Globe, Latin America

Mulattoes and zambos…. not recognised in Mexico

There are 1.4 million Afro-Mexicans in this North American country, of which little is known about these populations and communities of African descent. Perhaps because of cultural invisibility, which causes socioeconomic exclusion and, therefore, inequality.


african mexico hombre cancio pixabayMayra Pardillo Gómez


Even compared to indigenous communities or populations there are clear differences, as these get some kind of recognition.

At least their cultural traditions and ways of life are known, where also poverty and the struggle to defend their land and natural resources are predominant.

According to data from the ethnologist Luz María Martínez – excerpts from the book Interculturalidad (Interculturality):  concept, scope and rights by Aleida Alaves – the majority of African descendants live on the Costa Chica de Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz, to a lesser extent in the states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Tabasco, Puebla, Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Coahuila, Queretaro and Mexico City.

Some of these Afro-Mexican communities, like those of the Costa Chica de Guerrero and Oaxaca, are more visible because of their skin colour and the texture of their hair, as well as through their food, festivals, music and traditional medicine.

Africano mujer 2 pixabayVeracruz has an obvious culture of this type from the historical presence of people of African origin during the Colonial era and through its proximity and cultural relationship with the Caribbean since the 19th century.

It was the point of entry for thousands of slaves dragged from their native Africa and who occupied a lower social position than the indigenous people.

Clemente Jesús López, director of Participation of Indigenous People and Afro-Mexicans, in the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs in the southern state of Oaxaca, was happy to oblige by exclusively answering several questions from Prensa Latina.

Where are the people of African descent living in Mexico?

According to the results of the intercensal survey in 2015, where for the first time there was a question about African descent, there is an Afro-Mexican presence throughout the country, representing 1.2% of the total population. They are 1.4 million people, of which 705,000 are women.

Which are the states with a majority?

The states of the Republic with a greater presence are Guerrero, with 6.5%; Oaxaca, with 4.9%; Veracruz, with 3.3%; Mexico State, with 1.9% and Mexico City, with 1.8%.

Africano flore pixabayWhat legal situation do these groups have? Do they hold positions at a local or regional level?

There is no constitutional recognition at a federal level; currently there are at least two legal initiatives to recognise their rights in the Senate of the Republic and one more in the Chamber of Deputies.

They are only recognised constitutionally in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. In both, it is only nominative, that means their collective rights as a people are not recognised, including: self-determination; autonomy; previous, free and informed consent or consultation; self-assignment to land and usufruct of their lands, and political representation based on their own institutions and internal regulatory systems.

How is discrimination against these Afro-Mexicans perceived?

Due to the idea of cultural blending and glorification of the indigenous past in constructing the nation, many Mexicans have the idea that there are no black people in our country, which means they are often denied citizenship. Authorities, above all those dealing with migration, apply racial profiling to the extent that there are cases where Mexicans have been deported to Central America for not remembering the national anthem.

Africano hombre negro pixabayMost of the communities with 10% or more of the population being Afro-Mexican in the country are of high and very high marginalisation, with development comparable to that of indigenous people and communities.

However, there are no public policies whereby this population can participate in the design, execution and evaluation of the same. Therefore, there are no representative institutions or specific budgets especially targeted to this area, so we can speak of institutional discrimination.

Do they maintain their ancestral cultures?

In the region of Costa Chica, which is shared by the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, traditions and customs are preserved, reflected in their way of life, gastronomy, rituals, music, dances and social relations.

In some regions of Veracruz, they equally observe cultural aspects inherited from African cultures; meanwhile, the Black Seminoles Tribe is established in Coahuila, who migrated from the United States to Mexico and they continue their ancestral practices and traditions and even have their own language.

Do some African and Haitian migrants join these groups or communities today?

No, they follow the route north to the United States, and only artists, intellectuals and academics sporadically interact with Mexico’s black population.

mexico flag bandera pixabayMixed race land

Until very recently, official demographic figures for this population were lacking. The data provided here affirms that the first Afro-Mexicans arriving to the country as slave workers for Spanish colonists came from Gambia, Senegal, Congo, Angola and Mozambique.

For some scholars, there is a so-called third Mexican cultural root and it is the one that arrived from Africa, but that has been forgotten.

Just watch television to see the predominance of people with white skin, light hair and eyes in soap operas and news channels, and even in management positions at different levels. It could seem that the 1.4 million Afro-Mexicans compared to a total figure of around 120 million inhabitants is not much, but they are there, and they represent the other side of Mexico.

Fotos: Pixabay  –   (Translated by Donna Davison – Email:

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