Afro-Mexicans Seek Recognition in Census and Constitution

Until now, Mexico had been one of only two Latin American nations (Chile being the other) to not officially recognize its black population in its national constitution. Recognition of mixed ancestry had for some time been limited to Mexico's own notions of Latin American racial democracy – called mestizaje - fostered by government officials, intellectuals, and artists following the 1910 Revolution, and focused on contributions from American indigenous and European peoples. 

The erasure of Afro-Mexicans from governing documents and the wider national imagination has been cited as a continual source of structural disenfranchisement for descendants of enslaved Africans brought to Mexico between the 16th and 18th centuries, as well as structural, economic and political neglect in states such as Veracruz, Guerrero, and Oaxaca.

Members of México Negro – an Afro-Mexican advocacy organization – launched a national movement and legislative bill that has now resulted in the creation of an official national census category for Mexico’s Afro-descendants. Results of a preliminary survey, conducted in 2015, have been released and estimate those identifying at Afro-descendants to be 1.38 million (approx. 1.2% of Mexico’s population). Miguel Cervera, director general of sociodemographic statistics for the country’s census bureau (known as INEGI), describes the 2015 survey as preparation for the next national census in 2020. The hope by activists is that such recognition will lead to important access to social and economic resources.

For more information, please see a range of articles at Remezcla, Colorlines, Fusion, and NPR.

See also the photo-essays by Maria Sanchez Renero (featured at CNN) and Cécile Smetana Baudier (featured at fotoroom).

Portrait of Afro-Mexican Women / Mara Sanchez Renero via CNN

Portrait of Afro-Mexican Women / Mara Sanchez Renero via CNN