Africa’s Lost Tribe In Mexico

News & Analysis

Africa’s Lost Tribe In Mexico

Numerical significance

“The numerical significance of these figures,” writes Bobby Vaughn, “becomes clear when we compare the African and Afro-Mestizo (mixed population) to the Spanish population. In the early colonial period, European immigration was extremely small – and for good reason. There were great risks and many uncertainties in the Americas. Few families were willing to immigrate until some assurance of stability was demonstrated. Therefore, very few European women immigrated, thus preventing the natural growth of the Spanish population. The point that must be made here is the fact that the black population in the early colony was by far higher than that of the Spanish. In 1570, we see that the black population is about three times that of the Spanish. In 1646, it is about 2.5 times as large, and in 1742 blacks still outnumber the Spanish. It is not until 1810 that Spaniards are more numerous.”

According to Vaughn, Mexico’s Costa Chica Region is one of two regions in the country with significant black populations today. The other is the State of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. He, too, confirms that racism is still rife and there is little social interaction between Mexico’s black people and the indigenous people.

“Part of this is the issue of the language barrier, but I believe the issue is more complex than that,” Vaughn reports. “There has been a long history of hostility between the two groups, and while today there is no open hostility, negative stereotypes abound on both sides.”

In April 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an article confirming Vaughn’s views. “In Mexico, the story of the country’s black population has been largely ignored in favour of an ideology that declares that all Mexicans are ‘mixed race’. But it’s the mixture of indigenous and European heritage that most Mexicans embrace; the African legacy is overlooked,” said the article, written by the paper’s staff writer John L. Mitchell. Michell quoted Padre Glyn Jemmott, a Roman Catholic priest from Trinidad and Tobago who had been stationed in Mexico since 1984, as telling him: “They are saying we are all the same and therefore there is no reason to distinguish yourself. What they are not saying is that in ordinary life in Mexico, lighter-skinned Mexicans are accepted and have first place.”

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