Finding Afro-Mexico: Race and Nation after the Revolution

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Slavery on 2021-09-14 02:15Z by Steven

Finding Afro-Mexico: Race and Nation after the Revolution

Cambridge University Press
June 2020
348 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9781108493017
Paperback ISBN: 9781108730310
eBook ISBN: 9781108639521

Theodore W. Cohen, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois

Highlights

  • Bridges the rich historical literature on slavery and race in the colonial period with scholarship on the contemporary politics of Blackness
  • Traces the long history of African-American intellectual engagements with Mexico
  • Contributes to the expanding literature on the politics of racial comparison and connection along sub-national, national, and transnational lines

In 2015, the Mexican state counted how many of its citizens identified as Afro-Mexican for the first time since independence. Finding Afro-Mexico reveals the transnational interdisciplinary histories that led to this celebrated reformulation of Mexican national identity. It traces the Mexican, African American, and Cuban writers, poets, anthropologists, artists, composers, historians, and archaeologists who integrated Mexican history, culture, and society into the African Diaspora after the Revolution of 1910. Theodore W. Cohen persuasively shows how these intellectuals rejected the nineteenth-century racial paradigms that heralded black disappearance when they made blackness visible first in Mexican culture and then in post-revolutionary society. Drawing from more than twenty different archives across the Americas, this cultural and intellectual history of black visibility, invisibility, and community-formation questions the racial, cultural, and political dimensions of Mexican history and Afro-diasporic thought.

Awards

  • Co-winner, 2021 Howard F. Cline Book Prize in Mexican History, Latin American Studies Association
  • Honorable Mention, 2021 Best Book Award in the Social Sciences, Mexico Section, Latin American Studies Association

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures and Maps
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Part I. Making Blackness Mexican, 1810-1940s
    • Introduction
    • 1. Black Disappearance
    • 2. Marxism and Colonial Blackness
    • 3. Making Blackness Transational
  • Part II. Finding Afro-Mexico, 1940s-2015
    • 4. Looking Back to Africa
    • 5. Africanizing “La bamba”
    • 6. Caribbean Blackness
    • 7. The Black Body in Mexico
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Why This Mexican Village Celebrates Juneteenth

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Slavery, Texas, United States on 2021-06-20 18:52Z by Steven

Why This Mexican Village Celebrates Juneteenth

Texas Monthly
2019-06-19

Wes Ferguson


Descendants of the Negro Mascogo people of northern Mexico gather to celebrate Juneteenth in the village of Nacimiento de los Negros. Photograph by Wes Ferguson

Descendants of slaves who escaped across the southern border observe Texas’s emancipation holiday with their own unique traditions.

The morning before Juneteenth, Corina Harrington and her sister Miriam Torralba left San Antonio shortly after sunrise and headed south to Mexico, retracing a portion of the same route their African American ancestors followed in 1850 when they escaped slavery in the United States and fled to freedom south of the border.

The sisters arrived around midday at their father’s house in the ranching village of Nacimiento de los Negros in Coahuila, about three hours south of Eagle Pass. As afternoon drifted toward evening, the blue silhouettes of the Sierra Madres were all but obscured by clouds, as siblings, cousins, extended family members, and childhood friends kept arriving in twos, threes, or fours. They strolled over to the cool and swift Río Sabinas to swim in water as clear as any Hill Country stream. They politely tasted the dried and shredded meat of a mountain lion that one of their cousins shot on their dad’s nearby goat ranch, and they laughed and reminisced and readied for one of the most important days of the year in a village whose name literally means “Birth of the Blacks.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Taxing Blackness: Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2019-03-25 13:59Z by Steven

Taxing Blackness: Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain

University of Alabama Press
February 2019
312 pages
9 B&W figures / 3 maps / 23 tables
Trade Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8173-2007-2
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8173-9220-8

Norah L. A. Gharala, Colonial Latin Americanist and Assistant Professor of World History
Georgian Court University, Lakewood, New Jersey

A definitive analysis of the most successful tribute system in the Americas as applied to Afromexicans

During the eighteenth century, hundreds of thousands of free descendants of Africans in Mexico faced a highly specific obligation to the Spanish crown, a tax based on their genealogy and status. This royal tribute symbolized imperial loyalties and social hierarchies. As the number of free people of color soared, this tax became a reliable source of revenue for the crown as well as a signal that colonial officials and ordinary people referenced to define and debate the nature of blackness.

Taxing Blackness:Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain examines the experiences of Afromexicans and this tribute to explore the meanings of race, political loyalty, and legal privileges within the Spanish colonial regime. Norah L. A. Gharala focuses on both the mechanisms officials used to define the status of free people of African descent and the responses of free Afromexicans to these categories and strategies. This study spans the eighteenth century and focuses on a single institution to offer readers a closer look at the place of Afromexican individuals in Bourbon New Spain, which was the most profitable and populous colony of the Spanish Atlantic.

As taxable subjects, many Afromexicans were deeply connected to the colonial regime and ongoing debates about how taxpayers should be defined, whether in terms of reputation or physical appearance. Gharala shows the profound ambivalence, and often hostility, that free people of African descent faced as they navigated a regime that simultaneously labeled them sources of tax revenue and dangerous vagabonds. Some free Afromexicans paid tribute to affirm their belonging and community ties. Others contested what they saw as a shameful imposition that could harm their families for generations. The microhistory includes numerous anecdotes from specific cases and people, bringing their history alive, resulting in a wealth of rural and urban, gender, and family insight.

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Mexico’s overlooked black communities are given a voice in this social realist drama

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Videos on 2018-08-03 01:45Z by Steven

Mexico’s overlooked black communities are given a voice in this social realist drama

Afropunk
2018-08-01

Eye Candy


LA NEGRADA trailer from TIRISIA CINE on Vimeo.

A project by Mexican filmmaker Jorge Pérez Solano, “La Negrada” is a social realist drama that examines an overlooked sector of Mexico’s populace, its Black people, which include descendants of enslaved people brought to Mexico, among others. According to Variety, this is the first fictional film about Afro-Mexicans.

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“We Are Not Used to People Thinking We Are Beautiful”

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2017-06-08 00:49Z by Steven

“We Are Not Used to People Thinking We Are Beautiful”

The New Yorker
2017-06-02

Jonathan Blitzer


Photograph by Cécile Smetana Baudier

It was a toothache that brought the Franco-Danish photographer Cécile Smetana Baudier to Costa Chica, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. She was in Oaxaca at the time, for a project on women’s fashion, when she visited a dentist with a special reputation among cash-strapped local photographers. He accepted payment in the form of photographs. His waiting room, in Oaxaca City, was like a gallery, with framed images along the walls and piles of art books cascading over tables. There, just before getting a molar pulled, Baudier came across a series of photos of reedy men with fishing rods and nets, lolling in boats and along the banks of lagoons. She was surprised, given the fact that the men were black, to learn that the photographs had been taken in Mexico, in the remote southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. It was the first time she had ever seen images of Afro-Mexicans, and she decided to try to contribute some of her own. A few weeks later, she set out for El Azufre—a secluded coastal fishing village with a large Afro-Mexican population—where she spent five weeks living in a tent pitched on the front yard of an acquaintance’s house.

The African presence in Mexico dates back to the early sixteenth century, when Spanish conquistadors and colonialists arrived; with them came the slave trade. As many as two hundred and fifty thousand African slaves were transported Mexico, according to academic estimates*. At the turn of the nineteenth century, ten per cent of the population had African origins, but Mexican independence ignited a new national dialogue that downplayed race and elevated, instead, the idea of common citizenship. Even though some of the country’s most iconic freedom fighters and early politicians had African roots, their accomplishments fed a celebration of the broader mestizo culture. The history of Afro-Mexicans ever since has been one of erasure and marginalization. Today, there are 1.4 million citizens of African descent in Mexico, but the government did not recognize them officially until a 2015 census count…

Read the entire article here.

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Exploring Mexico’s African Heritage with Dr. Marco Polo Hernández

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2017-04-29 22:38Z by Steven

Exploring Mexico’s African Heritage with Dr. Marco Polo Hernández

Los Afro-Latinos: A Blog Following the Afro-Latino Experience
2012-12-09

Nicolle Morales Kern

“We need to look deeper into our Africanness to understand ourselves,” says Dr. Marco Polo Hernández, a professor of Spanish and Afro-Hispanic studies at North Carolina Central University, in a recent phone interview. Mexico’s African heritage is not normally discussed or highlighted in conversation, or even education. But, Dr. Hernández, who holds a Ph.D. in Hispanic and Italian Studies from the University of British Columbia, a M.A. in Spanish Language and Peninsular and Latin American literatures, and a B.A. in General Studies & Spanish language and literatures from Portland State University, says that is slowly starting to change.

Growing up in Mexico City, Dr. Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas was not raised in a household or a society that highlighted the African influence on Mexico. While Father José María Morelos, who led the Independence movement from 1811 to 1815, is talked about, his African heritage is not. In school, everyone was told that they were mestizos (racially mixed), as most Latinos believe they are because the country’s African roots are rarely discussed…

Read the entire article here.

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México’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and Afro-Mexican Women

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Religion, Women on 2017-03-26 21:35Z by Steven

México’s Nobodies: The Cultural Legacy of the Soldadera and Afro-Mexican Women

State University of New York Press
February 2017
350 pages
Hardcover ISBN13: 978-1-4384-6357-5

B. Christine Arce, Assistant Professor of Latin American Literature and Culture
University of Miami, Miami, Florida

2016 Victoria Urbano Critical Monograph Book Prize, presented by the International Association of Hispanic Feminine Literature and Culture

Analyzes cultural materials that grapple with gender and blackness to revise traditional interpretations of Mexicanness.

México’s Nobodies examines two key figures in Mexican history that have remained anonymous despite their proliferation in the arts: the soldadera and the figure of the mulata. B. Christine Arce unravels the stunning paradox evident in the simultaneous erasure (in official circles) and ongoing fascination (in the popular imagination) with the nameless people who both define and fall outside of traditional norms of national identity. The book traces the legacy of these extraordinary figures in popular histories and legends, the Inquisition, ballads such as “La Adelita” and “La Cucaracha,” iconic performers like Toña la Negra, and musical genres such as the son jarocho and danzón. This study is the first of its kind to draw attention to art’s crucial role in bearing witness to the rich heritage of blacks and women in contemporary México.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Paradox of Invisibility
  • Part I: Entre Adelitas y Cucarachas: The Soldadera as Trope in the Mexican Revolution
    • 1. Soldaderas and the Making of Revolutionary Spaces
    • 2. The Many Faces of the Soldadera and the Adelita Complex
    • 3. Beyond the “Custom of Her Sex and Country”
  • Part II: The Blacks in the Closet
    • 4. Black Magic and the Inquisition: The Legend of La Mulata de Córdoba and the Case of Antonia de Soto
    • 5. “Dios pinta como quiere”: Blackness and Redress in Mexican Golden Age Film
    • 6. The Music of the Afro-Mexican Universe and the Dialectics of Son
  • Conclusion: To Be Expressed Otherwise
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2017-01-16 00:11Z by Steven

Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Ventures Africa
2017-01-05

Iroegbu Chinaemerem Oti

“Based on your culture, history, and traditions, do you consider yourself Black, meaning Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant?” – MEXICO’S 2015 Intercensal Survey

The sound of Bata drums filled the air as girls, with printed scarfs tied around their waists and white or yellow dots painted on their faces, danced to the fervent rhythm, their feet and waists moving vigorously at the same time. As their left legs leave the floor, their right legs replace them, while their waists responding with a seesaw movement. This is an African dance performed by an Afro-Mexican group, the Obatala, for the purpose of connecting with their African roots. They live in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico and tour various regions of the state to create awareness with their energetic and beautiful dance.

“All the dances are from Africa’s northeastern region, we chose this area because after researching on the internet, we realised that that’s where the slaves that came from our town came from. Our dance troupe did the research and we learned those dances,” Anai Herrera, one of the lead dancers, said…

Read the entire article here.

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Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Definitions, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-22 20:38Z by Steven

Creating the Ideal Mexican: 20th and 21st Century Racial and National Identity Discourses in Oaxaca

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
September 2015
235 pages

Savannah N. Carroll

Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This investigation intends to uncover past and contemporary socioeconomic significance of being a racial other in Oaxaca, Mexico and its relevance in shaping Mexican national identity. The project has two purposes: first, to analyze activities and observations of cultural missionaries in Oaxaca during the 1920s and 1930s, and second to relate these findings to historical and present implications of blackness in an Afro-Mexican community. Cultural missionaries were appointed by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP) to create schools throughout Mexico, focusing on the modernization of marginalized communities through formal and social education. This initiative was intended to resolve socioeconomic disparities and incorporate sectors of the population into the national framework that had been excluded prior to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. While these efforts were predominantly implemented in indigenous communities located in the northern part of Oaxaca, observations from cultural missionaries related to social and educational conditions reveal ongoing disparities between what it means to be indigenous versus mestizo. The exclusion of moreno, or Afro-descended people from this state sponsored initiative indicates that blackness along with indigenity is otherized, with the primary difference being that Afro-descended Mexicans lack visibility.

To gain a better perspective of the historical and present significance of blackness, my project moves from the general to the specific to include José Maria Morelos, Oaxaca, an Afro-descended community that is isolated, has no tourist attractions or services, dirt roads, and little access to socioeconomic resources. Morelos was established by blacks who escaped slavery and lived independently in their own community. People in the town strongly identify with this history and its relation to their present condition. After speaking with local activists, it became apparent that rights that were supposed to be gained from the Mexican Revolution, such as land rights and public education, did not happen in Morelos, which adversely affects people’s prospects for socioeconomic advancement.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-17 00:07Z by Steven

Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

FotoRoom
2016-10-10

Photos by Cécile Smetana Baudier

31 year-old French-Danish photographer Cécile Smetana Baudier discusses Diaspora: Costa Chica, a subjective reportage from a coastal area of Mexico where Cécile lived with a minority ethnic group: the Mexicans of African descent. Her beautiful portraits and landscape photographs introduce us to this community living at the margins of their society, and sometimes victim of racist stereotypes.

Hello Cécile, thank you for this interview. What inspired your new series Diaspora: Costa Chica?

I was living in Oaxaca city in Mexico and was researching on a different project; however when I started working on it I never got a connection with the girls I was photographing. I was not in a very positive state of mind.

One day I was sitting at the dentist’s office. A lot of his clients where other photographers and therefore he had all these photography books on the table. I started looking through them and I stumbled across one about the Afro-Mexican community in Costa Chica, an area that expands from the state of Oaxaca to the coast of Guerrero. I didn’t know that there were any communities of people of African descent in Mexico and I started researching on the subject. I found the photos of Tony Gleaton, an American photographer who dedicated his life to portray Afro communities and I was very much inspired by him, which becomes very clear when comparing my own images to his…

Read the entire interview and view the gallery here.

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