Afro-Mexicans on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica, Museum of Afro-Mestizo Culture

Mexico is a true melting pot. Her people are a fusion of ethnicities, races, and cultures originating from Asia, Europe, and Africa mingling with America’s First Peoples. The Spanish brought slaves from the Philippines and China, while Portuguese traders imported forced labor from Africa to work Mexico’s sugar cane fields and cattle ranches when indigenous people couldn’t survive disease.

Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, Afro-Mexican roots and abolitionist

A very important, and heretofore unacknowledged part of Mexican history, is the slave experience in Mexico and the development of communities on the Oaxaca-Guerrero coast formed by people who escaped from the Veracruz cane fields. The Museo de las Culturas Afromestizas — the Afro-Mestizo Museum — in Cuajiniculapa, Guerrero, just across the Oaxaca border, gives voice to those who helped shape Mexican identity and honors their historic role.

Read here to learn more about Afro-Mexicans.

Spanish-speaking museum guide explains mural significance
Africans built thatch-roofed houses, a reminder of home

Our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour group stops here on our five-hour return trip to Puerto Escondido from Ometepec. Knowing all of Oaxaca and her roots is important to us. We learn about and understand the contributions of Afro-Mexicans to Mexico’s music, dance, dress, and cuisine.

Read New Yorker magazine essay about Afro-Mexican life on the Costa Chica.

Slaves escaped to Oaxaca-Guerrero coast from Veracruz, introduced Devil Dance

Please send me an email if you are interested in traveling here in 2020. I will only offer this study tour if there are 6 people making a $500 reservation deposit to guarantee we will hold the trip. Likely dates are January 10-20, 2020.

Close up of Oaxaca’s famous Danza de Los Diablos Devil Dance, a Guelaguetza favorite

Meaning of the Danza de los Diablos.

Portuguese slave ship, tragedy of human bondage

Read Culture Trip article about Afro-Mexican origins and pride.

We also see through the dioramas and explanation from our museum guide that institutionalized slavery has left its mark on Mexico just as it has in the United States. The colonizers, be they British or Spanish, used forced human labor to advance their economic and social agendas. Hundreds of years later, isolation, poverty, lack of education and health care, has left its mark, making this region among the most impoverished in Mexico.

Enslaved blacks in American South sought freedom in Mexico, perhaps a reason for the Mexican-American War?

The marimba, an African import along with slavery

There is a movement to give Afro-Mexicans the federal recognition and support they deserve that will help improve quality of life and economic opportunity.

I stepped up onto the hollow wood box to learn the dance of the region. I’m writing from Morelia, Michoacan, left my Costa Chica notebook at home, and will add the name of our thoughtful guide later.

African slaves employed in Mexico’s sugar cane field, silver mines, cattle ranches
In storage, the Son Jorocho musical style with stringed instrument brought from Africa

A must-read is Afro-Mexicans Exist, So We Must Stop Referring to Mexico as a Mestizo Nation by Shanna Collins. This offers important insight into how embedded African roots are in Mexican life and culture. Her argument is that the term Mestizo completely ignores how the role of slaves influenced modern Mexico.

Contemporary graphic art interprets African experience in Mexico

The small museum, just off coastal route MEX 200, is a testimony to the history of enslavement and courage. It opens our eyes and hearts, gives us perspective and enriches our travel experience.

Devil Dance woodcut by artist
Museum mural gives life to Afro-Mexican experience

4 responses to “Afro-Mexicans on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica, Museum of Afro-Mestizo Culture

  1. This museum is in such an out-of-the-way location that it is missed by many visitors. Thank you for this post, and also to the links to the supporting articles, which make for fascinating reading! Who knew? Now your readers know – thank you!

  2. Very interesting! Your photos make it even more so. I had no idea.
    Love seeing you on the dance floor! Once again you inspire me!Chris

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