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Mexico Officially Recognizes 1.38 Million Afro-Mexicans in the National Census, as Black People Fight Against Racism and Invisibility Throughout Latin America

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In what is being hailed as a step forward for people of African descent, Mexico has for the first time recognized its Afro-Mexican population.  The decision reflects a larger issue of what it means to be Black in Latin America.

The Mexico national census is now accounting for the 1.38 million people of African ancestry, as the Huffington Post reports.  Since the 1910 Mexican Revolution, people of African descent have not been documented.  The Latin American nation has maintained a national identity of “mestizaje”–which ignored the descendants of African slaves, while acknowledging those who came from a mixed background of indigenous peoples and Spanish colonizers. And yet, this happened despite the role of people such as Gaspar Yanga, a national hero who established a free society of formerly enslaved Blacks, and Vicente Guerrero, one of the leading generals in the Mexican war of independence from Spain and the second president of Mexico.

afroamexicanos_2_2015_07_05As Colorlines has noted, Mexico and Chile have been the only Latin American nations to exclude its Black population from their constitution.  This has resulted in an invisibility of Black people in Mexico.  The advocacy organization, México Negro, initiated a campaign for formal recognition of Black people in the census in order to allocate more resources “so that the Mexican state pays off its historical debt with Afro Mexicans.” Afro-Mexicans have been fighting for this formal recognition for 15 years, according to Remezcla.

Representing 1.2 percent of the country’s population, Mexico’s population of African ancestry live primarily in three coastal states, including Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, where they comprise about 7 percent of the population.  For the most part, they are less educated and have higher levels of poverty than the general population, according to Quartz.

The challenges facing people of African descent in Latin America are clear.  For example, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is resonating in Colombia, which boasts the second-largest Afro-descendant population in Latin America behind Brazil, as VICE reports.  Although Colombia has one of the most progressive legal frameworks for the protection of Black people—with a 1991 Constitution that recognizes Afro rights, affirmative action and declares the nation a “multicultural” and “multi-ethnic” society—the Black population has been neglected and excluded from the economy. Deprivation in the Pacific and Caribbean coasts has led to a Black migration to the cities, where Afro-Colombians suffer from extreme poverty, gang recruitment and violence.  And the two seats in Congress reserved for Afro politicians are currently filled by non-Black mestizos.  Further, there has been an increase in violence against Afro-Colombians, according to Al Jazeera, a reflection of systemic racism, and a civil war that has displaced 2 million Black people.

The Dominican Republic is a nation of Afrodescendant people which has whitened its history, and has come to view blackness as a trait of its neighbor Haiti, the nation that once controlled them.  The Dominican Republic’s racism against dark-skinned people, including Haitians, is reflected in their citizenship policies. This includes a ruling which effectively revoked the citizenship of 200,000 so-called “undocumented” people, with a threat of their expulsion from the country.  They are primarily those born to Haitian immigrants, many of whom are multigenerational and only speak Spanish.

In Brazil, the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery, racism against Black people continues.  With the largest African descended population outside of the African continent—and second only to Nigeria–there are approximately 106 million Afro Brazilians, or 53 percent of the population, according to the New York Times.  According to UNICEF, Black Brazilian children ages 12 to 18 are three times more likely to get killed than whites, in a nation where Blacks are 68 percent of all homicide victims, and 62 percent of all prisoners.  Further, Blacks are more likely to be killed by police, and are more likely to live in poverty, Blacks comprising 70 percent of those in extreme poverty.  According to News One, not a single company on Brazil’s stock exchange has a Black CEO, in a nation which is majority Afrodescendant.  Further, a survey conducted by the IBGE research institute fund that Black and mixed-race Brazilians earn half of what their white counterparts make.

Meanwhile, Black people in Latin America are making efforts for recognition.  A legacy of slavery has resulted in around 150 million people of African ancestry in the region, which amounts to 30 percent of the population, according to the United Nations.

On December 4 and 5, the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research hosted a symposium on the Afrodescendant movement in Latin America. Entitled “Afrodescendants: Fifteen Years after Santiago. Achievements and Challenges,” the conference took place on the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the term ‘Afrodescendants’ by the Latin American Regional Conference Against Racism in Santiago de Chile in 2000.  The meeting of activists, academics and agency officials examined the achievements and obstacles facing this movement in creating anti-racist policies in Latin America.

As The Root reported, a number of Latin American countries have pushed for constitutional measures to address racial discrimination, acknowledge minority groups and their cultural and territorial rights, with 18 countries having government agencies to enforce anti-discrimination laws.  However, representatives from Uruguay, Costa Rica and Bolivia noted that these governmental anti-discrimination agencies are under-resourced and ineffective, and fail to address the needs and challenges of Afro communities.  Structural racism is an issue in countries such as Bolivia, preventing Black people from enjoying the full benefits of citizenship.  Further, while the Afrodescendant movement is present in nearly every Latin American nation, people of African descent remain invisible, often sidelined by their governments and by international bodies in the formulation of policy.

Through recognition and visibility, Afrodescendants will claim their power in the countries in which they live.

 

What people are saying

32 thoughts on “Mexico Officially Recognizes 1.38 Million Afro-Mexicans in the National Census, as Black People Fight Against Racism and Invisibility Throughout Latin America

  1. The truth is finally exposed. Dr. Vansertima clearly documented the African migration to the Americas in his book, "They Came Before Columbus".

  2. The above comment is a very irresponsible, as I could locate nothing in this article that gave evidence to a "constitutional" exclusion of Black populations in Chile. In fact, there is a metropolitan region in Chile called "Arica" (notice how close the word is to Africa) where many Afro-descendant Chilenos live. They are not excluded from either census counts or Chilean citizenship.

    I have residency in Chile and have lived there for two years. I felt nothing but love as a black woman living abroad in that country. This article poorly draws a connection between the realities of these folks in Mexico by comparing them to Chile. There are some problematic racial discrimination issues in Chile, but it’s more among the indigenous Mapuche populations who are not black, but “Indian” peoples. The black populations is very very small. Chile is similar to many Asian countries in that it is very racially homogeneous (i.e., Latino). Connecting them to this story was poor form in my opinion.

  3. Luis Dauway says:

    But as the article, states for the most part, people of "African" descent (we are NOT of African descent) in Latin American countries DO suffer poverty and systematic racism. I've read about this happening in many Latin American countries. Many people in America are not even aware of the black populations in Latin countries because for the most part, they are hidden. One or two communities of blacks NOT suffering racism does not make up for the 95% percent who do. '

    I think it's even MORE irresponsible to try to site those very few examples in the face of overwhelming evidence and history of racism, oppression, slavery and "whitening" in Latin American countries. Just because YOU don't experience the systematic racism doesn't mean most "African" descendant Latins don't.

    It does ( nobody especially those black people in Latin Ameria) to NOT report and acknowlege the racism suffered by our people. The same racism and oppression is suffered by blacks in Arab nations today. And most people, including Black Americans don't even know these people exist. And what you will find is that these people, just like the Black Latin people and Black Americans are descendants of slaves from the SubSaharan and Transatlantic Slave Trade. They are OUR people. So, I would LIKE to know about them and their struggles.

  4. You shared a lot of information here unfortunately, it ain't have shit to do with what I said. I was defending the notion that Chile constitutionally discriminates against its black citizens. Though true in Mexico (until recent legal redress) it was/is not the case in Chile as the writer suggests. Therein lies the "irresponsible journalism".

    You conjecture notions and topics in you rebuttal that I never put forth. So, there's that. Don't come for me on social media and be ill-prepared in framing your argument(s). It will not end well for you.

  5. Lisa R. Brown Your a foreigner in Chile and therefore, your NOT one of them. The Nation will always treat you as a tourists.

  6. Ed D. Tellis says:

    Don'f forget that not only Vicente Guerrero was of African descent, but other great Mexicans such as Emiliano Zapata, and Jose Morelos. Read a great book about Mexico's 2nd president, "The Legacy of Vicente Guerrero, Mexico's First Black Indian President by Theodore G. Vincent.

  7. James Edward White Jr I am assuming that if you don't currently live in Africa; therefore by your definition you are a foreigner in YOUR current country. I am a legal resident of Chile and have a RUT which is similar to a social security number in the US. I will never be born there as I was born in the US. Nevertheless, I am always treated quite well when in Chile.

    I am NOT looking to be "one of them" (whatever that means to you). I am and will always be ME and an extension of my black family. I was there with my friends watching Chile win the World Cup this past July against Argentina. WE all screamed, hugged, and kissed each other in the Sports arena when Alexis Sanchez kicked the winning goal. I live in and visit the homes of my Chilean extended family members who stretch from one end of the country to another.

    I wish every black person born in America had an opportunity to leave its boarders to live; and see how life is outside of a hyper-racist context. It can be quite liberating to escape the oppressive nature of US racism. My larger point was that everyone isn't out to get us, particularly in some Latin American nations/contexts. I objected to the portrayal, specifically of Chile, via this article as it is false to claim that it constitutionally discriminates against its black citizens as Mexico was doing. I take no authority to speak for ALL of Latin America, but Chile… I know personally.

  8. James Edward White Jr you are right. I lived in Italy for 3 years. I was accorded the best in behaviour by the locals. During my 3rd year, I got out to other cities and villages in Northern and Central Italy. There I ran into Afro/Italians of various mixtures. Ethiopian, Somalis, Nigeran, etc. What they told me and what I experienced while being around them floored me! It was when I was with these people that I began to see the racism. Apartment Rental, jobs, etc. As long as they played sports, they were accepted to a degree but for the most part they did not enjoy much of what Italy offered them as "citizens". Lisa, I think that while in Chile, enjoy Chile. But do not discount her story. I have been nearly around the world and have seen direct and indirect racism projected towards me. I have also seen how those of mix (black) blood say like in Japan are shunned and not given the full benefits of that country. But as a known visitor they were nice and friendly towards me. I had the power of the Dollar.

  9. Ivy Ramirez says:

    Well I'm Mexican grandma of two mix baby's. . But it's true. Mexican mostly are racists to dark skined ppl.o Africans.

  10. Malcolm X long ago called for the Black diaspora to work together,that call rings true today and is more urgent than ever.

  11. Juan Núñez says:

    "The Dominican Republic’s racism against dark-skinned people, including Haitians, is reflected in their citizenship policies." Lisa R. Brown states how the article does a poor job of articulating the complexities of race in Chile. I would add that with regards to the Dominican Republic and Haiti history, the article fails, too. NO mention is made by the writer of this article to address HOW RACIAL CATEGORIES were defined by Haiti as a result of the horrific Racial Wars the blacks fought against the French Empire. The end result was the Haitian Constitution of 1805. The leaders of Haiti, led by The "Emperor" Jean-Jacques Dessalines, declared that the island of Santo Domingo or Haiti was NOIR or Black. Whites were denied Liberté, égalité, fraternité in the Noir Republic that emerged after the Haitian Revolution. Thus, if people seriously want to investigate WHEN, WHERE and under what leadership RACIAL CATEGORIES and tensions emerged post 1801 on the island of Hispaniola, remember to touch reality with the Original SIN imposed on the island's history with the NOIR or Black only order under the leadership of Dessalines.

  12. Lived in Chile for about 4 years 2002 – 2005 and conducted audits for a notable accounting firm in Arica . Firstly though very dark skinned the people of Arica do not consider themselves African at all, but are referred to as indigenous, they have features and hair texture of people of Inca heritage. They were more than amused by me even if they were of a darker complexion , and would be offended to be considered African. I had much love during my stay in Chile from friends, coworkers and my husbands family most i still am very close to, but without doubt there is great racial indifference. To deny it is putting your head in the sand or may be a view from a very limited experience. It is evidence-based and people of influence in these countries can attest to it that African populations particularly in Chile where they are very small and isolated are not counted neither incorporated in movements for social advancement.

  13. I lived in Chile for about 4 years 2002 – 2005 and conducted audits for a notable accounting firm in Arica . Firstly though very dark skinned the people of Arica do not consider themselves African at all, but are referred to as indigenous, they have features and hair texture of people of Inca heritage. They were more than amused by me even if they were of a darker complexion , and would be offended to be considered African. I had much love during my stay in Chile from friends, coworkers and my husbands family most i still am very close to, but without doubt there is great racial indifference. To deny it is putting your head in the sand or may be a view from a very limited experience. It is evidence-based and people of influence in these countries can attest to it that African populations particularly in Chile where they are very small and isolated are not counted neither incorporated in movements for social advancement.

  14. There is racism in Latin America including Chile. An American Black person will get treated better than the Black citizens of Chile, period! The racism is deep and sometimes worse than the United States. That is why there are so many titles used for the color of your skin in Latin America. Understand the skin color rules and tell me its not racist. Lisa Brown, there are plenty of Black Latinos/Latinas that want to be recognize for having both their African roots and Latin roots including Chile! I am happy to see Black people and people of color take a stand and start to love their Black skin! Now if we could get Black Americans to start loving themselves we could globally unit! Since the time of slavery, Blacks across the world have been told that they were ugly and nothing so we still carry those viewpoints in 2015 around the world! Yet, Blacks around the world have made strides on so many levels! Why be ashamed over something so beautiful!

  15. George Dwight I haven't had the good pleasure to going there yet, but have plans to do so soon. I would suggest you click on the blog site above. Perhaps there is some suitable contact information within. ¡Suerte! 🙂

  16. I am African American and live in Chile (Santiago) and there is definitely racism. However, i will say that for Chileans, at least in Santiago, it seems to be more based on WHAT black, meaning your country of origin. There is a growing black population here in Santiago, of which the two main origin nations are Colombia and Haiti. The Hatians are portrayed as these hardworking immigrants who just want a new life and are so ambitious while Colombians, of which I am mistaken for almost daily, are depicted and perceived as drug dealing criminals. It is definitely interesting.

  17. I live in Santiago and will be making a trip to Arica in February. I want to meet some Afro Chilean. Um, are they hard to find or are they at least visible up there?

  18. James Edward White Jr This is the exact same argument I make, even if only to myself, when people try to compare the African experience in the United States to the African American experience. All of it is literally not just about skin color alone.

  19. Colin Dawson says:

    Thanks for this article. It is not comprehensive but it was not a study nor a report from one. It simply identify some of the racial anomalies in these societies and the similarity in the first world country of the USA for awareness. Of note in any study of the recognition of African descendants in these societies and their acceptance of their identity, must include the work of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the socio-economic and polico-education unravellings since the 1930's.

  20. BAD NEWS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS…..YOU HAVE BEEN OFFICIALLY REPLACED….AFRO- MEXICANS ARE REPLACING…”YOU”…

    As of this very moment the DuSable Museum and Operation push is working with the Mexican fine Arts Museum to usher in a new classification for African Americans to wit: Afro Mexicans.

    There are external forces moving against us as of this very posting. We don’t have a whole lot of time left to figure this out.

    On March 2, 2006 In the lecture and discussion entitled Photography: The Art of Documenting Culture, weren’t photographers from the exhibit speaking and examining blackness, identity and documenting Afro-Mexican communities.

    April 1, 2006 Lecture and discussion by symposium scholars presents: Latest research on Afro-Mexican History, culture and relations.

    April 7, 2006 “There is no better ongoing way to establish a high public profile; than to insure the involvement of leaders from the African American and Mexican communities to wit: The DuSable Museum and Operation Push, thereby creating a new classification for African Americans to wit: Afro-Mexicans.

    May 18th, 2006 A concert at the Muntu Dance theater feature performer is Mexico’s most famous performer of Afro-Mexican music. On the same night the world premier of the story “Yanga” tells of a African Slave in Mexico that becomes the founder of the first town of free slaves in America.

    Now you tell me what “Insight can African American’s add to that? The DuSable Museum and Operation Push are only called upon because the external forces need a way in.

    I am telling African Americans that there is a storm coming and we don’t have long. Networking with each other on an inclusive level is the best defense we have right now. If we want to live in and beyond the 21st century you will have to defend your right to exist.

    There will be no African Americans and African Mexicans because no any two given objects can occupy the same given space at the same given time, – Physics tell us that.

    As you have previously read, the Mexicans have their own black history,culture connection to Africa and now to the legacy of Malcolm X. There is no insight that African Americans can add to the situation.

    It is unconscionable that African American institutions such as Operation Push of Chicago and The DuSable Museum in Chicago opened the doors to our genocide when they aligned with the Fine Arts Mexican Museum and offered up our residual resources in their behalf.

    The N.A.A.C.P. is doing nothing. The National Urban league is hiding and without protection from the Europeans the Congressional Black Caucus is impotent.

    As I am a black man this situation does not afford me the luxury of being humble and patient in my alarm, approach, cynicism and severe criticism. This situation requires force feeding at the highest levels of black professionalism.

    Intelligence reports coming out of Venezuela confirm the orders that Chavas issued to the Spanish players before he died that they move as one unit against the U.S.A. to secure the resources needed for their expanding population.

    At this very moment the European players are in a “Custer’s” last stand to survive as they attempt to fend off a five pronged assault from the Iraqis, Spanish, Chinese, Afghan and North Korean players.

    The European players intend to fight to the last man if need be and even if the European players by some hail Mary do succeed they will not be coming back this way. Even as I write this the European players have retreated their women and children behind their digital technology and firewall.

    The Europeans are at this very moment rapidly dismantling the same domestic infrastructure that African Americans are still trying to build their future and dreams upon.

    The African Americans have no infrastructure, technology or industry to shield and protect us from the Spanish players population assault.

    Without an infrastructure, technology or industry to shield and protect us from the Spanish players population assault we are left out in the opening without protection or cover. Once the Spanish players have depleted our residual resources of land ,food and water we have no means of replenishing them.

    For all practical purposes we have been cut out of the 21st century. We are currently at the mercy of the Spanish players and we are also in the same and exact condition as our African teammates in Darfur.

  21. So your argument is "I didn't experience racism in Chile in the few years I lived there, so there is no discrimination against black people in Chile!" Seriously? I have heard people say that right here in the US, too. I can elaborate extensively to poke holes in such an argument, but I'll just leave it by saying it is BEYOND flawed.

  22. Marin Heiskell I never said there was no discrimination in Chile. How silly of you to take almost half a year to come up with such a meaningless response. smh

  23. The racism for Blacks is Everywhere. Ask yourself, Why is it just us? I live in the US.

  24. Wrong!! You have zero bases to judge an entire nation. How laughable.

  25. Now that label takes away indigenous rights. That's not really a victory. They just classified themselves, not liberated.

  26. Coco Farias says:

    Why did you not mention the fact that Mexico didn't have racial censuses until this? I think that is unfair.

  27. Ellis Walton says:

    amen! i feel so proud to be a Hebrew Israelite…our 400 years of captivity is coming to an end

  28. Offended considered been African ? What is wrong to being an African ? There we go and the hate continues .Ignorance and hate is an endemic cancer

  29. Yeah it's a disease that still permeate the whole of the Americas till today.

  30. George Dwight that quite an interesting observation!

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