Afro-Mexican people brought to light

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Black history month is not just a month dedicated to the celebration of African-American history and culture, but a month for all who share African heritage throughout the world.

Crystal Galvàn, an undergraduate student in the McNair Achievement Program, talked about Black History in Mexico yesterday at the African-American Student Center.

“For me, it’s important to realize that Latinos come in different shades,” Galvàn said. “There isn’t just one type of Latino.”

In Mexican history, people of African descent were forced into slavery working in sugar-cane fields. After slavery became illegal, the Mexican government seemed to forget that African people were still alive in Mexico.

Mexico created a “sistema de castas,” or a hierarchy of skin pigment. At the bottom of the hierarchy were the darkest skin tone variations.

“Because blackness is seen at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, it has impacted resources that they have in Mexican society,” Galván said. “It impacts their experiences. By society, they are told that they are ugly because they are darker complexion.”

Galvàn explained that a writer, José Vasconcelos, erased Mexican consciousness of blackness in Mexico. He wrote “The Cosmic Race,” in 1925 and said the only true Mexican were Spanish and those indigenous to Mexico.

This allowed Mexican society to ignore the Afro-Mexicans and give them no recognition in the Constitution of Mexico. Rafael Pruneda, retention counselor in the Chicana/o Latina/o Student Center, explains how the Mexican government sees Mexico as a whole rather than a country with individuals.

“At the same time, the Mexican government recognizes them as one rather than their individuality of being Afro-Mexican,” Pruneda said.

Galvàn highlighted that because the existence of the Afro-Mexican communities has not been recognized by Mexico, those communities have been discriminated against and receive no benefits from the Constitution.

The constitutional rights never explicitly allow Afro-Mexicans social security, health or education rights. The government also has a history of silencing the voices of Afro-Mexicans, Galvàn explained.

Afro-Mexicans were silenced to the point that they were not represented in the Mexican Population Census until 2015. There are about 1.4 million people in Mexico who identify as Afro-Mexican, according to Galvàn.

“They’re deported to other countries because people don’t even know they exist in Mexico,” Galvàn said. “Because they don’t have constitutional rights under the Mexican Constitution, they really can’t do anything about it.”

In recent years, countries all around the world have noticed the oppression of Afro-Mexicans. Because of this recognition along with the unity of the many Afro-Mexican activist groups, the Mexican government has begun to notice the voices of this silenced populace. The oppressed communities are coming out and recognizing their ancestry of black people who have been in Mexico for hundreds of years, Pruneda said.

“With the mix of indigenous, black and European, you get a good blend of a variety of different ethnicities and cultures within Mexico,” Pruneda said. “But it’s really important that we stop in time and really recognize and give perspective of others’ individualities and reclaiming who they really are. I think that’s awesome.”

Galvàn will speak about this topic again at 3 p.m. on Friday in the Chicana/o Latina/o Student Center.

“They have their own culture and their own things that they’ve inherited from their ancestors,” Pruneda said. “We are starting to see more through celebrations and cultures in dance, versus not recognizing it at all.”