|United States 0.9% of the Mexican-American population or 302,022.|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Costa Chica of Guerrero, Costa Chica of Oaxaca, and small communities in Veracruz and northern Mexico|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism
minority of Protestantism and Animism
|Related ethnic groups|
Afro-Mexicans are an ethnic group which exists in certain parts of Mexico such as the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero, Veracruz and in some towns in northern Mexico. The existence of blacks in Mexico is unknown, denied or diminished in both Mexico and abroad for a number of reasons: their small numbers, heavy intermarriage with other ethnic groups and Mexico’s tradition of defining itself as a “mestizaje” or mixing of European and indigenous. Mexico did have an active slave trade since the early colonial period but from the beginning, intermarriage and mixed race offspring created an elaborate caste system. This system broke down in the very late colonial period and after Independence the legal notion of race was eliminated. The creation of a national Mexican identity, especially after the Mexican Revolution, emphasized Mexico’s indigenous and European past actively or passively eliminating its African one from popular consciousness.
Although the vast majority had their roots in Africa, not all made the trip directly to America, some came from other Hispanic territories elsewhere at the time. Those from Africa belonged mainly to groups Sudan and Bantu.
The origin of the slaves is known through various documents such as letters of sale. Originally the slaves came from the islands of Cape Verde and rivers Guinea later also were extracted from Angola and Canary Islands.
To decide the sex of the slaves that would be send to the New World, had calculations that included physical performance and reproduction been performed. at first half of the slaves imported were women and the other half men, but it was later realized that men could work longer without fatigue and that yielded similarly throughout the month, unlike women suffering from pains and diseases more easily. On the end, only one third of the total slaves were women. From the African continent were extracted dark skinned slaves "the first true blacks were extracted from Arguin." Later, in the sixteenth century black slaves came from Bran, biafadas and Gelofe (this is of Cape Verde). Blacks slaves were classified into several types, depending on their abundance, origin and mostly physical characteristics. Abounded especially two. The first, called Retintos, also called swarthy, came from Sudan and the Guinea Coast. The second type were amulatados or amembrillados of lighter skin color, when compared with other blacks were indistinguishable in their skin yellow hues. .
African slavery in MexicoEdit
There is an assumption that there was not much African slavery in Mexico since there are now so few people of obvious black ancestry. However, this is not the case.
Mexican anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán estimated that there were six blacks who took part in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The first African slave brought to Mexico is said to be Juan Cortés, a slave who accompanied Hernán Cortés in 1519. Another conquistador, Pánfilo de Narváez, brought an African slave who has been blamed for the smallpox epidemic of 1520. Early slaves were likely personal servants or concubines of their Spanish masters, who had been brought to Spain first and came with the conquistadors.
Mexico never became a slave based economy but slavery did fill important niches in the colonial period. While a number of indigenous were enslaved during the conquest, slaves during the rest of the colonial period were either black or mulatto (black/European). The demand for slaves came in the early colonial period, especially between 1580 to 1640, when the indigenous population quickly declined. Carlos V began to issue an increasing number of contracts between the Spanish Crown and private slavers specifically to bring Africans to Spanish colonies. These slavers in turn made deals with the Portuguese, who controlled the African slave market. Mexico was an important slave port in the New World, harboring slaves brought by Spanish before they were sent to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Important economic sectors such as sugar production and mining relied heavily on slave labor during that time. After 1640, slave labor became less important but the reasons are not clear. One factor was that the Spanish Crown cut off contacts with Portuguese slave traders after Portugal gained its independence. It declined in mining as the high profit margins allowed the recruitment of wage labor. One other factor was that the indigenous and mestizo population rose, and with them the size of the free labor force. In the later colonial period, most slaves continued to work in sugar production but also in textile mills, which were the two sectors that needed a large, stable workforce, which could not pay enough to attract free laborers to its arduous work. Slave labor would remain important to textile production until the latter 18th century when cheaper English textiles were imported.
Other sector of slave labor was generally restricted to Mexico City, where they were domestic servants such as maids, coachmen, personal service or armed bodyguards. However, they were more of a status symbol rather than an economic necessity.
Although integral to certain sectors of the economy through the mid-18th century, the number of slaves and the prices they fetched fell during the colonial period. Slave prices were highest from 1580 to 1640 at about 400 pesos. It decreased to about 350 pesos around 1650, staying constant until falling to about 175 pesos for an adult male in 1750. In the latter 18th century, mill slaves were phased out and replaced by indigenous, often indebted, labor. Slaves were nearly non-existent in the late colonial census of 1792. While banned shortly after the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, the practice did not definitively end until 1829.
Slave rebellions occurred in Mexico as in other parts of the Americas, with the first in Veracruz in 1537. Runaway slaves were called cimarrones, who mostly fled to the highlands between Veracruz and Puebla with a number making their way to the Costa Chica region in what are now Guerrero and Oaxaca . Runaways in Veracruz formed settlements called “palenques” which would fight off Spanish authorities. The most famous of these was led by Gaspar Yanga, who fought the Spanish for forty years until the Spanish recognized their autonomy in 1608, making San Lorenzo de los Negros (today Yanga) the first community of free blacks in the Americas.
From early in the colonial period, African and African descended people had offspring with people of European or indigenous races. This led to an elaborate caste system based on ethnic heritage. The offspring of mixed-race couples was divided into three general groups: mestizo for Spanish/indigenous, mulatto for Spanish/black and zambo or zambaigo for black/indigenous. However, there was overlap in these categories which recognized black mestizos. In addition, skin tone further divided the mestizo and mulatto categories. This loose system of classification became known as “las castas.” This did have problems. For example, those with African and indigenous heritage would hide the African as indigenous had a somewhat higher status at points in colonial history. Slaves with indigenous blood would be branded to prevent this. Free persons of African blood would hide such to avoid paying head taxes, not imposed on the indigenous. Las castas paintings were produced during the 18th centuries, commissioned by the wealthy to reflect Mexican society at that time. They portray the three races, European, indigenous and African and their complicated mixing. They are based on family groups, with parents and children labeled according to their caste. They have 16 squares in a hierarchy with the most European at the top. Indigenous and black women may appear at the top if they mix with European, but similar men never do. There is evidence that those of African heritage were classed as inferior to the indigenous, such as the idea that African heritage could not be “cleansed” in future generations. Also, as the formal caste system began to erode, those classed as “castizo” (Spanish/mestizo) were considered white, but moriscos (light-skinned offspring of Spanish and mulattos) were considered mulattos.
Afro-Mexican population in the Costa ChicaEdit
The Costa Chica (“small coast” in Spanish) extends from Acapulco to the town of Puerto Ángel in Oaxaca in Mexico’s Pacific coast. The Costa Chica is not well known to travelers, with few attractions, especially where Afro-Mexicans live. Exceptions to this are the beaches of Marquelia and Punta Maldonado in Guerrero and the wildlife reserve in Chacahua, Oaxaca . The area was very isolated from the rest of Mexico, which prompted runaway slaves to find refuge here. However, this has changed to a large extent with the building of Highway 200 which connects the area to Acapulco and other cities on the Pacific coast. African identity and physical features are stronger here than elsewhere in Mexico as the slaves here did not intermarry to the extent that others did. Not only is black skin and African features more prominent, there are strong examples of African based song, dance and other art forms. Until recently, homes in the area were round mud and thatch huts, the construction of which can be traced back to what are now the Ghana and Ivory Coast. Origin tales often center on slavery. Many relate to a shipwreck (often a slave ship) where the survivors settle here or that they are the descendents of slaves freed for fighting in the Mexican War of Independence. The region has a distinct African-influenced dance called the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) which is performed for Day of the Dead. They dance in the streets with wild costumes and masks accompanied by rhythmic music. It is considered to be a syncretism of Mexican Catholic tradition and West African ritual. Traditionally the dance is accompanied by a West African instrument called a bote, but it is dying out as the younger generations have not learned how to play it.
There are a number of “pueblos negros” or black towns in the region such as Corralero and El Ciruelo in Oaxaca, and the largest being Cuajinicuilapa in Guerrero. The latter is home to a museum called the Museo de las Culturas Afromestizos which documents the history and culture of the region.
The Afro-Mexicans here live among mestizos (indigenous/white) and various indigenous groups such as the Amuzgos, Mixtecs, Tlalpanecs and Chatinos . Terms used to denote them vary. White and mestizos in the Costa Chica call them “morenos” (dark-skinned) and the indigenous call them “negros” (black). A survey done in the region determined that the Afro-Mexicans in this region themselves preferred the term “negro,” although some prefer “moreno” and a number still use “mestizo.” Relations between Afro-Mexican and indigenous populations are strained as there is a long history of hostility.
Afro-Mexican population in VeracruzEdit
Like the Costa Chica, the state of Veracruz has a number of pueblos negros, notably the African named towns of Mandinga, Matamba, Mozambique and Mozomboa as well as Chacalapa, Coyolillo, Yanga and Tamiahua . The town of Mandinga, about forty five minutes south of Veracruz city, is particularly known for the restaurants that line its main street. Coyolillo hosts an annual Carnival with Afro-Caribbean dance and other African elements.
However, tribal and family group were separated and dispersed to a greater extent around the sugar cane growing areas in Veracruz. This had the effect of intermarriage and the loss or absorption of most elements of African culture in a few generations. This intermarriage means that while Veracruz remains “blackest” in Mexico’s popular imagination, those with black skin are mistaken for those from the Caribbean and/or not “truly Mexican.”
The phenomena of runaways and slave rebellions began early in Veracruz with many escaping to the mountainous areas in the west of the state, near Orizaba and the Puebla border. Here groups of escaped slaves established defiant communities called “palenques” to resist Spanish authorities. The most important Palenque was established in 1570 by Gaspar Yanga and stood against the Spanish for about forty years until the Spanish were forced to recognize it as a free community in 1609, with the name of San Lorenzo de los Negros. It was renamed Yanga in 1932. Yanga was the first municipality of freed slaves in the Americas. However, the town proper has almost no people of obvious African heritage. These live in the smaller, more rural communities.
Because African descendents dispersed widely into the general population, African and Afro-Cuban influence can be seen in Veracruz’s music dance, improvised poetry, magical practices and especially food. Veracruz son music, best known through the popularity of the hit “La Bamba” has African origins. Veracruz cooking commonly contains Spanish, indigenous and African ingredients and cooking techniques. One defining African influence is the use of peanuts. Even though peanuts are native to the Americas, there is little evidence of their widespread use in the pre Hispanic period. Peanuts were brought to Africa by the Europeans and the Africans adopted them, using them in stews, sauces and many other dishes. The slaves that came later would bring this new cooking with the legume to Mexico. They can be found in regional dishes such as encacahuatado, an alcoholic drink called the torito, candies (especially in Tlacotalpan), salsa macha and even in mole poblano from the neighboring state of Puebla. This influence can be seen as far west as Puebla, where peanuts are an ingredient in mole poblano. Another important ingredient introduced by African cooking is the plantain, which came from Africa via the Canary Islands. In Veracruz, they are heavily used breads, empanadas, desserts, mole, barbacoa and much more. One other defining ingredient in Veracruz cooking is the use of starchy tropical roots, called viandas. They include cassava, malanga, taro and sweet potatoes.
Afro-Mexican population in northern MexicoEdit
There are some towns with few blacks in them, far north of Mexico, especially in Coahuila and the country’s border with Texas. Some ex slaves and free blacks came into northern Mexico in the 19th century from the United States. One particular group was the Mascogos, which consisted of runaway slaves and free blacks from Florida, along with Seminoles and Kickapoos. Many of these settled in and around the town of El Nacimiento, Coahuila, where their descendents remain.
- Abraham Laboriel, Sr. - Afro-Mexican musician - One of the most recorded bass guitarists in popular music.
- Ray Dalton - Afro-Mexican American singer-songwriter.
- Toña la Negra - Mexican singer
- Johnny Laboriel- Mexican Rock & Roll singer.
- Álvaro Carrillo - Mexican music composer.
- Melody Thornton - Afro-Mexican American singer-songwriter.
- Kalimba Marichal- Mexican singer and actor.
- Jean Duverger - Mexican dancer, singer, Sportscaster
- Miguel (singer)- Afro-Mexican American singer-songwriter.
- Adriana Sage - pornographic actress and model.
- Cassie Ventura - R&B and Pop singer from the United States.
- Marques Houston - R&B singer from the United States.
- Kid Cudi - Afro-Mexican American rapper.
- Stacey Dash - Afro-Mexican actress.
- Deadlee - Afro-Mexican-American rapper.
- Lupita Nyong'o - Afro-Mexican actress born to Kenyan parents.
- Mark Aguirre - NBA player
- Alfredo Amézaga - baseball player
- Adrián Chávez - footballer
- Melvin Brown- Mexican-Jamaican footballer.
- Giovani dos Santos-Mexican-Brazilian footballer.
- Jonathan dos Santos- Mexican-Brazilian footballer.
- James de la Rosa - Boxer
- Juan de la Rosa - Boxer
- Jorge Orta - Baseball player
- Omar Flores-footballer
- Edoardo Isella-footballer
- Pavel Pardo - footballer
- Mario Marcel Salas - American civil rights leader, author and politician
- Pío Pico- Mexican governor
- Vicente Guerrero - Mexican President, and abolitionist
- Fidel Herrera - Former governor of Mexican state of Veracruz 2004-2010
- Joaquín Hendricks Díaz-Former governor of Quintana Roo
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-Cuban. 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.
- Afro-Latin American
- Afro-Mexicans in the Mexican War of Independence
- Black Hispanic and Latino Americans
- Black Indian
- Costa Chica of Oaxaca
- Costa Chica of Guerrero
- Indigenous peoples of the Americas
- Mexican people
- Latin Americans
- Olmec alternative origin speculations
- Pre-Columbian Africa-Americas contact theories
- Mexico's Hidden Black History Part One | TheRoot.com
- Mexico's Hidden Black History Part Two | TheRoot.com
- The African Presence in Mexico, a traveling art exhibition
- 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
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