Monday, December 31, 2012

African Influence on Mexican Culture

 One day, in my San Francisco office, there was Mexican couple seeking assistance in their job search. In my usual attempt to establish rapport with clients, I learned that they were from Mexico's Port of Vera Cruz. This really piqued my interest because there is a town in the province of Vera Cruz that I want to visit that was created by a Black runaway slave named Gaspar Yanga. This couple not only never heard of Yanga, but never knew that the Port of Vera Crux was an entry port for more than 500,000 African slaves who were scattered throughout Mexico and Central America between 1519, the invasion of Cortez. and 1810, the year of Mexico's independence from Spain..

Writer Jameelah S Muhammad in the book, “No Longer Invisible: Afro Latin Americans Today” by Minority Rights Press, the African presence in Mexico is a subject often denied, but people of African descent have influenced every aspect of Mexican life, culture, and history. They participated in the discovery and conquest, exploring unknown territories, and establishing communication between the indigenous peoples and the Spanish. Jameelah also added that Black people were not only crucial to colonial Mexico's economy (then known as New Spain), but made it the most successful in colonial Spanish America. Even during the Mexican revolution, Blacks maintained a high-profile in the ranks of Mexico's revolutionary forces.

This reminds me of the day I struck up a conversation with a Mexican woman in a restaurant. When she told me that she was from Mexico's state of Guerrero, my heart went out to her because I'm an admirer of Mexico's first Black president and liberator Vicente Guerrero for whom her home state was named. I was so surprised that she never heard of Vicente Guerrero who was born to an African slave mother and a peasant Mestizo father.

In fact, many Mexican-Americans and Mexican nationals I talk to are not aware of the heavy Black presence during Mexico's early years. According to anthropologist and professor at Mexico's University of Vera Cruz, Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran, Black Mexicans made up 71% of the non-Indigenous population while the Spanish represented the remainder. Unlike the USA, where interracial marriage was illegal, Blacks over the centuries intermarried, shacked, and made love with the Spanish and the Indigenous population, which explains the considerably diminished Black population.


  1. Mr. Smith,

    Just wanted to say thank you. I really enjoy reading your blogs on the Black Mexican and Black Latino cultures. I'm full blooded mexican, but I look like a black and white mixed person (I get the black traits from my dad, he is from Guanajuato). Growing up, black heritage was never mentioned nor discussed as being part of Mexico. Have I not found your blog, I would of never known of so much Black presence in Mexico. I really appreciate all new found knowledge. Best of luck on the new year.


  2. To be honest it is a lie that many intermixed because it doesn't make sense. If you look at Mexico they received slaves after many Caribbean countries like Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico and they still have strong African features in many of those Caribbean islands and even Brazil.

    Also blacks were not even free men until around the 19th century around 1810. Mexico still had a casta system and blacks were viewed as inferior and mixing was not as common as people think it was. If there was mixing it was more rape mixing then anything. The slave master sneaking out back and violating African slave women.

    1. Yes, throughout the Western world, there is truth to your statement regarding miscegenation, as it was called. However, there were slave rebels like Yanga who kidnapped Indigenous women and made wives because there were not enough Black women to go around. And the ones who were available, actually “married” Spanish men for security.

      Mexico's liberator and first Black president Vicente Guerrero was son of an African slave mother who was “married” to a Mestizo.


Anonymous comments will be ignored and deleted.