Afro-Mexicans: The History, The Culture, The Presence

"Encuentro de los pueblos negros" (gathering of Afro-Mexicans). ASARO

Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is not a big deal in Mexico, though it is the day when in 1862 the greatly outnumbered Mexican army defeated French soldiers in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). However, in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican-American culture and heritage, both of which have strong African ties. Spaniards brought Africans to Mexico (“New Spain”) in the 16th century as slaves to work in the sugar fields, on cattle ranches, and in gold and silver mines and other labors. New Spain probably had more enslaved Africans than any other colony in the Western Hemisphere.

In this three-part special report, the TIPHC recognizes Cinco de Mayo by looking at the history and range of issues for Afro-Mexicans -- Afro-Mestizos -- now numbering almost 1.5 million, and the overlapping cultures (food, music, religion, art, etc.) that evolved from the centuries-old presence of Africans in Mexico, including their pursuit of official recognition by the Mexican government in its census, which finally came in 2015.

The History

olmecsA look at how and why Africans first came to Mexico. Also, was there an African presence in the area long before Spaniards brought slaves? Quite possibly. Click here to read these stories and more. (Click here to read.)

The Culture

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People of African descent have influenced every aspect of Mexican life. Read the entries here for some surprising cultural connections between Africa and Mexico -- headphones optional for some wonderful Afro-Mexican rhythms courtesy of Afropop. (Click here to read and listen.)

The Presence

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The great majority of Mexico's 1.4 million Afro-Mexican population live in the country's Costa Chica region on Mexico's southern Pacific Coast covering the states of Oaxaca (wa-hah-kah) and Guerrero. Recently, anthropologist Anthony Jerry and his students visited the region. Read their entries here. (Click here to read the stories.)

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