US Professor Traces Mexico's African Roots
Belize has close ties with Mexico - but what you might not know is that Belizeans of African descent may have ties with Afro-Mexicans.
But, if your only exposure to Mexico is the Quintana Roo District you might not even know that there are Mexicans of African descent - plenty of them in Pacific coastal areas such as Costa Chica.
Now, as a part of black history month, a US professor who lives in Belize is trying to school Belizeans to the commonality of our ancestry.
He's holding a show at the Institute of Mexico in Belize City and told us about the show and its lessons:..
Professor Ron Wilkins, Curator, African Presence in Mexico
"My thrust, because it is black history month, is to make the Belizean community more aware of the African presence in Mexico. African people have a very long history in Mexico, have made enormous contributions there, and are continuing to struggle to this day."
"By putting these images up, it gives people in this community and this country an opportunity to see Afro- Mexicans, and hopefully even feel a sense of connection to those Africans, here in Belize. And so it is interesting today that many people refer to people of Mexico as Hispanics. And I often say that in the first place, the people in Mexico are not 'His' wherever he happens to be, and secondly, since there were never more Spaniards in Mexico than there were African people if anything, would call a Mexican a 'His-African' since there is that third root 'la tercera raiz', what's known as the African component."
"How did persons of African extraction end up in Mexico?"
Professor Ron Wilkins
"There was slavery over a 3 century period from 1521 to roughly about 1821. The estimates are that 200,000 to 500,000 Africans were brought in in chains, but there is no accurate count in terms of how many. Let me also add that black Mexicans played an enormous role in Mexico's struggle for independence. Even though this is not my photograph, this is a rare painting of one of Mexico's leaders. This is José Morelos who was a general during the struggle for independence, and after father Idalgo who originally called on Mexico's population to rise up and overthrow Spanish rule was captured and killed, it was José Morelos who led the main army for the next 5 years. The army was referred to as 'Ejercito Moreno' of the dark army because most of the soldiers were African or 'mulatto,' as we are referred to."
"This is a rare painting of Vicente Ramón Guerrero, who became Mexico's second president. He is the one known as the consummator of independence, the one who dealt the final blow. And it is he that finally negotiated the independence of the country. He had the last army in the field one year before independence in 1821. He was assassinated, by the way, on February 14th, of 1831."
"And hopefully when people come and see these images of people how resemble people in their own families here in Belize they will be motivated to developed more friendship across the border with Mexico with our people."
The opening ceremony will be held on Monday, and the exhibit will remain open until March 2nd, Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 5 pm.