Mexico: Afro-Mexicans Recognized in Mexico’s National Census

For the first time ever, Mexican citizens may now officially identify themselves as “Afro-Mexican” on national censuses. An often forgotten part of Mexico’s identity, activists have fought for nearly two decades for this recognition, which is set to debut in the upcoming 2020 census.

A preliminary 2015 survey found that nearly 1.4 million people living in the country identify as black, representing 1.2 percent of the population. Most of Mexico’s self-identified Afro-Mexicans reside in the country’s three coastal states: Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Veracruz, where they make up almost 7 percent of the population. Additionally, the survey found that more women identify as black than men, and overall are often poorer and less educated when compared to Mexico’s national average.

While hailed as a step forward for people of African descent, the decision reflects the long-standing marginalization of blacks in Mexico as well as the deeply rooted colorism throughout Latin America. Too often the region’s black populations have been victims of racism while anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action policies to address racial issues are now getting traction in some countries.

The history of slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean resulted in a large number of residents of African descent, who now account for nearly 150 million people, and 30% of the region’s population, according to the United Nations.

Mexico had a smaller influx of African slaves when compared to other countries in Latin America. An estimated 200,000 Africans were brought to Mexico to work in silver mines and sugar plantations. Slavery in the country ended in 1829.

According to researchers, following Mexico’s independence, the Afro-Mexican population became largely invisible because it did not weave into Mexico’s new national identity, which centered on the idea of mestizaje, or the cultural blending of Spaniards and indigenous people.

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