Black People : Black Mexico

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by chuck, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. chuck

    chuck Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 9, 2003
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    The Dallas Morning News
    April 3, 2002
    Black Mexicans see pride in lost history

    Communities starting to discover roots, fight discrimination

    By LAURENCE ILIFF / The Dallas Morning News

    SAN NICOLAS, Mexico – Dark-skinned Mexicans along the southern Pacific Coast have long sensed their roots are distinct from the mixed-race majority
    dominated by European and Indian blood.

    But until relatively recently, many had only a sketchy idea why.

    "A popular story says we came from a stranded African ship," said Jorge Añorve Zapata, 38, a schoolteacher from the Costa Chica,
    or "small coast," south of Acapulco. "It's a nice story. But as it turns out, the truth isn't so nice because we came in chains as slaves
    and were the first ones to drown."

    Now, African-Mexicans along the coast are discovering their roots, countering negative stereotypes, and trying to find their place in
    Mexican history.

    Government-issued textbooks describe coastal residents as "festive" dancers who happily raise cattle and corn. Crude drawings
    depict the physical characteristics of African-Mexicans without offering much history.

    Mr. Añorve, who worked in California in the early 1990s, said the books are clearly offensive, so he offers his preteen students a
    crash course in "negritud," or blackness, to counter official stereotypes. He has also helped establish a museum to explain the arrival
    of Africans here and to instill pride in their heritage.

    The Spanish conquistadors, alarmed by the death of Indian laborers to disease and overwork, brought up to a half-million African
    slaves to Mexico from the 1500s to the 1800s to work in mines.

    Some escaped and formed runaway slave communities in towns along the Costa Chica, which had no paved roads at the time and was set in thick jungle. Mexico
    abolished slavery in 1821.

    In some ways, blacks here today are following in the footsteps of the Indian rights movement that was re-energized after the 1994 Mayan uprising by the Zapatista
    rebels and their charismatic leader, Subcomandante Marcos, residents said. Indeed, most blacks have Indian blood from intermarriage.

    Then came the election of President Vicente Fox in July 2000, ending more than 70 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Mr. Fox has
    courted racial minorities and promised to fight poverty like never before.

    An important factor in black identity here, leaders said, has been immigration to the United States by poor coastal residents who must confront their racial identity in
    the United States.

    Likewise, visits by black Americans over the last decade have given blacks here a sense of camaraderie.

    "I feel very much at home here," said Ron Wilkins, a black American activist, teacher and photographer visiting from Los Angeles. "I've met black families who are
    very conscious and very committed to seeing black people become more visible and become empowered and take their place in the 21st century."

    Mr. Wilkins, who has exhibited his photos of African-Mexicans in the United States, said he is impressed by the lack of racial and social tension within Black Indian

    "One of the things I come here to learn more about is that despite the racism in the larger Mexican society ... people [here] seem to get along and live together at a
    level of harmony that is very hard to find in the United States," he said.

    Black and Mexicans in the United States, he said, need to learn that they have more in common than they might think. For example, Mexicans in Texas participated
    in the underground railroad to shuttle black slaves to freedom in Mexico, Mr. Wilkins said.

    African-Mexicans, a blend of black, Indian and white blood, are not counted in the official census. While their presence is heaviest on the Pacific and Gulf coasts
    where the slave trade was focused, historians have said African blood is common throughout the population.

    For example, independence leaders Vicente Guerrero and José María Morelos had black roots, according to U.S. historian Ted Vicente, author of The Legacy of
    Vicente Guerrero: Mexico's First Black Indian President.

    Thanks to community leaders, dozens of poor towns along the Guerrero and Oaxaca coasts are celebrating their African roots and the broad contribution they have
    made to Mexican life.

    Every year since 1996, they have held an "Encounter of Black Mexico," featuring regional dance, music and roundtable discussions about black life.

    In late March, the event was held in San Nicolas, a dusty village with dirt roads and homes with mostly dirt floors. Many people here migrate to the United States to

    Before hundreds of visitors, schoolchildren performed the Apache dance, a mix of Indian and African traditions, and the "Dance of the Devils," which in part is a
    reminder of the poor treatment slaves received at the hands of their oppressors.

    "My color may be white but my roots are black," said María de Jesús Marín, 24, who participated in a roundtable discussion on black women. "The racism here
    continues as always because it's still the black women who wash clothes and clean up after the white women."

    Ms. Marín works as a teacher's assistant at a school in El Ciruelo. The school was established by the local Catholic parish because many schoolchildren cannot
    afford to travel to the nearest government school, she said.

    But outside of African-Mexican communities, ignorance of black life remains, as does discrimination, residents said.

    "When I left here and went to Mexico City for the first time in 1982, I realized that people looked at me differently, as if they were suspicious of me for some
    reason," said Guadalupe Jaime Noyola, 41, who spends his time between San Nicolas and North Carolina.

    Comparing Mexico to the United States, he said racism, while not talked about, is more marked in Mexico than in the north.

    "When I travel by bus to the United States, the Mexican police at checkpoints always have me step down from the bus to answer questions, but not the other
    passengers," Mr. Noyola said. "When I am in the United States, I feel better because no one hassles me. If you are not doing anything wrong, the police leave you
    alone. Not in Mexico."

    And in terms of education and opportunity, the two nations are worlds apart, said Mr. Noyola. Despite racism up north, "a black person in the United States can
    study to be a lawyer, a politician, even president, but not here," he said.

    The renewed consciousness by costeños, or coastal people, of their African roots comes from many sources, both local and foreign.

    A Roman Catholic priest from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad, the Rev. Glyn Jemmott, has created education and other programs for several black towns in
    Guerrero over the last decade. The black consciousness found in the Caribbean and in South American nations such as Brazil had not yet taken hold in Guerrero, he

    "When I first came here, one of my first experiences was someone holding on to me and asking me, 'Who are you?' " said Father Glyn, as he is known by locals. "I
    said I'm a priest. And he said it's not true – black people are not priests. ... Blacks here are only fit for loading trucks."

    That attitude has changed over the years, he said.

    "With the uprooting from Africa, we've had to live with an identity that was given to us. Now we're seeing [an attitude of] 'let's get closer to what we really are and be
    comfortable with what we really are.' "

    Still, the constant mixing among the descendants of African slaves and local Indians, along with the white elite, has left some residents confused. All identify
    themselves as Mexican, thanks to this nation's strong nationalism, but not necessarily as black.

    When an organizer of the encounter asked participants "Where are my black people?" few shouted out or raised their hands. When he asked them again, after
    reminding them of their roots, the calling out and raised hands were more widespread.

    In the nearby town of Cuajinicuilapa, a museum dedicated to the history of the Costa Chica is the pride of the community. Originally supported by the government
    when it was opened three years ago, it is now run by volunteers.

    Here, schoolchildren learn about the arrival of African slaves in the 1500s. The museum also shows African dress, food, musical instruments and the way in which
    they were incorporated into Mexican life.

    Norma Aibi Reed, a black American visiting from San Diego, said she was awed by the experience of the people here in rediscovering their roots.

    "It almost brings me to tears being in this space," she said while visiting the museum. "It's almost like a resurrection after so much suffering. It's like a heroes' journey

    Angela Kocherga, Mexico City bureau chief for KHOU-TV in Houston, contributed to this report.
  2. chuck

    chuck Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 9, 2003
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    Blacks In Mexico: A Historical Take

    México negro/Black Mexico

    Submitted by a reader

    The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago is currently presenting a show called The African Presence in Mexico.This exhibit is the most comprehensive project ever organized about African contributions to Mexican culture. The three groundbreaking exhibitions that make up this project attempt to stimulate a better understanding of Mexican culture among Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike. The Museum hopes that this project will help Mexicans and African-Americans to look at our groups’ identities in light of the history they have shared both in the United States and in Mexico. The project also features numerous public and educational programs.

    African-Americans and Mexicans are two of the largest cultural groups in the city of Chicago and the two largest communities of color in the country. Both groups have influenced each other’s efforts to resist oppression and the suppression of their cultures and they have a shared history that must be heard.

    The Underground Railroad (1829-1865), the secret network of people helping enslaved African-Americans escape to their freedom, went North to the northern U.S. and Canada. To the South, the Underground Railroad reached beyond the U.S border. It crossed the boundaries deep into its neighbor country, where slavery had been abolished in 1829 -- 36 years before the U.S. The southernmost point known of the Underground Railroad is the recently discovered “Freedom Station” located in Mazamitla, Jalisco, in Mexico.

    During the time of slavery in the U.S. (1776-1865), another way enslaved African-Americans reached freedom in Mexico was by collaborating with the Seminoles. During the Seminole Wars, the U.S. government drove the Seminoles from their lands in Florida and the Indian Territory. The Seminoles were seeking a new place to make their home just as African-Americans were seeking a place to be free from slavery. Both groups united and, in 1850, nearly 300 Blacks and Seminoles fled to Mexico together. The leader of the Seminoles said: “When we came fleeing slavery, Mexico was a land of freedom, and the Mexicans spread out their arms to us.” The Mexican government granted the Black Seminoles land in Northern Mexico.

    Free people of color and Creole African-Americans fled Louisiana in small groups, in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and formed communities on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. In the 1850s, the government of Louisiana restricted the rights of free people of color. This inspired black people to move to Mexico, where their rights were not dictated by race. During Reconstruction, from 1865 to 1877, after the Civil War in the U.S., some free people of color returned to Louisiana from Mexico. In the 1880s, when the Jim Crow laws institutionalized segregation, the Creole descendants of this generation fled to Mexico again in search of racial equality. This second group reconnected with their relatives on the Gulf Coast.

    By the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1920, the African-American community in the U.S. was coming together for the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that rebelled against racism and segregation. The artists who participated in this movement were creating a body of work done entirely by and for African-Americans. They wanted to change the identity of Black people in the U.S. from being one that was defined by slavery to one that was positive and defined by African cultures. This was happening in the U.S. just as Mexicans were reconstructing a country that had been torn apart by a decade of war. In Mexico, artists were rebuilding the national identity of Mexicans as well. The similar movements in the U.S. and Mexico perfectly positioned African-Americans and Mexicans for a profound exchange of ideas, techniques, and even people. Through this exchange, African-Americans learned how to use visual art as a form of resistance to assimilation and oppression and as a way of energizing others to resist those forces as well.


    The exhibit runs through September 3, 2006.

    The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum is located at:
    1852 W 19th Street, Chicago IL 60608

    Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
    Free admission

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  3. chuck

    chuck Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 9, 2003
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    Article by Bobby Vaughan

    To begin a discussion of the Black Experience in Mexico, it is important to establish the quantitative significance of the black slave population in the colonial era. One of the most frequent responses I get when discussing my research with Mexicans, or Americans for that matter, is "there couldn't have been more than a handful of slaves in Mexico." This assumption is made because in most parts of Mexico, today, you don't see many black people at all. The assumption is made that if there aren't many blacks in Mexico, now, there never were. As we will see, this is not entirely true.

    The first African slave brought to Mexico is said to be one Juan Cortés, a slave who accompanied the conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1519. The Indians, spellbound by his dark skin, for they had never seen an African before, took him for a god! Another of the early conquistadores, Pánfilo Narvaez, brought a slave who has been credited with bringing the devastating smallpox epidemic of 1520. Mexican anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán estimates that there were 6 blacks who took part in the conquest of Mexico.

    These early slaves were more personal servants of their masters, who may be thought of as squires. These slaves were most likely taken from Africa, then transported to Seville, where early slaves were christianized, and they probably spoke Spanish by the time they reached the New World. These slaves didn't come over on slave ships as part of an overt slave trade. The slave trade that changed the demographic face of Mexico began when King Carlos V began issuing more and more asientos, or contracts between the Crown and private slavers, in order to expedite the trans-atlantic trade. At this point, after 1519, the New World received bozales, or slaves brought directly from Africa without being christianized. The Spanish Crown would issue these asientos to foreign slavers, who would then make deals with the Portuguese, for they controlled the slave "factories" on the West African coast. Aside from these asientos, the Crown would grant licenses to merchants, government officials, conquistadores, and settlers who requested the privilege of importing slaves.
    The Crown had very few problems doling out these asientos and licenses, as a direct correlation was seen between the number of slaves imported to the new colony and the colonization and economic development of the colony. For these economic reasons, the black population soared to over 20,000 by 1553. According to early census data and allowances made for escaped slaves, Aguirre Beltrán arrives at the following estimates of the black population:

    Black Population in Colonial Mexico

    1570 AD 20,569
    1646 AD 35, 089
    1742 AD 15,980

    The numerical significance of these figures becomes clear when we compare them to the Spanish population of the colonial era. In the early colonial period, European immigration was extremely small--and for good reason. There were great risks and many uncertainties in the New World, and few families were willing to immigrate until some assurance of stability was demonstrated. Because of this hesitance, very few European women immigrated, thus preventing the natural growth of the Spanish population.

    The point that must be made here is the fact that the black population in the early colony was by far larger than that of the Spanish. In 1570 we see that the black population is about 3 times that of the Spanish. In 1646, it is about 2.5 times as large, and in 1742, blacks still outnumber the Spanish. It is not until 1810 that Spaniards are more numerous.

    There has been a fair amount of scholarly work done on blacks in Mexico, the majority of which is historical. Some work highlights the different types of labor blacks performed in Mexico, and other work focuses on general aspects of Mexican slave society. I have included a very partial list of sources that would be a good starting point for further exploration. In addition, the majority of this historical work concerns either blacks in Veracruz or are more general works, with much less having been done on the Costa Chica. And as far as work being done on the contemporary situation, very little has been done at all. Hopefully, that is where I can make a contribution!

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