Afro-Mexicans: Mexico's Invisible Ethnic Minority

Afro-Mexicans are Mexicans who have heritage connections with Sub-Saharan Africa. They account for 0.4 percent of the Mexican population and many have African descendants that were slaves in Mexico during colonial times. Due to their small presence in Mexican culture, the Mexican government and people never quite acknowledged their existence, making them invisible in their own state.

After the Mexican Revolution in 1910, there was an erroneous assumption made from the government that the majority of Mexicans were racially mixed: European and Native. While this was true and still is today, they completely omitted the population of Mexicans of African descent. This time in Mexican history also saw a time when people believed that being Mexican could not be mixed with being African. Due to the racist beliefs of the times, Afro-Mexicans gained no legal recognition as an ethnic group in Mexico. The only ethnic groups that were granted legal recognition were: White (Spaniard), Mestizo (Mixed European and Native), and Native.

Fact : Mexico and Chile are the only two Latin American countries that do not formally recognize individuals with African descent.

Today, in Modern Mexico, Afro-Mexicans are concentrated in coastal states like Veracruz, Guerrero, and Oaxaca. Although Afro-Mexicans receive international recognition, they're still victims of social, economic, and structural neglect , living in a country that does not legally recognize their ethnic/racial background.

Portraits of Afro-Mexicans by photographer Mara Sanchez Renero. Photo via CNN.

Just a while ago, members from Mexico Negro, an Afro-Mexican advocacy group launched a movement to grant Mexicans with African descent a spot on the national census. The proposed bill would ensure that Afro-Mexicans receive important social and economic resources.

Sergio Peńaloza Perez, the leader of Black-Mexico, explained, "We are joining senators and deputies to be recognized in the Federal Constitution and the missing federal states so that the Mexican state pays off its historical debt with Afro-Mexicans,”

The bill hopes to launched in Oaxaca, Mexico on November 13-14th. While the bill is a huge step towards national recognition, it is only one step forward to end the social, and economic discrimination this group receives from its own state, but it is a great step towards the right direction.


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