May 2, 2023 - World

New project explores lives of Afro Mexicans in the U.S.

A woman, member of the Afro-Mexican community, walks past the Afro-Mexican musseum, in Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero state, Mexico, on September 10, 2020.

A member of the Afro Mexican community walks past the Afro Mexican museum in Cuajinicuilapa, Mexico. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

A new project at the University of New Mexico seeks to record oral histories and gather photos of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants in the U.S. who are the descendants of formerly enslaved Black people.

The big picture: The multi-state initiative is part of a growing number of international efforts investigating the often overlooked history and lives of Afro Mexicans.

Details: The AfroChicanx Digital Archives, funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, held a three-day event last month in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during which scholars recorded interviews with Mexicans and Mexican Americans with Black ancestry.

  • Doris Careaga-Coleman, a UNM professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, said other interviews will be conducted in Tucson, Arizona, and Santa Barbara, California, later this year.
  • The interviews, photos and other materials will be stored in a digital archive for researchers.

The intrigue: The project not only seeks to record stories of Afro Mexicans (people who trace their Black roots to Mexico) but also Blaxicans (a common term for children of Mexican Americans and Black Americans).

Zoom out: Two out of 100 Mexicans, or around 2.5 million people, identified as Black in Mexico's 2020 Census.

  • Black communities are primarily found in Veracruz — where the Spanish disembarked enslaved people from Africa — and the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where Afro Indigenous traditions from colonial times endure.
  • Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles and of people who fled U.S. slavery in the 1830s after Mexico outlawed the practice, live in Coahuila state, which borders the U.S.

Yes, but: An unknown number of Mexicans and Mexican Americans also are descendants of those who took part in the Underground Railroad to Mexico — loosely organized paths allowing enslaved Black people in the U.S. to escape bondage by fleeing south

Between the lines: Mexican Americans, like other Latino groups, have to confront their own racist attitudes toward Black people, scholars say.

  • Racism is deeply rooted in Latin American and Caribbean nations, where slavery was common, Tanya K. Hernández, a Fordham University law professor and author, of "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias," previously told Axios Latino.

What they're saying: "It's about time that we talk openly about this because there is no shame in being Black. It's something that we have to be proud of," Cynthia Orozco, a professor of history and humanities at Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso, tells Axios.

  • Orozco, who identifies as Afro Chicana, said Afro Mexicans and Blaxicans deal with racism from white people and within Mexican American communities.
  • "We inherited racism from two places."

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