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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Black Mexican Agenda


Afro-Mexican musicians in Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero. Cuajinicuilapa has one of the biggest black population in Mexico.
Afro-Mexicans have been “erased from history,” says the activist Abel Barrera Hernandez.

Abel Barrera Hernandez will be given a national award recognizing his human rights work with the organization Mexico Negro (Black Mexico), the first organization in Mexico dedicated to fighting for equal rights and recognition of the country's African descendants. The award was announced by Mexico's La Jornada Monday.

Barrera Hernandez's human rights work started in 1993 when he helped found the Center for Human Rights in Tlachinollan in the southern state of Guerrero — a state that has seen a spike in violence in the recent years, including the disappearances of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college.

Three years after founding the human rights center, the organization turned its fight to promoting equality and the recognition of people of African descent, changing its name to Mexico Negro (Black Mexico). 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Black-Rights-Activist-in-Mexico-Wins-Award-20160222-0029.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
Afro-Mexicans have been “erased from history,” says the activist Abel Barrera Hernandez.

Abel Barrera Hernandez will be given a national award recognizing his human rights work with the organization Mexico Negro (Black Mexico), the first organization in Mexico dedicated to fighting for equal rights and recognition of the country's African descendants. The award was announced by Mexico's La Jornada Monday.

Barrera Hernandez's human rights work started in 1993 when he helped found the Center for Human Rights in Tlachinollan in the southern state of Guerrero — a state that has seen a spike in violence in the recent years, including the disappearances of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college.

Three years after founding the human rights center, the organization turned its fight to promoting equality and the recognition of people of African descent, changing its name to Mexico Negro (Black Mexico). 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Black-Rights-Activist-in-Mexico-Wins-Award-20160222-0029.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english


Afro-Mexicans have been “erased from history,” says the activist Abel Barrera Hernandez.

Abel Barrera Hernandez will be given a national award recognizing his human rights work with the organization Mexico Negro (Black Mexico), the first organization in Mexico dedicated to fighting for equal rights and recognition of the country's African descendants. The award was announced by Mexico's La Jornada Monday.

Barrera Hernandez's human rights work started in 1993 when he helped found the Center for Human Rights in Tlachinollan in the southern state of Guerrero — a state that has seen a spike in violence in the recent years, including the disappearances of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college.

Three years after founding the human rights center, the organization turned its fight to promoting equality and the recognition of people of African descent, changing its name to Mexico Negro (Black Mexico). 

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Black-Rights-Activist-in-Mexico-Wins-Award-20160222-0029.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
I lived and worked around Mexican Americans for many years, and only met a few who knew anything about the racial diversity of their own heritage. To so many of them, a black person speaking Spanish is considered humorous and freaky. They know nothing of the black folks who are more “Mexican” than they are; meaning they were born and raised in Mexico, and know only the Spanish language and Mexican culture versus living in the U.S. as bi-cultural.

Recently, as a preliminary count before the 2020 national census, the Mexican government, for the first time ever, recognized its 1.38 million citizens of African descent in a national survey. In 2020, “Black" will debut as an official racial category.

A major force behind the government's recognition was a black activist group known as México Negro, founded in 1997 by Sergio Peñaloza Pérez, a school teacher of African descent working unceasingly to increase the visibility of Afro-Mexican culture.

Cuajinicuilapa, on Mexico's west coast, is one of the major black communities of Mexico located in the La Costa Chica region in the southwestern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca where the Afro-Mexican population is concentrated.

Mexico's post-revolutionary government made a conscious effort to create a national mixed-race identity that melded Hispanic, indigenous, and African ethnicities. Article 2 of Mexico's 1917 Constitution recognized its "multicultural composition," and today, over 60% of Mexicans identify as mestizos. 

One of México Negro's strategies going forward is to ally the black rights movement with indigenous rights, which are generally more widely recognized. In 2013, leaders from 26 indigenous communities released a statement pushing for constitutional reform that addressed the rights of both indigenous people and Afro-Mexicans.

In 2016, México Negro's most important outreach effort will work on having elementary and high schools include material on Africans and people of African descent in school curriculum. On the university level, there will be a professorship launched at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca to study Afro-Mexican women.

In addition to increased visibility in textbooks, a documentary filmmaker in Mexico City plans on increasing black representation in film and media. Citing the handful of famous black Mexicans who are few and far between on the national stage. Darkness has a negative connotation, and Afro-Mexican youth have no icons. It seems like their only options are to immigrate or be delinquents.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Improve the Race?


If I met a woman of a different race, and it turned out to be a true love connection such as with this happy black and mestizo Peruvian family (above), I'm in! But hell if I pass up a fine black woman like the former Miss Ecuador, Monica Chalá (below), for the sole purpose of having babies of mixed race, and do what many Afro Latinos say, “improve the race.”


Growing up in the U.S., I falsely believed that internalized racism was strictly limited to black Americans as we have our issues with good hair vs. kinky hair, light skinned vs. dark skinned, and as the old saying goes, “the white man's ice is always colder.”

As I meet people and explore cultures other that my own, I am learning that internalized racism is alive and well wherever there are people of color. Even on the African continent, the sale of bleaching cream to lighten one's skin is at an all-time high. I once read a story where a black American man who joined the Peace Corps, I forget which African country he was serving; however, he noticed woman approaching his white male comrades, not for love and marriage, but solely to have white babies.

Black Latin America is big on finding a mate who is either of much lighter complexion, or preferably white. In Spanish, it's called “mejorar la raza (improving the race)” or “blanquemiento (whitening).” 

When I was in Havana, Cuba, a group of us Americans were walking down the street to a cultural event, and suddenly three or four black Cuban men rushed out on the porch with faces glowing and looking starry-eyed at the white women in my group. I wanted to shout, “damn brothers, haven't you seen white women before? 

At a party just outside of Havana where we Americans, mostly white, were being entertained. I asked a black Cuban woman to dance, and she quickly looked across the room seeking the approval of a man leaning against the wall. He shook his head indicating, hell no! That was her older brother who wanted his sister to snag a white American male.

If my parents told me, “improve the race; I don't want no black grand babies,” like so many black Latin-American parents do, I would ask, “you had black babies, what's the problem, now; you have issues with black people all of a sudden? Of course, my parents had much better sense than that.

It is not that I am against interracial marriage or relationships. Even the Black Muslim minister Louis Farrakahn stated on national television, “when you are in love, you are in love.” My own father and his second wife of Italian ancestry were truly in love. If I met a woman of a different race, and there is a true love connection, I'm in! But no fricken way will I bypass a beautiful black woman for the sole purpose of finding someone to help whiten my bloodline.

In my travels through Black Latin America, I met black women with mulatto children, and all seemed content with the father long gone. What was the point? And while I was admiring the black women in the countries I was visiting, it was the non-black women who were admiring me. There were a couple of single black women with mulatto children who took an interest in me, and I had to ask myself, is this a real attraction or do they just want what's in my pants (U.S. Passport)?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

People of Chile, South America Celebrate Their African Roots


Oro Negro (Black Gold), an Afro-Descendants Foundation in Chile, operates in the city of Arica carrying out cultural courses and workshops, and working to solve social problems of Chile's African descendants.

It was a black Peruvian woman I met in her nation's capital of Lima who enlightened me to the black history in Northern Chile's city of Arica, not far south of the Peruvian border. And today, although I have not yet visited Arica, I have friends there with whom I correspond through social media, and who will show me the ropes when I finally arrive for a visit.

The city of Arica, Chile was founded in 1541 and was part of Perú in 1880 when it was taken by Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific. At the beginning of the Colonial era, Perú was one of the frequent destinations for blacks that had settled at the coast to work in rural and domestic occupations. Most of the blacks that came to this area had roots from the regions of the Congo and Angola.

The black majority made itself felt since the beginning of 1620, when a free black man was elected as mayor of Arica. The response came six months later when an order by Peru's viceroy declared this elections void.



The Chilean national dance, the cueca, had black elements originating from the Afro-Peruvian zamacueca dance. It has been also documented that 13% of the Spanish explorers that came to Chile long before the slave trade were black.

A specific group of blacks in Chilean history were members of the 8th Regiment of The Liberation Army that fought the Spaniards for Chilean independence. This Army was organized in Argentinian territory. Black slaves were desired because of their fighting ability, and of course, were freed thereafter. Naturally, they were exposed to higher risks during the battle. 


 Although today, as a result of centuries of interracial marriage, the visible black population has been dissolved, but the people of Arica, Chile work daily to promote and celebrate their African history, traditions, and culture.