West Africans Influence Mexican Rice Cultivation and Gastronomy

Dr. Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas, in his book, “The Afro Mexican Ancestors and the Nation They Constructed,” reveals that rice, rice cultivation, and a major part of rice gastronomy, arrived in Mexico in the sixteenth century from the Senegal-Gambia region of West Africa along with West African Ancestors who were brought to Mexico at the time. Many people think rice only came from Asia, but there are two species of cultivated rice in the world: Oryza glaberrima, or African rice; and Oryza sativa, or Asian rice.Red,_Brown_White_Rice

Dr. Marco Polo Hernandez-Cuevas is a professor of Spanish and Afro-Hispanic Studies at North Carolina Central University. Dr. Cuevas 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. He has written five books in English and Spanish about African Mexicans. He is a chef by trade.

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In his essay, “West Africa in Mexican Rice Cultivation and Gastronomy,” Dr. Cuevas demonstrates how Africa and its gastronomic legacies are present throughout Mexico in dishes like “arroz a la mexicana,” “mole,” “agua de jamaica,” and other Mexican favorites. Mexican cooking methods, like barbecuing goat, also have African origins. During colonial times, Africans outnumbered the Europeans in Mexico, comprising over 70% of the foreign population.  1

Learn more about the history of rice and African gastronomy in Mexico by watching Chef Marco’s interesting video:


  1. For a history of the African presence in Mexico, see: www.FreedomPathways.org

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