Written by Yara Simón December 10, 2015
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Since the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s national identity has been defined by mestizaje – a term that recognizes mixed racial ancestry of the New World after colonization. But although Mexico’s African presence was considerable from the start of colonization, this “third root” is often excluded from classic views of mestizaje, which focus on indigenous and European ancestries.
For over 15 years, Afro-Mexicans have been been trying to remedy this by pushing for formal recognition in Mexico’s national constitution. Currently, Mexico and Chile are the only countries in Latin America that don’t legally recognize their Afro-descendants as distinct ethnic groups, which activists believe contributes to fight anti-Black racism.
And this year, a group of activists claimed a victory on the path to this recognition. Afro-Mexican advocacy organization Mexico Negro successfully fought for Afro-Mexicans to be included on the national census. According to Quartz, this year was the first time that people of African descent were able to accurately identify themselves on the census, revealing that 1.2 percent of Mexicans – 1.38 million people – are of African descent.
Guerrero is one of the states with the biggest number of Afro-Mexicans. There, they make up almost 7 percent of the population.
Though there’s still a lot of work to go, Afro-Mexicans are seeing some results, like an increase in the number of officials who are paying attention to what they are fighting for. There’s also a push from the United Nations. Governments have agreed to work to protect black Latin Americans as part of the international decade for people of African descent.