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Afro-Mexicans count in Mexico’s national census

Descendants of Africans living in Mexico were finally able to self-identify as Black in the 2015 national census; 1.38 million Afro-Mexicans counted

For the first time ever, people of African descent living in Mexico were able to identify themselves as Black in the national census.

Afro-Mexicans will no longer be discounted as a non-entity in the official population

 

MEXICO CITY (MNS) — For the first time ever, people of African descent living in Mexico were able to identify themselves as Black in the national census, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, Mexico’s 2015 population survey released Dec. 8 counted 1.38 million people of African heritage, representing 1.2 percent of the country’s population. Most live in three coastal states, including Guerrero, where they account for nearly 7 percent of the population, and overall they are poorer and less educated than the national average, Mexico’s census bureau (INEGI by its acronym in Spanish) has found.

The newswire also reported that the Mexican government’s inclusion of an “Afro” category in the census is part of a push to recognize Latin America’s Black communities. Like the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean have a history of slavery that resulted in about 150 million residents of African descent — accounting for about 30 percent of the region’s population, according to the United Nations.

Similar to their American counterparts, Latin America’s Black population also has been the target of racism, something that some countries are starting to address with anti-discrimination laws and affirmative-action policies, Reuters reported, adding that several Latin American governments have also committed to making more improvements to protect Black Latin Americans as part of the UN’s international decade for people of African descent, which started this year.

The Reuters story also reported there is still a long way to go for Black Latin Americans to achieve equal status. Earlier this month, according to Reuters, United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, speaking at a meeting in Brasilia, said he was “struck by the enormity of the task before us.”

Compared to other countries in Latin America, Mexico had a smaller influx of African slaves, reported Reuters, which also noted that many thousands were forcibly brought to New Spain, as the country was known when it was a Spanish colony, to work in silver mines and sugar plantations.

The Reuters story noted that following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the African population became largely invisible because it didn’t fit into the Mexico’s new national identity, “built on the idea of mestizaje, or the mixing between Spaniards and indigenous people,” said Citlali Quecha, a researcher at National Autonomous University of Mexico who is knowledgeable of Mexico’s Black community.

“All those who were different were considered foreigners,” she said, Reuters reported.

After fighting for recognition for more than two decades, Afro-Mexican activists are finally getting some traction. Being included in the census as a distinct category is a big step, the Reuters story said, which also noted that Mexico’s Human Rights Commission has vowed to fight discrimination, and organized a forum earlier this year to discuss policies to achieve that.

Reuters reported last month, a gathering of Afro-Mexican communities — once a relatively small affair — was attended by several high-ranking government officials, including the head of the senate’s commission on indigenous rights, who accepted a proposal to have Black Mexicans formally recognized in the constitution.

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