Despite Victories, the Fight for Afro-Mexican Recognition Has a Way to Go

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As occurs in many parts of Latin America, Mexicans of African descent have been ignored for decades. The common citizen does not acknowledge them as an ethnic group with unique characteristics, and until recently there was no place to identify as an African descendant on the census.

In 2015, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) finally recognized their existence, defining them as a community with an ethnic identity of their own. Nevertheless, Afro-Mexicans continue to be left out of the legal framework of the country, and are not recognized by the Constitution of the United States of Mexico. In its second article, the constitution refers to the free will and autonomy of indigenous people, but the text makes no mention of people of African descent.

According to INEGI, Afro-Mexicans are located mainly in the states Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. The institute’s “Socio-Demographic Profile of the Population fo African Descent in Mexico” reports 1,381,853 African descendants in Mexico, or, one out of every 100 Mexican citizens. Guerrero reports 6.5% of its population as being Afro-Mexicans, Oaxaca follows with 4.9%, and Veracruz has 3.3%.

Afro-Mexicans face many of the same prejudices and stereotypes that populations of African descent suffer throughout all of Latin America. They are not represented on a political level, and they are marginalized, with limited access to services such as education. Their history is not documented and therefore is absent from the school curriculum. In general, Afro-Mexicans experience discriminatory treatment daily, which can include jokes, humiliation, and even doubts about their citizenship.

Likewise, Afro-Mexicans are poorly represented in traditional media, which studies have highlighted as an influential factor in the discrimination they encounter.

Nevertheless, Afro-Mexicans are far from ignoring their roots, and there are groups devoted to celebrating Afro-Mexican identity and bringing recognition to ancestral traditions. For example, a brief report by AJ+ published in December 2016 shows a group of women in Oaxaca who recreate dances from northeast Africa with the help of YouTube

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