2.03.2008

The African Presence in México

Here's a timely article on the presence and influence of people of African descent in Mexico--Afro-Mexicans.

What is amazing, and probably unknown to most Americans and Mexicans, is that the link between what is now Mexico and Africa can be traced to pre-Mayan times. Another very relevent fact given the U.S. immigration debate and racism is that the U.S.-Mexico War over Texas was prompted by Mexico's decision in 1829 to outlaw slavery. Wow!!!

Here are excerpts:

The exhibition illustrates the depth and reach of African culture. You suddenly see African features in a pre-Hispanic Olmec sculpture or in the faces of miners from the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. The influence is unmistakable in the rhythms of the son jarocho and the architecture of round huts with thatched roofs in the Costa Chica, a coastal region south of Acapulco with a strong African presence that is documented in the striking portraits by African American photographer Tony Gleaton.

How many times had he hung that 1910 photo by Agustin Casasola of a Mexican revolutionary, "Portrait of a Female Soldier From Michoacan," and still not seen it? "I was blown away that it had never before crossed my mind that this woman is of African descent," he says. "I felt like an idiot. There she was staring me in the face and I had never recognized her before."

Racism has led to denial in Mexico, where the census doesn't even have a category for counting blacks and even Afro-Mexicans prefer to be called brown or Cuban, according to the exhibition's meticulous and beautiful companion book.

Still, Mexico has had its Afro-Mexican heroes, including President Vicente Guerrero, who outlawed slavery in 1829, a move that helped spark the confrontation with Texas, a slave state, and the subsequent war with the United States.
'The African Presence in México' breaks new ground
The African Presence in Mexico - photo series of Afro-Mexican paintings