There are very few “invisible” cultures within the world but the African Mexicans are among the rare few. Lately the culture has sought inclusion in the global acknowledgement of their existence and contributions to the Mexican culture.
Mirroring Mexico’s history itself, most of Yanga’s Afro-Mexican population has been pushed to neighboring rural villages that are notable primarily for their deep poverty and the strikingly dark skin of their inhabitants. Mexico’s independence from Spain and new focus on building a national identity on the idea of mestizaje, or mixed race, drove African Mexicans into invisibility as leaders chose not to count them or assess their needs. Now many blacks want to fight back by improving the shoddy education and social services available to them and are petitioning for the constitution to recognize Afro-Mexicans as a separate ethnic group worthy of special consideration.
(See graphics of slavery and the Americas.)
“The two races that are most discriminated against here are the blacks and the indigenous — but it is more accepted against blacks,” says Hemeregildo Fernandez, a doctor in Yanga and one of the few blacks still living in town. His office is tucked on a narrow street that juts off the main square, where the rotund man with warm brown skin and salt-and-pepper hair receives a fluctuating stream of patients. The majority of the black Mexican population works in agriculture, fishing or construction, and while, like Fernandez, some have achieved notable positions in coastal towns, he says, “Most blacks have no economic power.”
(Read a story about the indigenous custom of bride-selling.)
Many of the country’s mexicanos negros (black Mexicans), as they are called, know that their ancestors arrived in chains on boats that docked at ports in the sultry, steamy state of Veracruz. But they don’t know much else. Indeed, Afro-Mexicans say that much of the history of los mexicanos negros is untaught or ignored by the rest of the country. Apart from Yanga, Afro-Mexicans claim Vicente Guerrero, who served briefly as President in the early 19th century and gave his name to the state of Guerrero, as one of their own, as well as revolutionary José María Morelos, who was executed by the Spaniards in 1815.
(Read a story about an indigenous mother who might lose her child because she doesn’t speak English.)
Black Mexican activists estimate the population of Afro-Mexicans at about 1 million, but there are no official figures. Earlier this year, they petitioned the National Institute of Statistics and Geography to include the Afro-Mexican population as a separate category in the next census, in 2010. Official statistics do not recognize blacks as a separate ethnic group (56 indigenous groups are officially accredited, the largest ones being the Nahuatl and the Maya, numbering more than 2 million each). As a result, Afro-Mexicans say they have been left out of institutional programs and are without a cultural identity. The group Mexico Negro A.C. is linking with similar Afro-descendant organizations in Latin America that have achieved success in securing better treatment. “We no longer want to be detained by security agents in our own country who say that in Mexico there are no blacks,” says Rodolfo Prudente Dominguez, an activist with Mexico Negro.
How did the African ORIGINALLY arrive in Mexico? Why did they come? Were the continents connected which enabled foot travel, or were Egyptians exploring the world well before the Spanish waterway explorers?
According to the information found many Spanish conquistadors of the day, would often trade African slaves in foreign ports. The natives found in many Mezo cultures proved to be of little use in building new “civilizations” because they died quickly and were not as “resilent” as the African slave.