Friday, November 30, 2018

Black Mexican Towns Hold Annual Conferences

XIX Meeting of Black Villages 
Coahuila, México
“El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!”
(The United Village Will Never be Defeated!)

This post is credited to Patrica Ann Talley, MBA who has been living in the Afro-Mexican region of La Costa Chica for over 20 years. 
See for a full report

In 1999, a priest from Trinidad & Tobago arrived to help unite and educate Afro-Mexicans on their African history, and has since coordinated annual meetings of black villages in La Costa Chica (the small coast) section of Mexico, a region along the west coast encompassing the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero with large Afro-Mexican populations.

In contrast to the Afro-descendant communities on Mexico's east coast state of Veracruz, these communities along the Pacific coast (La Costa Chica) have experienced greater geographic isolation. This resulted in their being closer to their African roots, such as the practice of carrying objects on top of one’s head, using round thatch-roofed houses, which are constructed like African huts, as well as of religious traditions and social organization that link these communities to the African continent. 

The African presence in La Costa Chica is a result of colonial expansion in the area and the need for African slaves to work on large plantations. Oral tradition claims that the communities are also descendants of African maroons who escaped the shipwreck of the
Puerta de Oro (Gold Port) along the Pacific coast. Some of the current Afro-Mexican inhabitants are said to be the descendants of these maroons. 

Despite their social, cultural, political and economic contributions to the region and to the nation, the majority of the Afro-Mexican communities in the Costa Chica often suffer from poverty, lack of government investment and infrastructure, and discrimination. Until 2015, there was no constitutional recognition of Afro-Mexicans, as this group has been left out of government and institutional programs that aid in funding. 

It was through increased individual, community activism that  garnered greater attention to the contributions, rights, and goals of the Afro-Descendent communities of La Costa Chica. For example, there is a museum that is dedicated to teaching about the African presence in Mexico. It displays information and items related to this history including political and military contributions during the War of Independence and the Revolution, and artifacts used in cultural dances and celebrations. 

Moreover, civic organizations such as México Negro A.C. along with other community groups and local activists and scholars have convened an annual conference, the Encuentro de Pueblos Negros (Meeting of the Black Towns and Peoples), in order to foster awareness of the history and traditions of these communities, and to increase attention to their social, political, and economic needs.

As a result of their voices and efforts, in 2011 the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs announced that they would be creating a Department of Afro-Mexican Community Affairs in Oaxaca. The legal recognition of these communities is a crucial step in achieving not only state, but more importantly, federal recognition of Afro-Mexicans. 

Even though they were denied being counted as a separate ethnic group on the 2010 census by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, they continue to fight to be recognized as a specific ethnicity affording them all the constitutional rights and support. 

On their pathways to freedom, the voices and activism of the Afro-Mexican communities in La  Costa Chica continue to rescue and promote their cultural traditions, and to fight for a greater visibility that matches the extensive contributions that they have made throughout Mexican history.

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