The Black People of Mexico

Afro_mexican_3_Black Cowboy
Afro-Mexican cowboy (Source: BBC)

I found this article on the BBC this week about the Afro-Mexican people, or Black people of Mexico, and thought of reposting parts of it. For the full article, go to: the BBC .


More than a million people in Mexico are descended from African slaves and identify as “black“, “dark” or “Afro-Mexican” even if they don’t look black. But beyond the southern state of Oaxaca they are little-known and the community’s leaders are now warning of possible radical steps to achieve official recognition.

[…] Black Mexicans have been living in the Costa Chica area, on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, since their ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves in the 16th Century.

Colonial Spanish cattle ranchers often used them as foremen, in charge of indigenous Mexican workers who were not used to animals the size of cows or horses.

The state of Oaxaca (Source: BBC)

But outside the Costa Chica area there is little awareness of their existence.  

An interim census in 2015 indicated a black population of 1.4 million, or 1.2% of the Mexican population. Even in Oaxaca state they only account for 5% of the total. By comparison, indigenous peoples made up nearly 10% of Mexico’s population, as measured in the 2010 census. The appearance of those who identify as black Mexicans varies considerably. Some are hard to distinguish from indigenous Mexicans.

[…] But there is frustration here that the Afro-Mexicans are not more widely known in Mexico and are not officially recognised as a minority by the Mexican government.

According to Humberto Hebert Silva Silva, head of the Bureau for Afro-Mexican Affairs in Oaxaca, this is because Afro-Mexicans speak Spanish, like most other Mexicans – they do not have their own language.

Afro-Mexican musical instruments: quijada and bote (BBC)

When we go and ask [for recognition as a minority], they come up with excuses, or say that we don’t have an indigenous mother tongue. Language is the real criterion,” he says.We are being discriminated against.”

If Afro-Mexicans were classified as a minority they would receive extra funding for promotion of their culture and public health programs.

But activists including Israel Reyes, a teacher, want more than money, it’s also important to them that the existence of Afro-Mexicans is recognized at the level of the Mexican state.

[…] “The story of the black population has been ignored and erased from history.”

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