The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.
Showing posts with label Yanga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yanga. Show all posts

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Black Mexicans???? (Enlightening!)

Cross posted from
Native American - Honoring our Ancestors, Culture & Spirituality...and the researchers and developer of the web page has scored the most interesting find, I have read in years!






Native American - Honoring our Ancestors, Culture & Spirituality

Africa's Legacy in Mexico

Black people in Mexico? The looks of amazement and disbelief on the faces of first-time viewers of any of Tony Gleaton's photographs are eloquent testimony to the true significance of some of Gleaton's images. Particularly to those who have little or no knowledge about societies beyond the borders of the United States, his photographs are a revelation. They force us to rethink many of our preconceptions not only about our southern neighbor but more generally about issues such as race, ethnicity, culture, and national identity.

Yanga, a town in the state of Veracruz on Mexico's gulf coast has received considerable attention as one of the Americas' earliest "maroon communities": settlements founded by "fugitive slaves." Originally known as San Lorenzo de los Negros, in 1932 the town was renamed Gaspar Yanga, for its founder, a rebellious man from what is now known as Nigeria. In 1609, after resisting recapture for 38 years, Yanga negotiated with the Spaniards to establish a free black community. 

A statue of Gaspar Yanga stands on the outskirts of the town, more a testimony to the persistence of a few Mexican anthropologists who "re-discovered" the place than to the true historical memory of its towns original founders' and their descendants.

The story of Yanga and his followers is truly remarkable. The town's relative isolation is the reason for its founding and for its continued existence as a predominately black enclave. Fugitive slave communities were commonly established in difficult-to-reach areas in order to secure their inhabitants from recapture.

Mexico's African presence has been relegated to an obscured slave past, pushed aside in the interest of a national identity based on a mixture of indigenous and European cultural mestizaje. In practice, this ideology of "racial democracy" favors the European presence; too often the nation's true glorious indigenous past is reduced to mere folklore and ceremonial showcasing. The handling of the African "third root" is even more dismissive. For all intents and purposes the biological, cultural, and material contributions of more than 200,000 Africans and their descendants to the formation of Mexican society do not figure in the equation at all. Why? Because they live as their neighbors live, carry out the same work, eat the same foods, and make the same music, it is assumed that blacks have assimilated into "Mexican" society. The truth of the matter is, they are very much a part of THE Mexican society. The historical record offers compelling evidence that Africans and their descendants contributed enormously to the very formation of Mexican culture.

When Yanga and his followers founded their settlement , the population of Mexico City consisted of approximately 36,000 Africans, 116,000 persons of African ancestry, and only 14,000 Europeans. Escaped slaves added to the overwhelming numbers in the cities, establishing communities in Oaxaca as early as 1523. Beyond their physical presence, Africans and their descendants interacted with indigenous and European peoples in forging nearly every aspect of society. Indeed, the states of Guerrero and Morelos bear the names of two men of African ancestry, heroes of the war of independence that made possible the founding of the republic of Mexico in 1821.

It is within this context that we must look at the above photograph of a grandmother and child, taken by Tony Gleaton. The faces in this image, ignored in the past, actually at one time ran the risk of being exoticized for being brought forward to applaud their "Africanness" while ignoring their "Mexicanness." The faces in photograph should remind us of the generations that preceded them. But we must not relegate them to history. As always, they still remain active participants in their world. To understand the implications of the people of Yanga, and of Cuajinicuilapa, El Ciruelo, Corralero, and other like communities, we must go beyond physical appearance, cease determining the extent of Africa's influence simply by how much one "looks" African and how much one "looks" Mexican, and go forward and examine just what exactly is Mexico and who are it's people.

We may marvel at these relatively isolated communities that can still be found along the Pacific and gulf coasts. But the greater significance is the recognizing of the myriad forms that mark the African presence in Mexican culture, past and present and future. Many of these people are still waiting to be discovered and recognized by the likes of other people like Tony Gleaton......
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Thank You 
Native American - Honoring our Ancestors, Culture & Spirituality for all you do, in informing people and via information bringing people together.  ~ The Pardu

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