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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.”


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Written by New African Magazine

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  • 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.

  • 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/francewebsitenative <———– translate this



        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


        • 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

        • 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.

  • 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 !!!

    • faketony

      Sunrise maybe?
      Carved from a roundish boulder I would expect the faces and the noses to be flattened… just like I would expect the faces to look like a ‘fathead’.

    • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

      They are mad mentally and insecure we finding out who we are without having people with already distorted histories and no identity themselves try to teach or tell us who we actually are. . Well time has expired for that b.s

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Duende Brooks

    The Negroes in Mexico are not African nor Africans descendant.

    • Mesoamericandy Cherokee Iroquo

      I agree Negro’s are Meso-Americans.

  • 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

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