Black Mexico: ‘Third Root’ winds from West Africa to California
More evidence of the Third Root - Mexico’s ancient melding with Africans - is extracted from Mexico’s buried history and reveals ties to the founding of Los Angeles.
The Great Wall of California mural 1781 founding of Los Angeles primarily by people of mixed Spanish, African, and Native American descent. Photo: sparcinla.org
Indigenous natives, mulattos, mestizos, zambos, others of mixed blood were actually the majority population in Mexico’s northwest region
This multiple-part series will unravel the little-known history of how Mexico’s 15th-century assimilation of Spaniards, indigenous Indians, and African slaves eventually led to the founding of Los Angeles by Black-Mexicans and Mestizos in the 18th century when California was still under the rule of Mexico. Even though the Black imprint in Mexico is unraveling more and more as time moves on, the reality of the truth is still largely mired in a Shadow History because the masses do not frequent libraries and this truth has never been taught as a history lesson in Mexico, much less as historic text in the U.S. To now, this invaluable historic truth has largely been available as scholarly works. The Compton Herald sought out this history, scaled down its volume from multiple scholarly sources, and now present it in nine parts for public consumption — Editor
Part IV — “Black Mexico: Unearthing the ‘Third Root.’”
FEW PEOPLE KNOW THAT JUAN GARRIDO, a Black man, was the first farmer to plant wheat in Mexico or that Estevanico, a Black Moor, traveled with the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca from Florida across the present American Southwest, between 1528 and 1536.
Mulatto President Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña was a hero in Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain. The state of Guerrero was named in his honor. In addition, one of the most respected and honored generals in Mexico’s War of Independence, Jose Mar’a Teclo Morelos y Pavan, was a mulatto, as well. Guerrero’s grandson, Vicente Riva Palacio y Guerrero, was one of Mexico’s most influential politicians and novelists.
As more evidence of the Third Root is extracted from Mexico’s buried history, it is becoming more apparent all the time that Mexico’s ancient melding with Africans offers volumes of historical fact that, as a “social equalizer” must one day re-cast the truth of Mexico’s official history from the shadow of obscurity.
Black-Mexicans have also contributed greatly to Mexico’s rich heritage of dance, music, and song. The famous “carnival of blackness” celebrated in Coyolillo in Veracruz has African origins. Mexico’s food, language, and spiritual practices have been influenced by the descendants of African slaves. Black immigrants to the country must be recognized and included in this equation.
To add to this, many more African slaves fled from America to Mexico seeking asylum and refuge during the years of the brutal practice in America before it was outlawed in 1863 with President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Geography of Black Mexico
In 2015, it is estimated that more than a half-million Black-Mexicans are concentrated in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. Black-Mexican communities can also be found in the states of Michoacan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and the Yucatan.
Many Black-Mexicans reside on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, in a region known as La Costa Chica. This stretch of coastline is a part of the Southwestern state of Guerrero and starts south of Acapulco and extends for approximately 200 miles. Fishing and agriculture are the mainstays of the economy in La Costa Chica.
Africans had begun to enter the northwestern region of Colonial Mexico by the mid-1600s. Their descendants were racially mixed by the time the colonization of Alta California had begun in the second half of the 18th century.
What is more compelling, is that Indigenous natives, mulattos, mestizos, zambos, and other persons of mixed blood were actually the majority population in Mexico’s northwest region. This evidence proves that Mexico’s early origins as a sovereign nation were nothing close to being homogeneous — but, rather a blend of cultures.
From the northwest region came the original settlers of Alta California who traveled north with Capt. Juan Bautista de Anza, between 1774 and 1776. Alta Loma marked the northern frontier of the Spanish empire in the New World. These settlers who accompanied Bautista de Anza were among the original settlers of Los Angeles.
Black Mexico and Los Angeles
Unbeknownst to many, the African-American imprint in the history of Los Angeles is indelible. African-Americans have made significant contributions to Los Angeles in all areas — from the arts and culture to science, education, architecture, and politics.
Contrary to popular belief, the African-American presence in the city did not originate from the waves of new settlers who came to Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — their presence and contributions to the City of the Angels stem from its founding in 1781, and the collision between U.S. and Mexican social histories.
A review of the castas (race) of the 22 adult pobladores (settlers), according to the 1781 census, reveals the historical record. The breakdown by ethnicity also reveals how race-conscious the ruling class Spaniards had been in colonial Mexico, thoroughly embedding this in the colonial mindset ensuring there would be no blurred lines along race, clearly establishing “class” privilege and secondary citizenship status. The class breakdown is the following:
Peninsular (Spaniard born in Spain); Criollo (Spaniard born in Colonial Mexico); Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian); Negros (Blacks of full African ancestry); Mulattos (mixed Spanish and Black); Zambos (mixed Indian and Black).
The pobladores of Los Angeles came from the present northwest Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, were of mixed Indian, African and European descent. This mixed racial composition was not only typical of the majority of settlers of Alta California, it reflected the majority population of Sonora and Sinaloa, as well as the entire northwestern region of colonial Mexico.
Under the new governor of California, Felipe de Neve, El Pueblo de La Reina de Los Angeles was founded on Sept. 4, 1781.
Black Mexicans in Los Angeles’ early history
Francisco Reyes, for example, served as the first alcalde (mayor) from 1792 to 1795 and was the original owner of the present-day San Fernando Valley. María Rita Valdez, a descendant of poblador Luis Quintero, was granted the Rancho Rodeo de Aguas in 1841. She later sold the property to developers and today it comprises the City of Beverly Hills.
Pío Pico (1801-1894) is perhaps the most celebrated Black-Mexican in California history. He was the last governor of California under Mexican rule, an owner of huge rancho properties and prominent resident of Los Angeles. His parents and grandparents came with the Anza party from Sinaloa, Mexico in 1776, where two-thirds of the residents were mulattos.
Pio’s younger brother, Andrés Pico was a wealthy landowner and military commander during the Mexican era. Under U.S. rule, he became a member of the State Constitutional Committee, general of the State Militia and California state senator.
The grandchildren of Pío Pico, who also built the Pico House, were Luis Quintero, María Rita Valdes, and Eugene Biscailuz, who served as sheriff of Los Angeles County, in whose name the L.A. County Sheriff’s Academy Training Facility is named.
El Pueblo Founders Plaque
Throughout the 19th century, the “rancho dons” and their families would intermarry with each other and with immigrant White-American merchants from New England, who arrived to trade in hides, creating strong family alliances. Many other Black-Mexicans during the Mexican and early American periods continued to make important contributions to the Pueblo of Los Angeles.
Today, the “founders’ plaque” at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument serves as a tribute to the African-American origins of Los Angeles and an enduring hope for the future.
The majority of the original founding pobladores of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles (Los Angeles), approximately 300 years after African slaves arrived in colonial Mexico, were of African Ancestry. The founding families of from the original group, Nov. 19, 1781, Padrón of the Pueblo, included at least 32 settlers, including children, who were Black-Mexicans.
The following are the original 11 families of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles who made the hot dusty trek of more than 1,000 miles across the desert in Northern Mexico to Alta, California to stake their claim, plant roots and go about the task of nurturing what would eventually become America’s “Golden State,” and the richest in the Union.
Of the 44 original founding pobladores of Los Angeles, 20 were mullato, linked to the Third Root; 11 were indigenous, 6 were indigenous/mullato, 5 were mestizo, and 2 were Spaniard or white.
The following are the original 11 families of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles:
- Manuel Camero, 30, a mulatto from Nayarit, married Maria Tomasa Garcia, 24, a mulatta.
- Antonio Mesa, 38, a mulatto from Sinaloa, married Maria Ana Gertrudis Lopez, 27, a mulatta. Two children accompanied them to Alta California; Marla Paula, 10; and Antonio Maria, 8.
- Luis Manuel Quintero, 55, a mulatto from Jalisco, married Maria Petra Rubio, 40, a mulatta. They arrived with five children; María Gertrudis, 16; María Concepcíon, 9; María Tomasa, 7; María Rafaela, 6; and José Clemente, 3.
- José Cesario Moreno, a mulatto from Sinaloa, married María Guadalupe Gertrudis Pérez, 19, a mulatta.
- José Antonio Basilio Rosas, 67, an indigenous Indian from Durango, married María Manuela Calixtra Hernández, 43, a mulatta. Six children arrived with them; José Máximo, 15; José Carlos, 12; María Josefa, 8; Antonio Rosalino, 7; José Marcelino, 4; and José Esteban, 2.
- José Antonio Navarro, 42, a mestizo from Sinaloa, married María Regina Dorotea Glorea de Soto, 47, a mulatta. Three children arrived with them; José Eduardo, 10; José Clemente, 9; and Mariana, 4.
- Pablo Rodríguez, 25, an indigenous Indian from Sinaloa, married María Rosalia Noriega, 26, an indigenous Indian. They were accompanied by a 1-year-old child, María Antonia.
- José Alejandro Rojas (son of José Antonio Basilio Rosas), 19, an indigenous Indian from Sinaloa, married Juana María Rodríguez, 20, an indigenous Indian.
- Jose María Vanegas, 28, an indigenous Indian from Jalisco, married María Bonifacia Máxima Aguilar, 20, an indigenous Indian. A 1-year-old baby boy, Cosme Damien. arrived with them.
- José Fernando de Velasco y Lara, 50, a Spaniard from Cadiz, married María Antonia Campos, 23, an indigenous Indian. Three children arrived with them; María Juan, 6; José Julian, 4; and María Faustina, 2.
- Antonio Clemente Félix Villavicencio, 30, a Spaniard from Chihuahua, married María de Los Santos Flores Serafina, 26, an indigenous Indian. One child arrived with them; María Antonia, 8.