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Monday, June 28, 2010

African History in Vera Cruz, México

If you travel through the hills of Vera Cruz, México, a state on the East Coast of Mexico bordering the gulf, you will notice some of the towns having African sounding names like Mocambo, Mozambique, Mandinga. When Spanish forces moved in and occupied a land we know today as Mexico, which the Spanish called Nueva España (New Spain), there were were some 30 African slaves for every Spaniard.

One escaped slave was Gaspar Yanga, said to be a member of a royal family in an area of West Africa now called Gabon.


Not surprisingly, by the year 1609, large numbers of escaped slaves and indigenous people fighting for their land and freedom had reduced the rural areas of New Spain to desperation, especially up in the hills of Veracruz. One escaped slave was Gaspar Yanga, said to be a member of a royal family in an area of West Africa now called Gabon. For three decades, Yanga and his African warriors survived and thrived by swooping down on caravans bringing goods to Veracruz, and raiding local Spanish settlements and slave plantations.

The Spanish colonial government dispatched troops to go after Yanga and his African warriors.

It was that year, 1609, that the Spanish colonial government decided they had enough and dispatched troops to go after Yanga and his African warriors. The fierce battle between Yanga's warriors and the Spanish forces resulted in heavy losses for both sides. However, the better equipped Spaniards were able to push their way into Yanga's fortress and torch it into huge flames as Yanga's men turned to guerrilla warfare from the surrounding, dense, jungle-like terrain. Yanga's men knew this terrain backwards and forwards. Finally, the Spanish agreed to parley. They signed a treaty with Yanga and by 1630, Yanga founded the town called San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo.

In Yanga, as in other other towns of fugitive African origin in the hills of Vera Cruz, only the African names remain and their history forgotten.

In the 1950s, descendants of Yanga's warriors petitioned the Mexican government to change the name of this town from San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo to Yanga after the great leader Gaspar Yanga, whose statue now stands on the outskirts of the town. Today, almost almost 400 years of interracial marriages, interracial relationships, and migrations, there aren´t many blacks left in Yanga. The people of modern day Yanga have been living their lives as we always have, making the adjustments necessary in a changing world." In Yanga, as in other other towns of fugitive African origin in hills of Vera Cruz, only the African names remain and their history forgotten.