Did you know that words like chingar, marimba, tararear, zumba, chambear and many others are of African heritage?
Although it is part of the Mexican identity, from DNA to music, the Afro-descendant population in the country is poorly recognized but its presence is undeniable at the genetic and cultural level. With the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico, people of African origin also arrived in conditions of slavery and thus began a process of acculturation.
The presence of African genes in Mexico is more evident in areas near the coast, but millions of Mexicans have some of that genome in our blood, as explained by research conducted by Agustín Ávila Casanueva *, Paula González-Rubio, Omar Zamora and Alejandra Pájaro, winners of the 2018 National Journalism Award, in the category of Science Outreach and dissemination of culture, recently delivered.
His work, The Fandango of Afro-Mexican Identity, is an effort to break down the belief that Mexicans are only the result of miscegenation between Spaniards and other European peoples with Native Americans.
“What we are most proud of about this report is to combine genetics with music, food, culture, vocabulary, language, and history, that is, it is a report that talks about science and culture. the sound atmosphere that represents that afro-descendant heritage. We are not trying to talk about these communities from a single point of view but to encompass all those edges, ”said Agustín Ávila, a member of the team that won the prize for the report and professor of Prepa Tec Campus Cuernavaca.
The report, in audio format, can be consulted in full here and aims to verify that the African heritage is very present in our daily lives. “In Mexico, Afro-descendant populations were erased from the national identity. African people brought into slavery during the Colony also contributed with their genes, elements that are part of our most endearing cultural expressions. If we recognize our genetic and cultural legacy, we can aspire to be a less racist society with equal opportunities, ”says the work.
Did you know that words like chingar, marimba, tararear, zumba, chambear and many others are of African heritage? Jamaica, tamarindo, mochila, conga, tanga, alcatraz, cumbia and a wide variety of everyday words come from African ethnic groups.
These cultural contributions of speech and genetics began five centuries ago with the miscegenation of Native Americans of what is now Mexico with hundreds of thousands of Afro-descendants who arrived in the region in slavery. In fact, during the viceroyalty, Afro-descendants were the second population by the number of inhabitants after the natives, according to the research of Ávila and his companions.
And today we continue to enjoy his contribution in medicine, customs, and customs, music and language. In recent years, attempts have been made to give credit to the African contribution to Mexican culture. “In our tight educational agenda I do take advantage of the human evolution part, from the origin of humans in Africa and how they walked around the world to get to Mexico and how the nation is genetically formed,” says Ávila of how she educates in high school Tec to the new generations about the history of African development and its impact on the country.
One of the effects of African heritage can be perceived in health, because knowledge of the Mexican genome is not complete without studying its African side. “There is no Mexican genome but it is influenced by a lot of different variables that help us to know ourselves as a diverse nation. We have to celebrate our diversity and celebrate it is to recognize minorities, their rights, and needs from health, typical, social and cultural characteristics, ”says Ávila. “One part is focused on diagnosing genetic diseases that affect Mexicans in greater numbers … to be able to make our own models and have a better idea of who we are for prevention and treatment (of diseases),” he adds.
To eliminate racism
The recognition of our African origin as Mexicans is also a way to begin to solve the problem of inequality among the population that manifests itself with racism and classism.
“We would love to contribute this grain of sand with this work, it is one of our goals to recognize this diversity and that it is good. Having diversity makes us all better, not staying in an average citizen, who does not exist and who want to impose on us. Hopefully, it contributes to the discussion that if someone listens to it, shares it and discusses it with his family and his acquaintances, that helps generate a better idea of who we are and that diversity is something that we should appreciate, ”Avila concludes by telephone.
In this regard, the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (Conapred) has been on its way in the defense and recognition of Mexican Afro-descendants. “Fortunately, the so-called ‘third root’ of Mexico – that is, our Afro-descendant, indigenous and Spanish origins – is becoming increasingly popular,” the agency said last year.
In 2015, an intercensal survey of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) revealed that 1.16% of the population identifies itself as Afro-Mexican, and lives mainly, in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz.
Conapred called for “intensifying awareness work so that more accurate and comprehensive data on the presence of this population throughout the national territory can be known in the census to be applied in 2020”.
In the publication Afrodescendientes en México. A story of silence and discrimination, the authors María Elisa Velázquez and Gabriela Iturralde ask from Conapred that education be the cornerstone of a culture of respect that recognizes the contributions of the Afro-descendant population to the national culture.
* Agustín Ávila Casanueva has a degree in Genomic Sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is a science disseminator, collaborator, and reporter of the Cienciorama portal, producer and conductor of Beat Science and teaches the subjects Fundamentals of life, Health and Society, Energy and transformation I and II in PrepaTec, Cuernavaca campus.
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