Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-10-17 00:07Z by Steven

Too Black for Mexico — Cécile Smetana Photographs the Afro-Mexicans Stigmatized for the Color of Their Skin


Photos by Cécile Smetana Baudier

31 year-old French-Danish photographer Cécile Smetana Baudier discusses Diaspora: Costa Chica, a subjective reportage from a coastal area of Mexico where Cécile lived with a minority ethnic group: the Mexicans of African descent. Her beautiful portraits and landscape photographs introduce us to this community living at the margins of their society, and sometimes victim of racist stereotypes.

Hello Cécile, thank you for this interview. What inspired your new series Diaspora: Costa Chica?

I was living in Oaxaca city in Mexico and was researching on a different project; however when I started working on it I never got a connection with the girls I was photographing. I was not in a very positive state of mind.

One day I was sitting at the dentist’s office. A lot of his clients where other photographers and therefore he had all these photography books on the table. I started looking through them and I stumbled across one about the Afro-Mexican community in Costa Chica, an area that expands from the state of Oaxaca to the coast of Guerrero. I didn’t know that there were any communities of people of African descent in Mexico and I started researching on the subject. I found the photos of Tony Gleaton, an American photographer who dedicated his life to portray Afro communities and I was very much inspired by him, which becomes very clear when comparing my own images to his…

Read the entire interview and view the gallery here.

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When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

Posted in Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-09-01 00:58Z by Steven

When Black Is Brown: The African Diaspora in Mexico

The Museum of African American Art
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90008
2016-06-05 through 2016-09-18
Opening Reception: 2016-06-05, 14:00-17:00 PDT (Local Time)

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN: The African Diaspora In Mexico opens Sunday, June 5, 2016, with a public reception from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at The Museum of African American Art. The opening will feature a drumming procession of African and Azteca dancers and musicians, a dramatic performance, and a talk and tour by the exhibit’s curator, Dr. Toni-Mokjaetji Humber, Professor Emeritus, Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

WHERE BLACK IS BROWN is an innovative, multidimensional project that includes photographs, artifacts, and installations that document the African presence in Mexico from the Ancient Olmecs — Mother Culture of the Americas — through the colonial enslavement period, to contemporary Mexico. In addition to the visual components, Dr. Humber has incorporated educational programs and activities to compliment the exhibit. She will conduct middle and high school tours of the exhibit with activities for students to better understand the culture and historical contributions of African Mexicans.

“Recognition of an African root in the Mexican heritage, both ancient and modern, has been rendered invisible in the ideological consciousness of what it means to be Mexican,” Dr. Humber states. “This research will present a face of Mexico that has been hidden, denied, and disparaged, yet one that is vital to Mexican history and culture.”

The exhibit is designed to further the understanding of African influence and contributions in the Americas and to foster greater understanding among African American, Chicano/Latino, and Indigenous communities about their historical connections and their intermingled sangre (blood) that has produced beautiful and dynamic peoples of the Americas.

For more information, click here.

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Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-08-28 02:32Z by Steven

Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation

University of The West Indies Press
April 2016
234 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-976-640-579-3

Paulette A. Ramsay, Senior Lecturer in Spanish
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

Paulette Ramsay’s study analyses cultural and literary material produced by Afro-Mexicans on the Costa Chica de Guerrero y Oaxaca, Mexico, to undermine and overturn claims of mestizaje or Mexican homogeneity.

The interdisciplinary research draws on several theoretical constructs: cultural studies, linguistic anthropology, masculinity studies, gender studies, feminist criticisms, and broad postcolonial and postmodernist theories, especially as they relate to issues of belonging, diaspora, cultural identity, gender, marginalization, subjectivity and nationhood. The author points to the need to bring to an end all attempts at extending the discourse, whether for political or other reasons, that there are no identifiable Afro-descendants in Mexico. The undeniable existence of distinctively black Mexicans and their contributions to Mexican multiculturalism is patently recorded in these pages.

The analyses also aid the agenda of locating Afro-Mexican literary and cultural production within a broad Caribbean aesthetics, contributing to the expansion of the Caribbean as a broader cultural and historical space which includes Central and Latin America.


  • List of Illustrations
  • Foreword Father Glyn Jemmott Nelson
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Mexico through the Distorted Lens of Memín Pinguín
  • 2. Constructions of Gender and Nation in Selected Afro-Mexican Folktales
  • 3. Masculinity, Language and Power in Selected Afro-Mexican Corridos
  • 4. Place, Racial and Cultural Identities in Selected Afro-Mexican Oral and Lyric Verses
  • 5. Afro-Mexico in the Context of a Caribbean Literary and Cultural Aesthetics
  • Conclusion
  • Photographs
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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Afro-Mexicans still struggle for recognition in Mexico

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-07-03 00:25Z by Steven

Afro-Mexicans still struggle for recognition in Mexico

The Seattle Globalist

Mayela Sánchez, Senior Reporter, Country Coordinator

Adriana Alcázar González, Reporter

María Gorge, Reporter

Luz María Martínez Montiel, 81, shown at home in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos state in central Mexico, is a specialist in African languages and culture. She works to promote the recognition of Afro-descendants in Mexico.(Photo by Mayela Sánchez for GPJ Mexico)

It is latent racism. Nobody wants to be the descendant of black people,” Luz María Martínez Montiel says from her home in Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos state in central Mexico.

Martínez Montiel says this was confirmed for her at an early age. When she was 9, she went to live with her paternal grandparents in Veracruz, a state on the country’s east coast. Even though there were people in her family who were dark-skinned, they didn’t identify as descendants of Africans, she says.

‘Black’ always was the ‘other,’” says Martínez Montiel, now 80 years old.

Afro-descendants are defined as people whose ancestors were enslaved Africans who integrated into the places where they were transported, or to where they escaped, according to the Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación (CONAPRED) the national council in charge of promoting policies for equality and inclusion…

Read the entire article here.

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Indian allies and white antagonists: toward an alternative mestizaje on Mexico’s Costa Chica

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation on 2016-06-24 14:23Z by Steven

Indian allies and white antagonists: toward an alternative mestizaje on Mexico’s Costa Chica

Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies
Published online: 2015-10-05
DOI: 10.1080/17442222.2015.1094873

Laura A. Lewis, Professor of Latin American Anthropology
University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom

San Nicolás Tolentino, Guerrero, Mexico, is a ‘mixed’ black-Indian agricultural community on the coastal belt of Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, the Costa Chica. This article examines local expressions of race in San Nicolás in relation to Mexico’s national ideology of mestizaje (race mixing), which excludes blackness but is foundational to Mexican racial identities. San Nicolás’s black-Indians are strongly nationalistic while expressing a collective or regional identity different from those of peoples they identify as Indians and as whites. Such collective expression produces an alternative model of mestizaje, here explored through local agrarian history and several village festivals. It is argued that this alternative model favors Indians and distances whites, thereby challenging dominant forms of Mexican mestizaje.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The black people ‘erased from history’

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-04-11 00:02Z by Steven

The black people ‘erased from history’

BBC News Magazine

Arlene Gregorius, BBC Mexico

More than a million people in Mexico are descended from African slaves and identify as “black”, “dark” or “Afro-Mexican” even if they don’t look black. But beyond the southern state of Oaxaca they are little-known and the community’s leaders are now warning of possible radical steps to achieve official recognition.

“The police made me sing the national anthem three times, because they wouldn’t believe I was Mexican,” says Chogo el Bandeno, a black Mexican singer-songwriter.

“I had to list the governors of five states too.”

He was visiting the capital, Mexico City, hundreds of miles from his home in southern Mexico, when the police stopped him on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.

Fortunately his rendition of the anthem and his knowledge of political leaders convinced the police to leave him alone, but other Afro-Mexicans have not been so fortunate…

Read the entire article here.

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Filmmakers Behind ‘Invisible Roots’ on Finding Afro-Mexicans Living in Southern California

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-02-22 01:49Z by Steven

Filmmakers Behind ‘Invisible Roots’ on Finding Afro-Mexicans Living in Southern California


Walter Thompson-Hernández
Los Angeles, California


Almost a year before the Mexican government officially acknowledged Afro-Mexicans as a distinct racial and ethnic group, directors Tiffany Walton and Lizz Mullis first began working on their film, Invisible Roots: Afro-Mexicans of Southern California, as a film project while attending the University of Southern California (USC). For Walton, whose grandfather was Afro-Panamanian, the project was deeply connected to her family’s Afro-Latino story, while Mullis was motivated by her interests in broader societal questions about race and identity. But during the early stages of the project both struggled to find subjects for their film. After a number of failed attempts at connecting with Afro-Mexican families in the Los Angeles area, attempts they both called “extensive,” Walton and Mullis were fortuitously connected to a few Afro-Mexican families through academic and professional contacts. The film premiered at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival with which the directing duo hopes to shed light on the experiences of a group that continues to garner recognition both in Mexico and in the U.S…

Can you describe what inspired you to make this film?

TW: I’ve always been really interested in African-American history as well as the African diaspora. I remember first learning that my dad’s grandfather had moved from Panama to Alabama to attend college. I felt excited about having a personal connection to another place, an ancestral place, a place outside of the United States, that I could reference and say, “Hey, I have roots there.” With that, I became really curious about Black people who lived in Central America and other Latin American countries. I wanted to know how they identified culturally and racially, I wanted to know what they ate, and what things we would have in common. I was curious about learning how they navigated the world.

I first learned about Afro-Mexicans from a large poster my dad had hanging in his office. The poster was of a photograph called, “Tres Hermanas,” by Tony Gleaton. On this poster were the words, “Africa’s Legacy in Mexico.” That poster spoke volumes to me. So, the poster inspired me to make this film. It touched me in such an intangible, sublime way that made me want to take action. I wanted to know everything about those little girls. What would we have in common? Were they curious about Africa? Would they feel a connection to me? I really just wanted to know how they viewed the world and how the world viewed them and how they felt about what the world thought of them…

Read the entire interview here.

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Mexico Finally Recognized Its Black Citizens, But That’s Just The Beginning

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2016-02-04 02:03Z by Steven

Mexico Finally Recognized Its Black Citizens, But That’s Just The Beginning

The Huffington Post

Krithika Varagur
Associate Editor, What’s Working

In Mexico, like everywhere, identity is complex.

Last month, for the first time ever, the Mexican government recognized its 1.38 million citizens of African descent in a national survey. The survey served as a preliminary count before the 2020 national census, where “black” will debut as an official category.

A major force behind the government’s recognition was México Negro, an activist group founded in 1997 by Sergio Peñaloza Pérez, a school teacher of African descent. México Negro works for, among other initiatives, the constitutional recognition of Afro-Mexicans and to increase the visibility of Afro-Mexican culture.

The Huffington Post recently caught up with Peñaloza to discuss his organization, why recognition matters and what’s next for black Mexicans…

Why Has It Taken So Long?

Until last month, Mexico was one of only two Latin-American countries (the other is Chile) to not officially count its black population. As a result, the move to recognize Afro-Mexicans has been met with some pushback from Mexicans who believe that mestizo identity (the mix between indigenous people and Europeans) is more important than specific ethnicities.

Mexico’s post-revolutionary government made a conscious effort to create a national mixed-race identity that melded Hispanic, indigenous and African ethnicities. Article 2 of Mexico’s 1917 Constitution recognized its “multicultural composition,” and today, over 60% of Mexicans identify as mestizos. So in modern Mexico, “blackness” is still a tenuous identity, and many use labels like “criollo” (creole) or “moreno” rather than the ones black Mexicans tend to prefer. Peñaloza, for instance, describes himself as “afrodescendiente (of African descent), negro (black), or afromexicano (Afro-Mexican).”…

Read the entire article here.

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This poem perfectly captures feelings from a campus protest

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-12-26 16:06Z by Steven

This poem perfectly captures feelings from a campus protest


Blavity Team

What’s it like to be conscious of being love[d] and being hated at the same time? This poet [Ariana Brown] eloquently explains her experience at a campus protest.

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Mexico ‘discovers’ 1.4 million black Mexicans—they just had to ask

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-12-19 03:40Z by Steven

Mexico ‘discovers’ 1.4 million black Mexicans—they just had to ask


Rafa Fernandez De Castro

For the first time in its history, Mexico’s census bureau has recognized the country’s black population in a national survey that found there are approximately 1.4 million citizens (1.2% of the population) who self-identify as “Afro-Mexican” or “Afro-descendant.”

The survey found that more women identify as black than men, by about 705,000 to 677,000. It also found that most Afro-Mexicans live in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz, which is not entirely unsurprising given Mexico’s history.

Miguel Cervera, director general of sociodemographic statistics for the country’s census bureau (known as INEGI), told Fusion the 2015 survey is a preliminary effort to register demographic changes in preparation for the 2020 national census. He says Afro-Mexicans have always been included in past surveys, but were never given the option to identify themselves as such…

Read the entire article here.

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