexican army during the last years of the 1810-1821 independence war with Spain. Eight years after independence he was president and he issued his nation's slavery abolition decree. Guerrero was a descendant of African slaves brought to colonial Mexico. He also had Indigenous and Spanish roots, and his multi-cultural experience was enriched by contact among the many in his region who were descendants of the estimated 100,000 Asians brought to Mexico in slavery on the Manila to Acapulco galleons. The Asians were labeled "African" because the Spanish wanted more slaves, and by law only Africans could be slaves. Most of the Asians did come from places where people were dark, such as Malaysia, and the southern Filipine Islands, including the island of Negros, so named because the Negritos lived there.

    The Black Indian Family on the Museum Wall

    Guerrero has a state in his name, only one of four heroes of the nation to be so honored. On a wall in the National Museum of History in Mexico City is a display of the family tree that stems from President Guerrero. He and his wife Guadalupe Hernandez de Guerrero had one surviving child, Dolores. She married Mariano Riva Palacio, who was head of the city council in Mexico City during Guerrero's presidency. Mariano was later the mayor of the capital city, a state governor, a prominent promoter of public education, and a general in the army during the mid-century war of the Reform. In 1831 Vicente Guerrero was assassinated, and in the years that followed Mariano and Dolores made their home a gathering place for followers of the fallen leader. In this environment the children of Mariano and Dolores were politicized. Their sons Vicente (named after grandfather) and Carlos became state governors and army generals. Vicente is best known as a literary light, and for being the most read historian in Mexico. The tall and thick multi-volume compendium, MEXICO A TRAVES DE LOS SIGLOS, that he directed to publication in the 1880s continues to go through reprintings today. Also much republished is Riva Palacio's account of the African slave Gaspar Yanga, who led a revolt in the sugar plantations of Veracruz in 1570.

    Additional Guerrero/Riva Palacio generations produced more state governors, including a second Carlos Riva Palacio. During the latter stages of the 1910 social revolution, Carlos #2 supported President Calles, a loudly nationalistic leftist who drew threats of intervention from the U.S. in 1927. In 1934 Carlos was first president a new ruling political party, which is said to have been originally progressive, and now, under its new name, Partido Revolucionario Institucional, is said to stand for "technocrats" beholden to a wealthy clique. Emerging in the late 1980s to fight the corrupted PRI from a left wing perspective was Raymundo Riva Palacio. A crusading journalist, Raymundo was instrumental in making two Mexico City dailies, EL FINANCIERO and LA REFORMA, into popular anti-establishment papers. The physical appearance of Raymundo does not suggest that he is a descendant of the first "Black President" of Mexico. But he is nonetheless following the family business, opposition to the elite.


    To escape the oppressiveness of slavery, some African Maroons escaped to the mountains and formed their own settlements. These settlements, called palenques, were composed of mostly African males. The men in these settlements would periodically raid Native villages and plantations for women and bring them back to their settlements (Carroll, 2001). One of these palenques is Cuajinicuilapa in the state of Guerrero, home to a small enclave of Afro-Mexicans whose ancestors were slaves who escaped from the sugar and coffee plantations along the coast and settled into the mountainous regions of Guerrero (Hamilton, 2002). Today the Afro-Mexican residents of this town have a museum that displays the history and culture of their ancestors. They honor their African heritage through traditional dance and music.

    The end of slavery

    In 1810, the declaration of Independence of Mexico, called for the ban of slavery and the caste system, although this could not be done until the end of the independence war in 1821. This ban called for the death penalty for those who opposed the ban, so it was adopted. Even so, some "forms of slavery" like the tienda de raya (workers under perpetual debt) remained until the early twentieth century, but this slavery was more oriented to indigenous population.

    Admixture Graph, Bonilla et al. 2005[edit] Mixed population
    The Afro Mexican population has mixed mostly [1] with the larger populations and many have forgotten their African ancestry, but some populations like Costa Chica and others still remain with stronger visual cues of their African ancestry.

    Admixture levels in Mexico have been studied in multiple studies and have shown a strong presence of Amerindian and European genetic contributions with a significant African contribution as well.[3]

    Current situation

    Many Afro-Mexicans make their homes along the Costa Chica, a 300-km (200-mile) long coastal region beginning just southeast of Acapulco, Guerrero, and ending at Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca (Vaughn, 2004). Most of the occupants of the Costa Chica derive their income from agriculture and fishing. The Costa Chica is also occupied by many indigenous groups, and Bobby Vaughn, creator of the website "Black Mexico," describes the relationship between the Afromestizos and the Indians as strained ([2], 2004).

    In the last few years, more discourse has been taking place about why so little is known about the afro-diasporic population in Mexico. Since the nationalistic movement of the 1940s, the Mexican government states there is no distinction made between white, mestizo, mulatto, black, or Amerindian, so the population is classified on cultural bases rather than racial. As a result, most of the population is classified as mestizo, which is defined as someone who does not belong to an indigenous group (participate in their customs or speak their language). This criterion results in a much lower number of black and Amerindian population. Charles Henry Rowell, the editor of the Callaloo Journal, believes that the majority of the descendants of African slaves have disappeared through assimilation and miscegenation (2004). In the eyes of Mexican population, only people with very dark skin are actually called "negro", so the black population is not perceived as a community.

    Lack of acknowledgement sometimes makes it difficult for Afro-Mexicans to take pride in their African heritage. Many have chosen to assimilate completely into Mexican society. A recent survey (2005) found that most of the people who show obvious black ancestry prefer to be considered mestizos. There is also outside pressure from other Mexicans that causes them to assimilate. Because their existence is not widely known throughout Mexico and the rest of the world, they are often assumed to be illegal immigrants from Belize or elsewhere in Latin America (Sailer, 2002). There have been many accounts of Afro-Mexicans being pulled over by the police and being forced to sing the Mexican national anthem to prove they are Mexican (Graves, 2004). This discrimination [3] causes many Afro-Mexicans, if they are able, to conceal their African lineage.

    Despite being faced with discrimination and poverty, there are some Afro-Mexicans who openly embrace their African heritage and want it to be recognized. In Coyolillo, located in Veracruz, they celebrate Carnival, which has its roots in African culture. In the village of El Ciruelo, there is a small group of Afro-Mexicans who have organized as Mexico Negro, and they are fighting to have a racial breakdown added to the census before the 2010 count (Graves, 2004), but the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Data Processing (INEGI) [4] census does not record race. It is based only on socioeconomic criteria. About 200,000 Africans were brought to Mexico during the time of the Spanish Empire (Sailer, 2002). Although it is not common knowledge, the descendants of these slaves still live in Mexico today. Anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán has called them "The third root".

    Costa Chica

    Afro-Mexicana in OaxacaThe Costa Chica is one of two regions in Mexico with significant black population today, the other being the state of Veracruz on the Gulf coast. The Costa Chica is a 200-mile (320 km) long coastal region beginning just southeast of Acapulco, Guerrero and ending at Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca.

    The climate is very hot most of the year, and the summer rains can make transportation somewhat difficult, as the roads don't generally hold up that well. There are few major tourist attractions in the parts of the Costa Chica where most blacks live, although there are a few pleasant local beaches: Playa Ventura and Punta Maldonado in Guerrero and the beach at Corralero in Oaxaca.

    Most of the homes in the region were round mud huts, whose roots have been traced back to what is now Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Now, the norm is a one-room or two-room house with wall of adobe or cement cinder block.

    The economic base of the Costa Chica, not unlike most of the rest of the countryside, is agricultural. These campesinos, or peasant farmers, concentrate most of their efforts in the cultivation of corn, almost exclusively in order to make tortillas for their own consumption. Other common crops are coconut, mango, sesame, and some watermelon.

    Costa Chica communities

    Not all of the people in these communities consider themselves black (negro or moreno, to use the local terminology) and the Mexican government does not include use "race" in its census data. This numbers presented here include all residents counted in 37 towns throughout the Costa Chica that I might be considered significantly and historically black, largely based on how people self-identify. I have personally visited the majority of these towns over the years. I also have been told of other Afro-Mexican communities in the region that I have yet to visit, and therefore did not include those on the list. This collection of towns, then, is far from definitive. The only purpose of the list is to give the reader a rough idea as to the size of the Afro-Mexican population of the Costa Chica and is not an estimate upon which to draw firm demographic conclusions.


    Cerro del Indio 608, Cuajinicuilapa 8932, Maldonado 892, Montecillos 893, El Pitahayo 2365, Punta Maldonado 1110, San Nicolás 3275, El Cacalote 119, Cerro de las Tablas 255, Copala 6540, Azoyú 4244, Banco de Oro 164, Barra de Tecoanapa 1024, Huehuetán 1827, Juchitán 2846


    El Ciruelo 2397, Collantes 2325, Santa María Chicometepec 1477, Corralero 1597, Cerro de la Esperanza 1058, Lagunillas 495, El Azufre 451, Chacahua 714, Charco Redondo 444, El Lagartero 91, Llano Grande 260, Zapotalito 829, Morelos 2028, Lagunillas 69, Santo Domingo Armenta 2739, Lagunillas 129, Callejón de Rómulo 541, Santiago Tapextla 1566, Llano Grande 1065, Mártires de Tacubaya 839, San José Estancia Grande 916, Santa María Cortijo 968

    Notable Afro Mexicans
    Historical figures
    Gaspar Yanga founded the first free African township in the Americas in 1609.[4]

    Actor Zamorita. Kalimba Marichal, M'Balia Marichal, Johnny Laboriel, María del Sol and Veronika con K are famous Mexican singers with African heritage. The late Toña la Negra was also an Afro-Mexican singer.

    Heroes of the Mexican War of Independence — Vicente Guerrero and José María Morelos y Pavón — were both mulattos. Also Joaquín Hendricks and Pío Pico former governors of Quintana Roo and California respectively, Luis Cortazar Guanajuato governor, and politian Luis Malanco, grandson of President Guerrero Vicente Riva Palacio, and Historian Ignacio Manuel Altamirano[citation needed].

    Modern day Afro-Mexican politicians: Mario Marcel Salas, City of San Antonio City Councilman 1997-2001 Guillermo Galván Galván is also a Afro-Mexican he is a political figure.

    Fictional figures
    The comic character Memín Pinguín, whose magazine has been available in Latin America, the Philippines, and the United States newsstands for more than 60 years, is an Afro-Mexican. The Mexican Government issued a series of five stamps in 2005 honoring the Memín comic book series. The issue of these stamps was considered racist by some groups in the United States and praised by the Mexican audience who remember growing up with the magazine.

    Former and current boxer Juan de la Rosa, Ericka Cruz Nuestra Belleza Mexico 2002, footballers Melvin Brown and Edoardo Isella, and Major League Baseball player of the 1970s, Jorge Orta.

    See also
    Afro-Latin American
    ^ Carroll, 2001
    ^ [Carroll, 2001]
    ^ Bonilla et al., Admixture analysis of a rural population of the state of Guerrero, Mexico, Am J Phys Anthropol, 2005
    ^ The African Presence in México exhibit at The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (MFACM)
    Patterns of Persistence: Paternal Colonialist Structures and the Radical Opposition in the African American Community of San Antonio, Texas 1937-2001, Thesis of Mario Marcel Salas, University of Texas at San Antonio, College of Liberal and Fine Arts, 2004, copies at John Peace Library University of Texas at San Antonio, 2004

    External links
    The Mexico-Louisiana Creole Connection
    Africa's Legacy in Mexico from the Smithsonian Institution
    Mexico's forgotten race steps into spotlight from The Guardian
    Black seminoles in Mexico from the Handbook of Texas Online
    Blacks in Mexico: A Forgotten Minority - TIME
    Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.
  2. chuck

    chuck Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 9, 2003
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    Mexico's Blacks Struggle to Unite, Thrive

    Jonathan Roeder

    Miami Herald

    More black Mexicans are trying to foster a sense of cultural identity as they demand better treatment in a country that fails to acknowledge them.

    Santiago Llano Grande, Mexico - Tirso Salinas, a farmer and musician, says he sometimes has to produce his national ID card to prove he's Mexican.

    In a country of 109 million people that proudly projects itself as a mix of indigenous and Spanish, Salinas is a member of the tiny and regularly overlooked community of Afro-Mexicans.

    "If I say I'm Mexican, people don't believe it," Salinas said during a ceremonial dance in this village in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero. The state is part of the region known as Costa Chica, where most black Mexicans live.

    Today, Mexican blacks are trying to emerge from the nation's margins. Cultural events such as the dance, along with annual meetings of black townships, have the goal of fostering a sense of Afro-Mexican identity.

    And they are not alone. From Guatemala and Nicaragua to Brazil and Colombia, Afro-Latin American minorities are increasingly taking pride in their background - and demanding better treatment from their governments.

    Leaders of Mexico's black communities believe as well that planting the seeds of African pride will help Mexican blacks unite to push for better educational opportunities and government policies to help them overcome poverty and isolation.

    But obstacles are numerous and demographic information is scarce - the nation's census does not include blacks as a separate ethnicity, unlike indigenous groups, whose populations are closely tracked. Estimates range from 50,000 to 500,000.

    Government data show that municipalities in the Costa Chica are among the poorest in Guerrero and Oaxaca - which are themselves two of Mexico's poorest states. Illiteracy in municipalities with black townships is 26.4 percent, compared with 9.45 percent nationwide, while access to running water is 61.7 percent, well under the national average of 87.8 percent.

    Afro-Mexicans' neighbors also look down on them: Many nonblack residents of Costa Chica claim that blacks are poor because they're lazy, and some blacks say they have trouble finding employment.

    Mexico's indigenous groups face similar stereotypes. But while the Mexican government invests millions to promote indigenous diversity and traditions, blacks are virtually unknown even among their countrymen.

    As many as 200,000 Africans were brought as slaves from the 1500s until slavery's abolition in 1829. But following the 1911-1917 Mexican Revolution, the new government sought to establish Mexicans as a "cosmic race," a mythic mixture of indigenous and Spanish descendants.


    Glyn Jemmott, a black Catholic priest from the Caribbean island of Trinidad who has lived in the Costa Chica community of El Ciruelo for 23 years, was one of the first to begin promoting African heritage and identity in the area. Some locals say they only started to think about themselves differently when he arrived.

    "In my childhood, I never heard anyone talking about blacks," said Adán Baños, a local cattle rancher. "It only occurred to us that we were black when we looked at ourselves in the mirror."

    Baños and others say they would like to help increase Afro-Mexicans' visibility, but daily survival is the more immediate concern.

    In Jemmott and Baños' town of El Ciruelo, roads are rutted and unpaved. Waste water runs down the streets and the wind whips up dust from the hills, bare from years of slash-and-burn agriculture.

    Some residents complain of going for weeks eating little more than tortillas and salsa.

    The fortunate own land and raise cattle or grow crops. Others fish on the nearby coast. Many, however, labor as farmhands, working other people's fields with a machete for $11 a day. While the pay is well above Mexico's minimum wage, the grueling, seasonal work leaves many families with little income between harvests.

    Jemmott's hopes for blacks' advancement lie largely in education. He helped select and train a local student who was awarded a scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta several years ago. But the student was killed in a 2005 car accident while going to Mexico City for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.

    Today, representatives from Morehouse College say they are still determined to take Afro-Mexicans to study there.

    Jemmott said he's also working to create a new scholarship fund that he hopes will help future leaders "build up a groundswell and articulate their demands."

    "The African population does not have, so far, leaders who are able to project the voice of the tribe," he said.


    One of these leaders could end up being Adan's daughter Inaí, who is hoping to become a surgeon in the armed forces.

    For the time being, she helps with the housework and studies hard in their cinder-block dwelling. But if she passes a challenging gantlet of tests and is accepted to the nine-year program, she will become the pride of her family.

    For Jemmott, Mexicans such as Inaí must defeat "the grip of the past" - centuries of discrimination and poverty.

    'I used to hear children say, `Daddy, I want to become a doctor,' or 'Mommy, I want to become a nurse, or a teacher, or a pilot,' " he said. 'And up until recently, I used to hear people say quite often, `Son, that kind of job is not for our people.' "