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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Father of “BLACK MEXICAN” History

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán 
1908-1996

One day a couple from Vera Cruz, Mexico, was in my office . I was so surprised that they never knew that their hometown was once an entry port for over 500,000 African slaves. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the Mexicans I meet know nothing about their country being in the midst of the slave trade more than 100 years before the USA got involved.

In the USA, Carter G Woodson is known as the Father of Black History, however, in Mexico, I give that label to the late anthropologist and professor at the University of Vera Cruz, Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán. Since 1492, the history of the Americas has been forged by three cultures: Indigenous, European, and African - the third root of all of the Americas, states Beltrán who was considered Mexico's foremost expert on the African influence on Mexican culture. Not generally taught in history books is that during the colonial era, there were more Africans than Europeans in Mexico, according to Aguirre Beltrán's pioneering book, La Población Negra en México (The Black Population in Mexico), published in 1946.

Where are the Black people today, you might ask. Note that, unlike the USA, interracial marriage was never outlawed in Mexico or any other Latin-American country. After more than 500 years of interracial marriages and birth of mixed children of Indigenous, European, and African heritage, a new ethnicity was created. However, in Mexico's states of Vera Cruz where Beltrán was born, and the states Guerrero, Coahuila, and Oaxaca, there are still visible remnants of Mexico's Black Heritage.