0 Africa's Lost Tribe In Mexico - New African Magazine
Close
Africa’s Lost Tribe In Mexico

News and Analysis

Africa’s Lost Tribe In Mexico

The existence of Afro-Mexicans was officially affirmed in the 1990s when the  Mexican government acknowledged Africa as Mexico’s “third root”.  But Mexico’s real history shows the African presence in the country going back thousands of years. Despite the official recognition of the contribution of Africa and Afro-Mexicans to Mexican society throughout the ages, the plight of African-descended people in Mexico is still desperate, reports Miriam Jimenez Roman. (Additional reporting by Tom Mbakwe)

Last year, a bilingual exhibition, The African Presence in México: Yanga to the Present, was mounted by the Oakland Museum and the DuSable Museum on both sides of the Mexican border – in the US and Mexico itself. It traced how Africans – fewer than 2% of colonial Mexico’s (1521-1810) population – significantly enriched Mexican culture through their art, music, language, cuisine, and dance. The African Presence in México invited Mexican-Americans and African-Americans to look at their identities in light of their shared histories in Mexico and the United States.

The Spanish first brought Africans to Mexico in 1519 to work in the agrarian and silver industries, under often brutal conditions. There were constant slave protests and runaways (cimarrónes) who established settlements in the mountains of Orizaba. In January 1609, Gasper Yanga, a runaway slave elder, led the cimarrónes (or maroons) to a successful resistance against a special army sent by the Spanish Crown to crush their uprising.After several cimarrón victories, the Spanish acquiesced to the slaves’ demand for land and freedom. Yanga founded the first free African township in the Americas, San Lorenzo de los Negros, near Veracruz. It was renamed in his honour in the 1930s.

Slavery in Mexico was abolished in 1810 by Jose María Morelos y Pavón, leader of the Mexican War of Independence. As a mulatto (Spanish and African), Morelos was directly affected by Mexico’s prejudices. Racial mixes were seen as undesirable by a society that aspired to purity of race and blood (ie, Spanish only).

In 1992, as part of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas, the Mexican government officially acknowledged that African culture in the country represented la tercera raiz (the third root) of Mexican culture, with the Spanish and indigenous peoples. But the plight of Afro-Mexicans has not improved much since the recognition of 1992.

As Alexis Okeowo, a black journalist in the Mexican capital, Mexico City, attests, when she visited Yanga, her heart broke. “As I arrived in town,” she reported, “I peered out of my taxi window at the pastel-painted storefronts and the brown-skinned residents walking along the wide streets. ‘Where are the black Mexicans?’ I wondered. A central sign proclaimed Yanga’s role as the first Mexican town to be free from slavery, yet the descendants of these former slaves were nowhere to be found. I would later learn that most live in dilapidated settlements outside of town.”

The next morning when she went searching for the Afro-Mexicans, Okeowo found that though she had grown used to the rarity of black people in Mexico City, it was different at Yanga, where she was not only stared at but also pointed at.

“The stares were cold and unfriendly, and especially unnerving in a town named for an African revolutionary,” Okeowo recalled. “ ‘Mira, una negra,’ I heard people whisper to one another. ‘Look, a black woman.’ ‘Negra! Negra!’, taunted an old man with a shock of white hair under a tan sombrero.

“Surrounded by a group of men, [the old man] gazed at me with a big, toothy grin. He seemed to be waiting for me to come over and talk to him. Shocked, I shot him a dirty look and headed into [a] library’s courtyard.”

Okeowo continued: “The notion of race in Mexico is frustratingly complex. This is a country where many are proud to claim African blood, yet discriminate against their darker countrymen. Black Mexicans complain that such bigotry makes it especially hard for them to find work. Still, I was surprised to feel like such an alien intruder in a town where I had hoped to feel something like familiarity. Afro-Mexicans are among the poorest in the nation. Many are shunted to remote shantytowns, well out of reach of basic public services, such as schools and hospitals.

“Activists for Afro-Mexicans face an uphill battle for government recognition and economic development. They have long petitioned to be counted in Mexico’s national census, alongside the country’s 56 other official ethnic groups, but to little avail. Unofficial records put their number at one million.”

73

Rate this article

Author Thumbnail
Written by New African Magazine

For over 45 years New African provides unparalleled insights and analysis on African politics and economics, via an African perspective, always. With in-depth monthly reports, New African brings Africa closer to the world and is ideal for those looking to gain a better understanding of the most important issues affecting Africa.

  • William Wooten

    It is not uncommon for Spanish speaking peoples of Mexico, Colombia, or the Dominican Republic to refer to one another with adjectives that describe physical characteristics. Terms such as gorda/gordo, flaca/flaco,morena/moreno, negra/negro are not used to taunt but to describe the obvious.

    • Harry McNicholas

      That is correct. Today in Mexico all are Mexicans but may be split as to whether they speak Spanish or dialecto. There are morenos and morenosos. It should also be remembered that there are other Europeans in Mexico and other parts of Latin America apart from Spanish. Many Germans and French. Aztec or more correctly Ute-Aztec is one of the largest native language groups spoken From Central America to S.E. Oregon and into Colorado.

      • Jose Resendiz

        What dialecto?

        Where on Earth?

        Mexico has 86 recognized native tribal languages, lets not forget spanish, the other European languages from colonization and immigration. I speak Zapotec, and I have Teenek, Otomi, and chichimeca people in my gene pool.

    • Jose Resendiz

      WW I was born in Mexico; I know this.
      What exactly is your point?

      Are you like the American Archiogists who dont believe the Olmec heads of Mexico display african features?

      Smh

  • sheeplearedumb

    Lying ass article, those conquistadors stole our culture. Didnt no body come over on a boat but those damn pilgrims. I was wrong about the so called Mexicans they are nothing but spainards trying to steal our land. The CIA know the so called black people are the indigenous people of this country. That’s why the racist government rather name spainards the natives of this land, burning books and paintings artifacts and shit! Those people on reservations are products spainard, Mongoloid mixture. If black people came over here as slaves on a boat then did the Hawaiians and Samoans too? Because they have black features as well. Why the island that inhabit black people that is said to have been slaves on a boat as well don’t call themselves African Jamaicans or African Bahamians or African Haitians. Because they know they didn’t come there on a boat!!! Fuck your lies, all this shit with soon be brought to the light!! It’s gods will!

    • black inferno

      dude yes we did…there were blacks here already but we did not outnumber the true natives stop listening to 1000gohead etc they are feeding u trash conspiracies there are plenty dark skinned natives in south us…west africans mingled with the natives ages ago the red people always been here explain the natives of the amazons who didnt mix with anyone they still possess the true native features..i woulnt be suprised if the cia made that bs up accept ur west african dna…some the first slaves came from madagascar who’s dna have been linked to south east asia ,austraila and polynesia..africas dna is so diverse dont limit ur thinking to think we all are supposed to look a certain way

      • sheeplearedumb

        Man dude let me be, and you believe what you wanna believe. I don’t have to look at 1000gohead to get the message bruh! its out on the internet for you to look at, he didn’t put the info up! someone with the information is putting it out there for us to see! I look at facts and proof as for the slavery boat theory its a lie! wheres the boat? there was none! if they can find an old ass mummy or a 20,000 year old skeleton and the freakin titanic why not the slavery ships? at least a part of it like wood, shackles, an anchor, Nothing! blacks can’t have anything positive for themselves even when there’s proof like artifacts (Olmec heads, indigenous pictures, books, etc). all we can claim is Africa! fucking travel around the world they’re black indigenous people inhabiting all corners of the earth and we are different because we came here on a ship, nah man….. Your listening to what your white teachers and scientist tell you, they whitewash everything! Facts bruh facts!
        look at the links if you want, if not! peace out!

        http://tinyurl(.)com/alexhaleytruth

        http://tinyurl(.)com/DNAliesreal

        http://digitalgallery(.)nypl(.)org/nypldigital/id?1505047

        http://www.philipcoppens(.)com/egyptiancanyon.html

        http://nativeamericansbeforeandaftercolonization(.)yolasite(.)com/

        http://tinyurl(.)com/blacknative

        http://federalcensusindianslistedaswhite(.)blogspot(.)com/

        http://raceandhistory(.)com/historicalviews/ancientamerica.htm

        http://tinyurl(.)com/therealnatives

        http://tinyurl(.)com/francewebsitenative <———– translate this

        http://raceandhistory(.)com/historicalviews/ancientamerica.htm

        http://tinyurl(.)com/mayansingeo

        I have too many links and I'm not putting them up so….. that's it!

        remove the ( ) for the sites to work!

        • black inferno

          i know black skinned people inhabit all lands but we are more like cousins than being 1 people because black people are too diverse we are not all the same…we are not the natives bro they were the people who left africa long ago look at the khoisan people of south africa they started the asians & natives what if natives said they were the original people of africa because they look like the khoisan people there are still natives in mexico with broad lips and dark skin it has always been like that

          • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

            Truth be told.

          • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

            Agree

        • black inferno

          there are millions of indians(indios) still to this day all throughout south america,mexico, and canada look them up many are dark without black dna

          • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

            What is black DNA? Lol

          • slick moranis

            DNA that ties you most closely to Sub Saharan Africans. The weird thing is that people of your beliefs always wind up on stories about Africa. The reason for this is because you know that’s your actual ethnicity, but you feel ashamed about it, so you feel you have to spout your self delusions to everyone else.

          • Tracy Spencer

            DNA Is A Hoax, Look It Up

          • Harry McNicholas

            Huh? Look up what? I think you need a few classes in biology.

          • Tracy Spencer

            While You’re Talking About Bio BS I’m Talking Truth , Research Some Before Trying To Be Cynical

          • Harry McNicholas

            Testing for DNA can tell if your ancestors came from West Africa and even narrow it down to the locale.

          • Duende Brooks

            Genetics researchers are telling us that you are better off digging
            around in your loft than doing a DNA ancestry test if you want to find
            out about your family tree,” said Tracey Brown, Director of Sense About
            Science to the Telegraph.

            http://www.medicaldaily.com/dna-ancestry-tests-are-meaningless-your-historical-genealogy-search-244586

          • Duende Brooks
          • Duende Brooks

            Dna is modern , if get what I am saying….With an early form of “Back to Africa” that took place before
            Rastafarianism made it mainstream, there are a number of African
            countries we were sent to. 1. Liberia (Americo-Liberians), 2. Sierra
            Leone (Sierra Leone Creole people [Jamaicans/Nova Scotian Canadians)],
            3.Ghana (“Americo-Ghanians” [Tabom people (Brazilians)]/those living in
            Accra, Ghana {WEB DuBois died there}), 4. Nigeria (Saros/Amaros
            [“Afro-Brazilians” and “Afro-Cubans”]) 5. Angola (“Afro-Brazilians”)
            According to Jack D. Forbes in his book “Africans and Native Americas”
            6. Ethiopia (Jamaicans) Haile Selassie
            Now, consider this: “Could it be possible that the African ancestry DNA
            companies are using the genomes from the descendants of
            “African-American” who were sent their to say that we
            (“African-Americans) come from Africa?” Remember: Ancestry DNA is
            a European discovery that was used the most after the Civil Right
            movement, along side “Roots”, African-American moniker, Out of Africa
            theory/Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in schools, and the rise of
            Pan-African/Afrocentric/Black consciousness/”Back-to-Africa” activist
            groups. Very interesting these things appeared RIGHT after the Civil
            Right movement/integration took place. Prior to Ancestry DNA tests, we
            (the whole world for that matter) only knew their heritage via oral
            stories and written records (I.E Census). But now, we don’t use the
            Census, but these DNA tests that lead us to one of the African nations I
            listed, or any other I did not list. Because I think the Igbo
            and Youruba [Nigerian] people are supposedly a popular type of people
            that “African-Americans” think come from via the Trans-Atlantic Slave
            Trade. Because the Saros (“Afro-Brazilians”) is a demographic people in
            the Youruba and Igbo. Mende people and Mandingo/Mandinka is
            Sierra Leonian. And we had “Black Nova Scotians” and Jamaicans sent
            there who are now the “Sierra Leone Creole people.” Just keep
            this in mind when you want to do an African ancestry DNA test. Because
            it might lead you to an “African-American” descent person

        • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

          You’re absolutely right…they need to stop romanticism about shit that didn’t happen. We’re natives without any west african genitalia. We’re from our ancient ancestors Yoni’s and lingams. Please don’t tread on our birthrights. Stop telling the European version of the Americas, because they were divided looking yo divide and destroy, and distort our history and legacies.

        • Harry McNicholas

          I do not know how to respond to such stupidity.

          • Duende Brooks

            I am waiting on your science or some else else “science” since that is all you really have

        • Harry McNicholas

          All those sites are pure BS written by a bunch of morons. Stick to the history of Mexico written by Mexicans.

    • Harry McNicholas

      Huh? The majority of Mexicans are mestizos A mix of European and First Americans 20% of the population are First Americans. European is about 9%. African about 2%. It is very hard to determine who are Africans from the import of slaves by the Spanish and who are immigrants from the Caribe. Most of the original Black people have been absorbed into the general population.

  • Haroldl Clayton

    Let me ask a question: why are there Sumerian artefacts at Puma Punku and Africoid Olmec headstones ln LaVenta , Mexico facing eastward ! Give me a break Euro-Caucasians are insane !!!

  • Harry McNicholas

    Who wrote this nonsense? There are is no mountain range in Mexico named Orizaba. There is one volcano named Orizaba and it is the highest mountain in Mexico. Morelos was not a mulatto. He was 100% Spanish. Slavery was not abolished in Mexico until 1819 by Vicente Guerrero who was a mulatto. This whole article is awful.

    • Rob

      Wrong. He was not 100% Spanish. Funny how People chime in to dismiss historical facts just because they don’t want to deny Blackness or Africa in Mexico. Terrible.

      • Harry McNicholas

        Rob. There is one mountain named Orizaba. Yes he was a member of the upper class in Mexico at that time was 100% Spanish. He was not mestizo. The mexican revolution was started by the educated upper class. Very different from the revolution later in 1911. Mestizos did no form the majority of the population in Mexico in 1800 but the First Americans did and they were not included in the society. After the establishment of Mexico there started more mixing between the various ethnic groups. However, most still spoke an Aztec dialect until the majority were offered education. Mulatos tended to remain in the South. Veracruz and Guerrero states. Most were absorbed into the local population. Many Black people today in Mexico are not descended from those slaves but rather immigrants from the Caribe.

        • Rob

          100% factually wrong. You cannot be 100% spanish & 100% indigenous. Make up your mind.

          “Mulatos tended to remain in the South. Veracruz and Guerrero states. Most were absorbed into the local population. Many Black people today in Mexico are not descended from those slaves but rather immigrants from the Caribe” wtf?! Lets guess the Aztecs build the pyramids? Or lets see Extraterristrials? lol smh shame

          It would behoove you to know more of Mexico’s history. Instead of dismissing archaeological monuments & statues from the Area you speak of to dismiss the Author.

          • Harry McNicholas

            No 1, pico de Orizaba with the Aztec name of Citaltepetl is a strato-volcano. and no it is not a mountain range. Where did I say that you could be 100% Spanish and 100% indigenous? Madero was of the upper class in Mexico which were Spaniards. No there were no Black people in Mexico. Where are you getting this Bs? The Aztecs built some of the pyramids especially in the Valley of Mexico but other Native tribes including the Mayans, Olmecs, Chichimecas , Toltecas, Purepechas and many other people native to Mexico built pyramids. Sorry nobody from AFrica, Europe, Chinese, Jews or anyone else helped them.

          • Rob

            Sorry History say Aztec stole History….Aztecs slaves were not strong enough to build those. They died from Disease. Only dumb human sacrifices lol

            Thank You for identifying the Olmecs as a Native tribe. lol THistory Books say They were from West Africa. Anthropolgists know this…Yet you say there were no Black ppl in Mexico. #Stfu YOU HAVE NO CREDIBILITY TO SPEAK.

            Become an Anthropologist before You speak of Things you clearly DO NOT KNOW. Good Day Idiot.

          • Rechts

            YOU WUZ KANGZ!!!!

        • Rob

          100% Factually Wrong.

          The Mexican People have a distorted Eurocentric view of their History. One Minute your 100% Spanish. The Next your 100% Indigenous. Most of you Mexicans don’t even know your history & downplay the African History.

          If the Mexican Government acknowledge’s Mexico African Legacy then maybe you & other should too in your dialouge. Where else do you think Those Pyramids came from? The Spanish? The Aztecs? Wrong. Africans.

          It would behoove you to know Your full Mexico History & its archaeological discoveries instead of trying to disprove the Author with factually wrong statements like:

          “Mestizos did no form the majority of the population in Mexico in 1800 but the First Americans did and they were not included in the society. After the establishment of Mexico there started more mixing between the various ethnic groups. However, most still spoke an Aztec dialect until the majority were offered education. Mulatos tended to remain in the South. Veracruz and Guerrero states. Most were absorbed into the local population. Many Black people today in Mexico are not descended from those slaves but rather immigrants from the Caribe.” All BS you wrote…Is that what you are learning in Mexico? #SHAME #SHAME #SHAME

          • Harry McNicholas

            I have spent 50+ years and Mexico. How many have you spent? Get off your lazy butt and go there and do the work to study the history. I am so sick of all these armchair historians commenting on something they know nothing about.

          • Rob

            Its in the History book Jacktard. Scholarly publications. History that dates back more than 600 BC. Im done. Good Day!

          • Rechts

            IT WUZ WRITTEN ON THE WALLS OF YOUR MUD HUTS!

          • Chris

            You are monumentally stupid.

  • Jose Resendiz

    For those writing negative comments. I feel for you, because you’re ignorant and don’t know better. My suggestion is school yourself before you open your mouth and remove all doubt of your bigotry. I am a Native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I grew up in poverty; dirt floors, lack of indoor plumbing, and the sorts. I always noticed how the people of San Luis treated my family. For the most part they treated the fair skin ones very well. Myself included, but my dark skinned cousins with their curly hair we called them “Negritos” but we love them anyway.
    Although I am very pale skin, I also have full lips, and in the USA, my racial identity is always a question. I share this, because I live in Washington, DC also known as “Chocolate City”
    And too often I’ve witnessed how there is a racial undertone in this country. However, the most wonderful thing is happening here. We tell the youth that Black is beautiful. Black girls Rock. The African Americans have embraced their blackness and stand firm and dominate everything World wide. In Latin America people don’t want to be associated with the negative stereotypes that archaic casting system has left behind about “Blackness”.
    I don’t know how much African ancestry is in my blood, but I want to have my DNA tested to find out.
    Its common sense deduction: 20,000 African Slaves on archaic documents, Census as after census the population of the African grows in Mexico. 200,000 Africans didn’t get on a ship and return to Africa. Those people stayed and have always been In Mexico;
    those people are the present day Mexicans of today.
    I’ve never understood the misconception of black people being lazy. Oh yea if they are truly lazy; why where they the most effective Slaves, after the colonists enslaved the indigenous people disease killed them off.
    The territories known as Peru, Mexico, United States, Colombia, Cuba, Caribbean islands owes a massive debt of gratitude to those who came before us. The settlers who built the infrastructures of our modern day homes. Here’s what our history books are redacting and not telling us intentionally. The people that came were black.

    • Harry McNicholas

      How do you know you have Black ancestry? Did you take a DNA test? I have a Japanese friend. Shoji has black kinky hair and full lips. Sorry he is 100% Japanese. Some making stereotypes as to how people are to look.

      • Jose Resendiz

        After visiting Bogota Colombia, Dominican Relublic, and Cuba I found that my family culture is similar to the Afro Latinos in those countries; I eventually had my DNA tested just recently. My Mexican mestisaje is comprised of 50% Native American from present day Mexico city; could of been Sapotec, or other natives from the San Luis Potosi region. Im also 32% europen; 18% of European ancestry is Iberian peninsual present day Spain and portugual, have trace ancestry from Scandinavian, UK, Italian and greek. And 18% African; 8% Senegalés, 9% Nigerian, trace amounts from Libya and Northern Africa.

        Since discovering my lineage through DNA; More and more I see Africa in our foods, some of the words we used from the Bantu language, our dances; Mexico’s “folkloric” dance has always been a sapateo which translates to step it out; where the rythem of foot stomping keeps the beat with percussion- clearly African contribution.

        The bright colors used in traditional clothing come from africa;

        The entire latin experience would not be as rich or complex if we did not have this mestisaje.

        • Harry McNicholas

          As to contributions to the Caribe you would be correct. To Mexico not much. The exception would be Veracruz where the cultures of the Caribe had some influence. Almost all Mexican music is a combination of what has developed in Mexico and other Latin countries. The music that came from the Caribe and S. America of course has African elements but not those developed in Mexico.Bright clothing is based upon the clothes worn by Native people of Mexico. Some Mexicans have some African DNA but most do not. Not all Mexicans either have Spanish DNA.Stick with what you know and learn about Mexican culture. That will take you the rest of your life.

          • Jose Resendiz

            Lets agree to disagree sir; enslaved Africans have been chronicled to be in present day Mexico since 1450 thats nearly 567 years of African influence on Mexico and the mestisaje.
            Veracruz is not the only place where the diaspora descendents live. They are located in Oaxaca and Guerrero also in addition to the Pueblos Negros all over the country like Pinotepa, Yanga, cuajinijilapa, cuallines, etc, etc, etc. I’m learning my history because its been largely marginalized by white Mexicans in power who suffer whom are all products of colonialism and the crazy Caste system. Ive read that about 70-75% of present day Mexicans have African DNA. Which accounts for my analysis and I sir was born and raised in the interior of the republic. I cannot make this up. The dansa de los diablos is an integral dance which is danced in San Luis Potosi too. We still use bantu words in our everyday spanish. Words like Chamba meaning work. And in case you didn’t know menudo one of our most mexican dishes is also influenced by Nigeria and Senegal.

            Very little is known about the Olmec people whom left the megalithic structures; and how they were unearthed covered in tar in one location; but it sounds like someone doesnt want to face their true identity.

            Im not saying you dont know what you’re talking about because clearly you have some knowledge; Im saying you cannot speak about my Negritude. And I identify as Afro-Misteco now.

            As you may know Mexico is one of three countries in latin america that do not recognize afro descendents through its constitution; which means they have barriers when accessing medical care, education and social programs designed to assist. Like many countries Afro Mexicans live largley marginalized lives and under the poorest of conditions.

  • Duende Brooks

    The Negroes in Mexico are not African nor Africans descendant.

  • Pingback: What African Tribe Am I From – Share Technology()

  • black inferno

    All races come from mutated black/brown people done by selective breeding like what was done with domesticated animals like dogs,sheep,chicken,cows, pigs etc none of the exist in the wild but their counterparts wolves,mouflons,fowls,cattle,boars etc do .Soft or straight hair is a mutated version of how our black babies hair looks when their newborns,plenty north east and west Africans have straight hair and narrow features like East Indians,India was once called East Ethiopia,albino indians almost look european(different color eyes,blonde or red straight hair,white skin narrow features) ,sanskrit is the father of a lot european languages, south African Khoisan’s have the same features as most Asians (yellow skin and slanted eyes) the negritos of Asia is proof that blacks still inhabit these lands we are all the same people from blacks in Africa,Asia(negrito) and the untouchables of India ,Melanesians(Fiji etc) and New Guinea , blacks of N & S Americas,Australia are all from one people

  • MoBetta Jenkum

    I heard Africans landed one of our space-pyramids in Mexico when it started having engine-problems shortly after take-off from Africa.

Related Posts

Join our mailing list

If you would like Independent, Informative and Invaluable news analysis on the African continent, delivered straight to your inbox, join our mailing list.

Help us deliver better content