Afro-Mexican are Mexicans of African descent. They were not recognized in the Mexican census for 95 years. The Mexican government finally recognized Afro-Mexicans as a national ethnic at 1.38 million or 1.2% of the population on December 8, 2015The African presence in Mexico is a subject often denied, but people of African descent have influenced every aspect of Mexican life, culture, and history. They participated in its discovery, conquest, and independence. 


The arrival of African descendents in Mexico can be traced back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. It is estimated that between the coming of Hernando Cortes in 1519 and the start of Mexico's War of Independence in 1810, more than 500,000 Africans were brought to Mexico--more than the United States at 450,000.

Blacks were with Columbus on his voyage. Juan Garrido a free black was Columbus's navigator. Hernando Cortes was accompanied by 300 black slaves on the eve of the Aztec conquest.

Timeline of Afro-Mexican History

1519 300 Africans with Hernando Cortes on conquest of Mexico
1519-1810 500,000 slaves shipped to Mexico, more than US
1521 Sept. cedula 26 bans travel of ladinos to uncharted regions
1523 Earliest cimarron mentioned
1546 Slave revolts reported: 1570, 1608, 1670
1725 & 1735 slave revolts results in numerous cimarrones being formed near state of Veracruz in town of Cordoba
1762 Cimarrones beat off English invasion of Veracruz port
1793 Sherburne F. Cook est. afro-descendant pop. @12% or 15% of 5.2 million--includes zambos , mulattos
1817 Slave trade prohibited in Mexico
1822 Sept. 27, Casta system abolished and terms prohibited
1829 Mexico abolishes slavery,except Texas
1876-1910 Under Porfirio Diaz, whitening policy pursued, encouraged european immigration, banned african immigration
1910 beginning invisibility of Afro-Mexican in Mexican society, no census on Afro-Mexican, seeking racial info.
1920s Indigenismo movement recognize native import, ignores the African
1921 Census taken racial info. 
1930-1940 matrimonial liscence give racial data, afro-descendant population estimated @ 1% (120,000-300,000)

Africans were brought to Mexico because the native population in Mexico was dying at an alarming rate and an alternative source of labor was needed for the silver mines, fisheries, and plantation economy of Mexico. Priest De Las Casa advocated African enslavement. Some slaves, initially, were ladinos or Hispanized slaves from Spain, but most came directly from Africa. Most slaves were men, with a ratio of 3 African males to 1 African female. The sex demographics laid the foundation for the large zambo population in the Mexican population, with black men seeking indian mates. Another incentive for African men to seek native mates was Spanish law, which stated the child retained the status of the mother. Most indian women were free.

Veracruz became a major entry port for slaves. Mexico was entrench in the slave trade between 1580-1640, with every 2 out of  3 slaves being shipped to Spanish American directed to Mexico. This was largely due to silver mines discovered in Zacatecas in 1546.


From the earliest days of african prescence in Mexico, they revolted against servitude. The latter is revealed in the cedula of September 6, 1521, which banned movement of ladinos to unexplored territories out of fear of them forming rebellious cimarron. By 1523, cimarrons were being reported in Mexico City. One of the earliest and largest planned revolt was in 1537, recently arrived ladino slaves plotted to kill all the whites and subjugate the mestizo and indian population, forming a state. The plot was foiled, after a slave of the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza revealed the plot. The conspirators in the plot sought refuge in indian villages, but were killed or turned over by the native population for bounties placed on runaway slaves. 1546, 1570, 1608, and 1670 all marked years of significant slave revolts. 

Just the fear of slave revolts would trigger violent retaliation on slaves. In 1612, all social functions in Puebla and Mexico City were cancelled due to the rumors of slave revolt. On Easter Sunday, thirty-six blacks who were suspects in the rumored revolt were hanged and decapitated. Their heads were paraded as an example to those slaves who had rebellious intentions.

Cimmarón , Palenque

Because of the harsh way of life in mines and on sugar plantations, many slaves runaway and formed communities called cimmarón or  palenques. The most famous was Yanga's cimmarón in east central Veracruz state. The community was known for raiding plantations. They robbed traffic along the Mexico City /Veracruz route. They were defeated in 1611. Impress with their daring and persistence, they were given amnesty and a town was founded for them--San Lorenzo de Los Negros de Córdoba. In 1725 and 1735, major revolts in the town of Córdoba, near Veracruz caused the formation of numerous cimarrones.  It was serious enough that the government mounted an expedition in 1748 and 1759, with very little success. Facing English invasion, the government compromised with the cimmarones promising free land , acknowledging their settlements, and giving amnesty. The cimarrones helped repell the English from the port of Veracruz, in 1762. Their cimmarón was renamed the town of Señora de Guadalupe de los Morenos de Amapá. With formation of cimmarón towns stipulation was made that ex-cimmarón would take no new fugitive slaves.


Many historical Black communities along the Atlantic coast of Mexico bear names of African regions or make references to people of African ancestry. Along the coast are towns called: Angola, Guinea, Mozambique, and Cerro del Congo or Congo Hill. Other settlements are named in recognition of the various African ethnics groups that came such as La Mandinga, El Mecambo, La Matamba, and El Monzongo, or they bear names such as El Mulata, La Mulata, El Negro, and Juan Mulato. Some town names simply indicate maroon territories, such as Cimarron and Palenque.


Traditional Mexican music finds its origin in the states that were heavily populated by black people: southern Jalisco, Michoacan, Guerreo, Oaxaca, and along the Pacific Coast, Huasteco, Tabasco, Veracruz, and northern Puebla. Each state had contributed a son(sound) or style of its own. Some popular sones are La Morena, La Negra, and El Maracumbae. These styles are similiar to many Afro-Caribbean and African musical forms. Other musical forms attributed to Afro-Mexicans are dances like jarabs, chilena, gusto, and zapateo.

Modern Status

Afro-Mexicans are a marginalized group. They are least represented and the most oppressed of all of Mexico's ethnic groups. Afro Mexicans do not refer to themselves as Afro Mexicans rather "Negros." 
As of 2005, the Mexican government finally recognize Afro-Mexican as a national ethnic at 1.38 million.

Famous Afro Mexicans

Adrian Chavez
Edoardo Isella
Francis Angola-Yanga's second in command
Giovani Dos Sanots
Jorge Orta Nunez
Juan Pedro de La Rosa
Melvin Brown Casados
Johnny Laboriel
Kalimba Marichal Ibar
M'Balia Marichal
Tona la Negra
Veronkia con K
Shar Jackson
Stacy Lauretta Dash
Gaspar Yanga
Jose Maria Morelos
Vicente Guerrero

Works Cited

Minority Rights Group Publications (1995). No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today.ISBN-10: 1873194854, ISBN-13: 978-1873194850

Akeowo, Alexis. Black In Mexico: A forgotten Minority. Time, Septeber 15, 2009.  retrieved 21-May-2011

Akeowo, Alexis. Mexico's Hidden Blacks. The Intelligent Life. retrieved 07-Nov-2011

Contreras, Joe. Rise Of The Latin Africans. A new black-power movement in Central and South America. Newsweek, May 31,2008. retrieved 23-May-2008

Dixon, Kwame and Burdick, John(2012). Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America. University Press of Florida: Gainesville. ISBN 978-0-8130-3756-1

Landers, Jane G and Robinson, Barry M. Slaves, Subjects, and Subersives--Blacks in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006, print. ISBN: 9780826323972

Fraginals, Manuel Moreno(1984). Africa in Latin America. Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc : New York . ISBN 0-8419-0748-X

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