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Afro Mexican Culture

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

In 2015, Mexico finally recognized people of African descent in their national census where it was discovered that over 1.38 million people in Mexico had African heritage. Other than Chile, Mexico was the only other Latin country that hadn’t officially recognized its black citizens, whose majority were descendants of enslaved Africans. The cultural contributions by Afro-Mexicans are often neglected despite having a national and global impact.

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Danza de los diablos - Dance of the Devils

This was a dance of rebellion performed by the Afro-descendants in Guerrero and Oaxaca, Mexico. It was a dance ritual dedicated to the African God Ruja, whom they would ask to free them from the chains of slavery. Today it’s performed by wearing masks made of wood horsehair, animal jaws, and deer antlers. It is now part of festivities celebrated in Mexico like Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

La Bamba

Mexican-American rock’n’roll star, Ritchie Valens, made the hit song ‘La Bamba’ in 1958. Centuries before Valens’s popular adaption, this was a traditional folk song and dance of the musical genre, Jarocho, originally sung by enslaved Africans in Veracruz, Mexico. The Spaniards kidnapped Africans from modern-day Angola, Republic of Congo, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of those people belonged to the Mbamba tribe who hail from that region in Africa.

The original ‘La Bamba’ song was inspired by a rebellion that occurred in Veracruz in 1683. At the time, pirates attacked Veracruz, a place where free Spanish officials were mistreating the indigenous population and enslaved Africans. So, the native and Black population took advantage of the pirate attack to join forces and start a rebellion. This resulted in a rebellion known as ‘Bambarria’.

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These are just two examples of African influences in Mexican culture. As we dig deeper into history, it is clear to see that Africans have influenced cultures in every region they’ve been present in.

Pic: Miss Mexico @itsblessch

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