By: Professor Donají Mendez Tello, Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero and Founding Member of Mexico Negro, A.C.*/ translated by Patricia Ann Talley, Editor
We are within the framework of the United Nations International Decade of Tribute People of African Descent (2015 – 2024). On December 7, 2017, I had to honor of attending a ceremony in Yanga, Veracruz, to unveil a plaque of declaration as a UNESCO world heritage site in memory of slavery and Afro-descendants in the Fort of San Juan de Ulua, the City of Yanga, and the state of Veracruz. I attended as a member of the Afro-Mexican Committee of the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero.
Between 1650 and 1860, approximately 10 to 15 million enslaved people were transported from western Africa to the Americas. Most were shipped to the West Indies, Central America, and South America. (Source: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History).
Many people in the world and within Mexico are unaware of the African presence in the country. Africans were present in Mexico long before colonial times, but the population increased when enslaved Africans were brought to the country. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, a pioneer of the study of black culture in Mexico and author of books such as Mexico’s Black Population, estimates that the Spanish brought more than 500,000 African slaves to Mexico, and during colonial times there were more Africans in Mexico than Europeans. The Afromexican population in Mexico is concentrated in the states of Veracruz, Mexico, Oaxaca, and Guerrero.
The port in Veracruz was a key arrival point for enslaved Africans in Mexico.
Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, a pioneer of the study of black culture in Mexico and author of books such as Mexico’s Black Population, estimates that the Spanish brought more than 500,000 African slaves to Mexico, and during colonial times there were more Africans in Mexico than Europeans.
The city of Yanga, Veracruz is named after Gaspar Yanga, who was one of the first black liberators in the Americas. In 1570, Gaspar Yanga, who was an enslaved African prince, led a slave revolt in Veracruz and established the first free colony in the Americas.
I took photos in front of the statue of Gaspar Yanga. The city of Yanga, Veracruz is named in his honor. Gaspar Yanga was one of the first black liberators in the Americas. Photography by Itzel Varela and Donají Mendez.
UNESCO in Mexico, as part and its International Slave Route Project, held a ceremony to unveil the plaque of the declaration as a world heritage site in memory of slavery and Afro-descendants in the Fort of San Juan de Ulua, the city of Yanga, and the state of Veracruz. The program was in coordination with the National Institute of Anthropology and History and its program of Afro-descendant and Cultural Diversity Research.
UNESCO, in coordination with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, dedicate a plaque to honor this historical world heritage site as a major landing point in the African colonial slave route. Photography by Itzel Varela and Donají Mendez.
Maria Elisa Velázquez, the coordinator of the program, explained the importance of the historic memory sites of San Juan de Ulua and Yanga. The ceremony was attended by the Anthropologist Diego Prieto, General Director INAH; Leovigildo Da Costa E Silva, the Ambassador of Angola in Mexico, and Harry Grappa Guzmán, Secretary of Tourism of Veracruz, among other personalities.
In my participation, I proposed and demanded a museum that narrates the history of the Afro-descendant population in our country that is integrated into the historical memory sites such as the Museo Fuerte de San Diego, located in the Port of Acapulco. With this proposal, we will continue with the diversification of the cultural tourism offered in the state of Guerrero, as well as studies on the subject in the Costa Grande Region of Guerrero. Guerrero is noted for its population of Afromexicans, who are concentrated in the Costa Chica Region of the state.
I proposed and demanded a museum that narrates the history of the Afro-descendant population in our country, especially in my state of Guerrero. Photography by Itzel Varela and Donají Mendez.
I thank Dr. Gabriela Iturralde and her team and Dr. Javier Saldaña Almazan, Dean of UAGro, who has integrated scholarships for Afromexicans, the first university with this program. I also thank David Franco Garcia Orozco, Coordinator of Costa Grande, Blanca Estela Leyva Gutierrez, Director of UAGro Zihuatanejo, and Mexico Negro, A.C. This project of recognition started over 20 years ago.
I am proud to be Afromexicana!
About the Author: Professor Méndez Tello is an instructor at Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero. She is an expert in African-Mexican history and co-founder of Mexico Negro, A.C.( Black Mexican Civic Association)