Posted on May 13, 2005

Afro-Mexicans Face Discrimination

José Carreño, El Universal (Mexico City), May 12

WASHINGTON–During a discussion held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, university researchers said Wednesday that Afro-Mexicans are often ignored by the government and experience social discrimination.

The black population in Mexico is “virtually invisible in the national conscience,” said Bobby Vaughn of Notre Dame de Namur University. Vaughn has researched the black population on the coast of Guerrero and Oaxaca for several years.

“We live in a racially defined society,” says Sagrario Cruz-Carretero, an anthropologist at the University of Veracruz. CruzCarretero, who identifies with the black population, said he has encountered the “stigma” of being black in Mexico.

“Whiteness is a symbol of the upper-class,” says Cruz-Carretero.

Cruz-Carretero and Vaughn reported that the government has done little to aid the poverty and marginalization of both indigenous people and Afro-Mexicans.

Cruz-Carretero found that common last names like Prieto and Pardo can indicate African ancestry. However, people with these last names often deny they have any African roots.

Vaughn said that many Mexicans seem to ignore that people of African origin even exist in their country, and frequently treat them as “undocumented Central Americans” putting them down and subjecting them to “humiliations.”

In particular, the report indicated that when Afro-Mexicans travel in other parts of the country, they are often stopped by the police and asked for identification. In one case, police demanded that a man sing the national anthem to prove his Mexican citizenship.

According to government statistics less than 2 percent of the nation has African ancestry, but Cruz-Carretero says the data is not precise.