Black Mexicans Are Beginning to Be Publicly Recognized After Centuries of Ignorance

Black Mexicans are beginning to be widely recognized by the public after centuries of ignorance.

Why is this important: Mexico has historically undervalued the roles and contributions of black people, also keeping them largely out of school textbooks.

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  • The country added Afro-Mexicans to the second article of the Constitution, which praises the nation’s multiculturalism, in 2019.

  • The 2020 census asked, for the first time, whether people identified as black, Afro-Mexican or of African descent.

What there is to know: Two out of 100 Mexicans, or about 2.5 million people, identified as black in the census.

  • Black communities are mainly found in Veracruz – where the Spanish landed slaves from Africa – and on the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where Afro-indigenous traditions from the colonial era persist, such as the dance of the devils for the day of the Dead.

  • The Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles and people who fled American slavery in the 1830s after Mexico banned the practice, live in the state of Coahuila, which borders the United States.

Between the lines: The Spaniards had a racist caste system that viewed blackness as the lowest social status, creating a stigma around identifying as black.

  • A majority of Mexicans consider themselves mixed race or mestizo, and many mistakenly claim that disparities in access to education or employment are due solely to socioeconomic differences, not complexion.

What they say : “It was difficult and painful to come out and say ‘soya negra’ because it’s almost ingrained in you that the term itself is bad, let alone being black,” said Denisse Salinas, owner of a coffee in Oaxaca, at Axios Latino.

  • “But I see a lot of young people doing the same thing as me, reclaiming the term and the identity, and that gives me a glimmer of hope.”

Rollback: Historians believe that two key figures in Mexico’s independence were of African descent:

  • José María Morelos y Pavón, who led the insurgents to occupy and recover the southern and southeastern parts of Mexico.

  • Vicente Guerrero, who was Morelos’ right-hand man and became Mexico’s second president. Guerrero declared the end of slavery.

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