To recognize ourselves as Mexicans, is to recognize ourselves as diverse, but amid so much variety will it be that we are infinite?
The diversity of Mexico happily does not end. But it is up to us to explore as many dimensions as we can of this incredible land. On the other hand, although it is delicious to discover Mexico slowly, our ignorance can have quite negative consequences.
For example, did you know that, until very recently, Afro-Mexican communities had not been formally recognized by state institutions? And it is not unreasonable to say that more than one of us had no idea that these groups exist . But yes: in addition to Spaniards, Nahuas, Mixtecs, Triquis, Rarámuris, Mayas and many others, in Mexico we enjoy the cultural and genetic influence of diverse Afro-descendant groups.
And these groups are incredibly complex. As the “indigenous peoples” can not simply be labeled in one way and their music, art, gastronomy, approach to Spanish, they are rich and very different from those that we almost naturally attribute to “mestizos”.
Anyway, with regard to the Senate’s decision to approve the Law of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples , which gives full constitutional rights to the “original” communities and to the Afro-Mexican peoples, we began to think that it is very worthwhile to approach an little to the subject. Imagine that it was until 2018 when these groups obtained the citizen rights that others take for granted.
So, let’s talk about Afro-Mexicans
As you can imagine, Afro-descendant peoples were formed after the conquest, when the Spanish brought slaves from different countries of Africa to Mexico . Most of them still reside in communities on the coasts of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz , sites that their ancestors trod for the first time more than 400 years ago. However, historically they have been practically invisible.
And it is not surprising. There are many who think, for example, because they told us about it in school, that the Mayan and Nahua people are a matter of the past. Luckily that can be remedied. On the other hand it is true that the historical backwardness for these communities was transformed into a backwardness of public policies , causing their basic needs not to be met due to their lack of rights and their lands and other properties not being respected.
Thus, Afro-Mexicans are also unknown to society in general. And it seems natural, considering that they represent only 1.16% of the population of the country, but imagine all the culture that these communities have built (totaling more than one million people) in the last 400 years , the stories that are saved from their ancestors, of the conquest, of the country; the inescapable influence of cultures that come from a completely different continent.
But without rights, these communities are quite vulnerable. Above all, it is worth knowing them and re-knowing them, sharing with them and exchanging and, without labeling them as simply “Mexican”, reliving the taste for the fact that Mexico is irremediably immense.
To know more and better those around you, is to know yourself
It is very clear that in our more “primary” education there are big clues as to why in Mexico there are so many problems of discrimination and racism . The truth is that many of us were not taught that the Mexican identity was so complex. That is something we have had to discover. And there’s nothing wrong. However, it is up to each of us to change the negative view of this diversity and understand it as a personal and collective strength.
With more than one million Afro-Mexicans, our cultural wealth acquires very different and definitely appreciable dimensions. In addition, these communities have been actively involved in the life of the country. Not only the contemporary activists, the musicians who give complexity to our popular music ( with its chilenas and merequetengues ), also in the past: well-known characters like Vicente Guerrero and José María Morelos were afro-descendants.
On the other hand, like many indigenous communities, Afro-Mexicans who still live on the coasts, we owe them the sustainable management and the conservation of the ecosystems they inhabit. Being their first source of food and economy, they know that they have to keep them active and renewed, with an awareness that overcomes the general disdain towards the environment.
In that sense, we urge not only respect these communities, protect and demand their rights, also give us a good trip to parts of the country that are waiting to teach us something new , something we simply could not have glimpsed from our (unintentionally) limited vision.
And although it is definitely not about folklorizing, because that also discriminates, it is about remembering that each head is a world , precisely because everyone’s environment varies, even if it does not want to. Two bodies can not occupy the same space and each one lives something different. That is why sharing with anyone is rich and enriching, but sharing with someone who is far away is a real privilege that we could easily enjoy today.
Mexico will never stop surprising us, we are very lucky in that sense. Could it be that Mexican identity is so open and so complex that it is simply infinite? It is up to us to continue building and never to remain still.
We leave you some documentaries about the situation of Afro-Mexican peoples:
The Mazatlan Post