Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Nineteenth-Century Foundational [African] Mexican Novel vs. The Negrista Novel

This work analyzes two nineteenth-century nation-building Mexican novels, one written from an insider [African] Mexican perspective and one with an outsider Criollo or Negrista point of view. The Mexican insider novel is: Calvario y Tabor: novela histórica y de costumbres, 1868 (Calvary and Tabor: historical and customs novel). This novel, herein after identified as Calvario, was written by General Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896), grandson of General Vicente “el negro” Guerrero (1782-1831), Mexico’s First Black Indian President. The Negrista novel studied is Sacerdote y caudillo (memorias de la insurreccio ́n): novela histo ́rica, 1869 [Priest and Warrior (memories of the Insurrection); Historical Novel] written by Juan Antonio Mateos (1831-1913). It will be identified as Sacerdote y caudillo throughout the rest of this work.
That [African] Mexicans played roles as writers and narrative characters in the Mexican foundational discourse on nation is generally unknown. This is a direct consequence of the all-out campaign to obliterate the African lineage of Mexico throughout the national period started in 1821, and particularly during “the Cultural Phase of the Mexican Revolution 1921-1968” (Hernández, African). From 1821 until the 1940s, the African Diaspora of Mexico and Mexico’s African lineage were systematically omitted by and through the discourse on nation. In the forties and fifties, as it became fashionable with Mundonovismo, ³ (and to keep up with the neighbors), there was a burst of recognition of Mexico’s African lineage.
As a corollary of the Primer Congreso Demográfico Interamericano (First Inter-American Demographic Congress) that occurred in the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Afroamericanos (International Institute of Afro-American Studies) was founded October 20, 1943. Fernando Ortiz (Cuba), Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán (Mexico), Renato de Mendoça (Brazil), Daniel F. Rubin de la Borbolla (Mexico), Melville J. Herskovits (USA), Jorge A. Vivó (Mexico), Auguste Remy Bastien (Haiti), Alfonso Caso (Mexico), Miguel Covarrubias (Mexico), Alain Locke (USA), Arthur Ramos (Brazil), and Julio Le Riverend (Cuba) were leaders.
The Institute published Afro-America: Journal of the International Institute of Afro-American Studies Volume I (Numbers 1 and 2) in January and July, 1945; and Volume II (Number 3) in January 1946. This short-lived movement in Mexico was most notable in cinematography. Markedly, the dominant perspective was an outsider perspective. The distinction between Negrista and Negritud; outsider vs. insider perspectives would develop later.
At the onset, anthropology was the leading discipline and lens with which the [re] discovered African presence and persistence was approached. In part, this is the reason why the African and [African] Mexican characters in the above-cited novels’ remained buried in the Mexican national unconscious even after the 1945 outburst. In 1976
Richard L. Jackson, in his now classic The Black Image in Latin American Literature, called attention to theuntil then invisible African and African American presence in Latin American narrative inclusive of Mexico. Jackson began to question the discursive “complexity of complexion” and the discursive lynching effects of the so-called racial miscegenation or whitening mestizaje ideological construct with which an invented African and Afrodescendant disappearance in Latin America and in Mexico had been justified.
A multidisciplinary approach, inclusive of language and cultural lenses is required to perceive the various connotative values of substantives and adjectives in different places and times, and the ongoing negative African and Afrodescendant images (and positive European and Eurodescendant) forged by and through those very names. Most Mexican historians, anthropologists and ethnologists embraced as good science the officially promoted mestizaje or racial miscegenation ideology. Historians, anthropologists and ethnologists largely have remained oblivious of the differences between the Criollo-based codification of Africans and African Americans and the insider [African] Mexican discourse in novels such as Calvario that does the opposite.
Most historians, anthropologists, ethnologists and linguists oblivious of [African] Mexican culture have missed or misread pejorative substantives, such as “Chino” and “Chinaco,” which are synonyms of [African] Mexican, just as Jarocho, Boshito, and Chilango, among others. To differentiate insider and outsider discourses, Jackson relied on the reading of mestizaje by Latin American literati who proudly recognized their African lineage contrary to “passing” as whitened “mestizos.” That is where terms such as Afro-Columbian, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, etc. have emerged.
Since then, the present author has introduced the theory of the Africanization of Mexico from the Sixteenth Century Onward to replace the mestizaje ideological construct. To date, most Mexican and international studies of the Mexican African Diaspora are unable to perceive the manifest differences of viewpoints between the insider [African] Mexican and Criollo-based Negrista discourses. For instance, a Negrista review of Black Mexico, a 2009 history book maintains,
I must note that the cover [image] is extraordinary. It is a document from the National Mexican Archives, with shows the genealogy, apparently of a New Spanish person, where different groups are observed. This shows mestizaje not as an “ideological construction” but as ta quotidian happening in colonial Mexico. (Velázquez 4)
By removing the word “mestizaje” (racial miscegenation) and inserting “Africanization in its place, an insider reading of the [African] Mexican experience is produced:
I must note that the cover [image] is extraordinary. It is a document from the National Mexican Archives, which shows the genealogy, apparently of a New Spanish person, where different groups are observed. This shows [Africanization] not as an “ideological construction” but as a quotidian happening in colonial Mexico.
This paradigm substitution is required to distinguish the insider versus the outsider perspectives. It is unscientific and anachronistic to continue to duel on racial mixing hypothesis where biology has shown that all humans belong to the one race. Where there is only one race there cannot be “race-mixing.” Under this light, all arguments based on the ideological construct of “mixing,” which presupposes the existence of “pure races” (i.e. Black, White, Yellow, Red), to say the least, are monolithic.

As explained in another work, with the deployment Andrés Molina Enriquez’ mestizofilia (racial miscegenation) ideology late in the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth century, the tracks of the early nineteenth-century Spanish genocide of African and [African] Mexicans in New Spain were deleted from the Mexican national psyche and replaced with the “Mestizo” myth. The process started with the manipulation of the colonial African and [African] Mexican population numbers and the deployment of the idea of a so-called “integration,” or whitening, of African and [African] Mexicans via a process of “racial” miscegenation or “mestizaje.” Notably, throughout the colonial epoch Africans and African offspring ahead been meticulously labeled and divided into various casta categories of “Colored” people.
Lumping all colonial groups of “Mexicans” or “Coloreds” into one “Mestizo” category was a master blow against Mexican cultural history and land rights. With the simple renaming of the Mexican castas in the discourse on nation as “Mestizos,” the Africanness of Mexico was whitened. Thus, the formerly “African Colored” or Mexicans proper who built the nation and nationality were deleted from the mind and thereby disenfranchised historically and de facto. Until the birth of the nation in 1821, the term “Mexican” was a referent to all non-European Coloreds, particularly the African “mixes.” “Mexican” was the ultimate insult towards anyone who saw himself or herself as European or of “pure” European descent.
The present multidisciplinary study, the [African] Mexican characters unearthed in both novels and extrapolated under the light of Jackson and analyzed comparatively with the “white” characters. The African and [African] Mexican and white characters in Riva Palacio’s and Mateo’s novels are compared with one another, The goal is to show that Riva Palacio’s characters are diametrically distinct to Mateo’s. It is the position here that Riva Palacio’s [African] Mexican human images are developed with an insider lens while Mateos’ African and [African] Mexican characters are stereotypical, hollow and inhuman. Riva Palacio’s novel therefore is considered a foundational [African] Mexican novel while Mateos’ is red as a Negrista novel written with an Eurocentric outsider perspective.
To achieve the above-stated, this research paper is divided into two parts. Each part provides the plot of the novel, introduces the pertinent characters, and offers a critical analysis under Jackson’s light. In an earlier work, Calvario was studied along with three other nation-building novels and Vicente Riva Palacio was introduced as “The father of Mexican national literature.” Mexican literature is understood as the literature produced by [African] Mexican people who built the Mexican nation and nationality. The present study builds upon that work. The history of the African blood, sweat and tears that produced the noun “Mexico” and the adjective “Mexican” for the nationality is reconstructed in the unpublished essay “ The Spanish Lynching of Mexican Maroon Pedro el Negro and the Genocide of Africans and African Offspring in the 19th-Century New Spain” by this author.
The 1868 edition of Calvario has 589 pages parted into seven books; the first, “La flor de la costa” (The Flower of the Coast) is divided into ten chapters or stories; the second, “El nido de las águilas” (The Eagles Nest) eight; the third, “El lobo y el pastor” (The Wolf and the Shepherd) fourteen; the fourth, “Penas” (Sufferings) ten; the fifth, “En Mexico” (In Mexico) fifteen; the sixth, “Fuego, sangra y exterminio” (Fire, Blood, and Extermination) ten; and the seventh, “Las tres huérfanas” (The Three Orphan Women) thirty-six and an epilog. The edition cited in this analysis is a 2000 Porrúa edition. All characteristics are the same except that is has 343 pages.
Calvario is a historical novel that recounts the Mexican Maroon or Chinaco deeds during the French invasion of Mexico in 1861-1866. It is a document of the popular resistance against Napoleon the III’s North African invading forces and the Criollo royalists who “invited” them to assist in re-capturing Mexico from the Mexicans. The plot unfolds in current Guerrero and Michoacán states and in Mexico City. The central characters of the romance are: Margarita, a hard-working young [African] Mexican woman and her daughter, Alejandra, “the flower of the coast.” Alejandra is a thin gracious [African] Mexican with “a bearing typical only of women from the coast” (4). Her big black shiny eyes are veiled with long curly eyelashes. She is such a beautiful young maiden that despite her simple dress of the coastal poor classes she looks like a princess.
The novel centers on the life and deeds of an Acapulco, Guerrero family who is separated for fourteen years as the result of a prank that Don Plácido, an old Insurgent soldier plays on Juan Jarras, the honest [African] Mexican father of Alejandra and Margarita’s husband. The hoax and its consequences are woven with the stories of the experiences each family member undergoes while searching for one another The French invasion of Mexico forms the background of the story, although it comes to the forefront when the omniscient narrator breaks the frame of the narrative to recount some of the most prominent Chinaco-French battles for the nation that occurred in Michoacán.
Calvario honors the Chinaco sacrifices and high blood-prices they had to pay: The French Court Martials “in the little more than three years they lasted in Mexico, put to death at least three times the number of individuals the Inquisition killed in three centuries: (148). Calvario defends the rights of Chinacos to the land they have worked for, and recognizes that Chinacos forged that part of the New World with their own hands and therefore own the Mexican nationality ( 98, 102-103, 105, 109, 113, 127-128, etc.).
In Calvario, Mexicans live in harmony with nature. They eat pork Carnitas, rinds and sausage (186), meat, tortillas, boiled eggs and drink mezcal (199). Mexicans sing in response to nature’s call (4,134), “Chinacos sing as mockingbirds, on the road, in the camp, everywhere, and beware if they take charge of a song, it will be heard day and night everywhere (177). They are dancers as well and dance to celebrate life.
The poor people of Calvario are not bandits; they are the people whose lives constructed the nation (98). While painting dramatic images of the adversities the Chinacos had to endure to obtain their freedom and independence and to be able to construct the nation, the narrator cries out, “What a revelation for those who called these poor people ‘heartless bandits’!” (105)
Margarita is developed as a flesh-and-blood woman with feelings. She is a true patriot and daring. She risks her life serving as a spy (115,121), crosses the Spanish lines, and smuggles weapons for the republican Chinacos (186) knowing fully well the possible price to pay for her actions. Same occurs with a character known as the Negro Carmen employed in Margarita’s ranch who is a great hunter who knows the land and is a fearless patriot. Notably, besides Margarita and her daughters Alejandra, all Uruapan women, including a blond woman are beautiful (211).
In Calvario, the African heritage of the Mexican is viewed with eyes, which among other positive characteristics distinguish her/his beauty, strength, wholesomeness, loyalty, and daringness. Calvario is narrated from within. Antonio Olliz-Boyd in another context that applies here has characterized this type of production by saying “The ethnic ambience is developed by somebody that does not consider it necessary to offend Afros or present them as exotic, primitive [and we add, without history];” [African] Mexicans in Calvario, as is the case with other African American Diaspora literary works studied by Olliz-Boyd, “are a projection of the author himself’ (70).
Richard L. Jackson has found a literature that registers the African American experience from an African American perspective. He explains:
The Black man does not have to “lose himself in the Other” to live comfortably in the future civilization of the universal nor does he have to return to Africa. That is why the “black song” of black writers in Latin America, though often reflecting a mestizo reality that recognizes the “very wide process of acculturation” in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, is a universal song that is, at the same time, fully black in that it lays great emphasis on the racial, cultural, and historical realities of the black experience in the New World (Black Writers 13).
Calvario presents a comprehensive view of the dispossessed Mexicans, their customs, and of the environment where they thrive, Calvario does not seek to whiten the Mexican population; or compare them with animals, present them as uncivilized or exotic. The narrator is on the same level as his characters and does not see them paternalistically. The story is narrated from the ground where it develops, by someone who authority comes from one who is familiar and identifies with the customs, people and landscapes.
Regarding an Afrocentric aesthetics in narrative, Jackson explains that, although he has not found a Black aesthetic poetry in the US Black nationalist sense, there is an ethnic factor in Latin America that influences the aesthetics of Black authors. He credits Doris J. Turner and Antonio Oliz-Boyd with this discovery in their studies of Machado de Asis, Nicolás Guillén and Adalberto Ortiz (Black Writers 4). Jackson also reveals that, as in other places, racism and the white aesthetic undoubtedly have influenced the relation the Black person has with her/his pigmentation. He cites Olliz-Boyd where he clarifies that the most inalterable life circumstance in the life of a Black writer is his blood affiliation with the oppressed group. Whether he accepts or denies this fact his psychology is ruled somehow by that relationship (Black Writers 4).
According to Jackson, Black writers perceive the literary world in a different manner than white writers. He warns that there is a separation between Black literature and literature about blacks. He reinforces his position with the example of Jahnheinz Jahn who stated that the color of the author had little to do with the literary family she belonged to (Black Writers 5). Jackson expounds that according to Jahn’s theory white writers whose work has “Africanisms: or denotes African styles or patters can be included in “NeoAfrican” literature. He underlines that according to such a theory the literature written by black authors without Africanisms could be excluded from Black literature.
Jackson cautions that when [African] Cuban Nicolas Guilléns’s achievements are viewed from Jahn’s perspective “we are left with the impression that Guilléns’s main contributions lie in his incorporation of African cheerfulness, sensuality and stylistic patterns into a European language. There is, needless to say, much more to Nicolás Guillén than that” (Black Writers 5). This invites the question “What is Black literature?” Jackson subscribes to Angela Gilliam where she explains, “Anyone who claims Black heritage is an African. “ Jackson adds that this is to be “understood to include blacks who are recognizably so and others who accept this ethnic identity” particularly where the history of the mestizaje, the separation of racial identities between Black and white is so dramatic (Black Writers 7).
After noting that it would be ideal to recognize that at the end of the day the spirit has no color, Jackson explains with Sylvia Washington Ba’s works: It is rather naïve to expect the black man to vindicate his humanity without first vindicating that aspect of it [pigmentation] that has been so discredited” (Black Writers 8). Jackson establishes that there is a level of Black consciousness that allows her or him to observe her/his experience with her/his own eyes.
To evaluate Black literature in the New Word, Jackson subscribes to Martha K. Cobb: “(1) confrontation with an alien and usually hostile society; (2) dualism, or a sense of division between one’s own self and that of the dominant culture; (3) identity, a search that embraces the question who am I?; and (4) liberation, both spiritual and political” (Black Writers 9). Jackson points out that concepts as these when infused or saturated with the Black writes; internal feelings and visions, help reveal the peculiar Black perspective; that approach and understanding that is conditioned by the racial memory and the ethnic lineage of a Black shared history as a victim (Black Writers 9).
Mexican historian Enrique Florescano affirms that Riva Palacio is tied to the past of the republic through his maternal and paternal lineages; and that these family ties “initiated him in the project of nation that was in the making then” (2). Florescano explains as well that: Riva Palacio “incorporated into the national scene the socially despised Chinacos and the miserable urban masses: and in his novels the parades the diverse components of the new society “Indians, urban tricksters, Criollos, Blacks, Mulattoes, and mestizos” (3). It is a “new” society because during the colonial epoch Mexicans were rather viewed as chattel: they had no civil rights and formed no part of “society.”
It should be noted that urban tricksters, Chinacos, Mestizos and First Nations, in part are African offspring. According to Aguirre Beltrán “the Indian woman via relations with mestizo and mulatto males achieved the recovery of the people and was able to produce a new culture from the ashes of the old” (243). The birth of the [African] Mexican people classified with various labels given their appearance is further clarified in a 27 November 1625 letter of Fray Ambrosio Carrillo to the inquisitors:
Among [the Amerindian] there are mestizos and Mulattoes, offspring of Spaniards, Blacks, Mulattoes, and others, of which Mestizos and Mulattoes, born of and raised Indian mothers among Indians, follow in all the nature of the mother, speaking the mother’s indigenous language, dressing as Indians and resembling them in every aspect. (Aguirre Beltrán Medicina 76)
Conversely to Calvario, the nineteenth-century foundational novel Sacerdote y Cuadillo is informed by a Criollo-based mentality who characteristics, to be discussed, make it a Negrista narrative. The 1869 first edition fo the novel has 812 pages and is divided into four parts. The first part has twenty chapters or stories; the second, fourteen; and third twelve; and the fourth eighteen and the epilog. The first phase of the Insurgent movement and the official historical role played by Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Ignacio Aldama and Mariano Jimenez, among other Criollos form the background of the story. The reader learns about the family origins of Miguel Hidalgo and his occupation in 1810 as the director of the Catholic College of San Nicolas in Valladolid. The narrative follows Hidalgo through his intellectual development, his involvement in the movement in defense of the Mexicans until his execution on 30 July 1811 (accused of treason to the King of Spain).
The sugary romance story between Rosalía Treviño (82) and Antonio Pedraja (82) is the main story. Rosalía is the daughter of an unknown mother and a Portuguese adventurer (who in turn is the brother of New Spain’s Inquisitor) persecuted by a Gipsy woman he had seduced and abandoned in Africa decades earlier. The Portuguese is absconding in New Spain and passing as a respectable citizen. He is oblivious to the fact that the Gipsy (a witch/noble woman) has followed his steps for years seeking revenge. Pedraja is a rebel student at Hidalgo’s theological seminary whose love for Rosalía is never realized. Pedraja and Rosalía run away from Valladolid to Mexico City and go through innumerable vicissitudes. In the city, destiny separates them and each goes their own way. When Pedraja loses site of Rosalía and cannot find her, he goes mad. He will meet with her again toward the end of the novel to be told that Félix de Quintanar and his child stand between the two ex-lovers.
After separating from Pedraja at the beginning of the story, Rosalía goes from house to house and to a convent until she is rescued by the Gipsy woman (passing as a noble woman) and marries Spanish Royalist deserter Captain Felix de Quintanar (403) who had befriended Pedraja and Rosalía (421). Rosalía and Felix have a child named Gabriel. Gabriel is described as a good-natured angel with an “extremely beautiful head of blond hair that flows over his naked shoulders” (395). Felix is captured and dies in the hands of the Insurgents.
Sacerdote y Caudillo mentions various Africans and [African] Mexicans who appear as secondary and tertiary characters. They represent hopelessness, inhumanity and evil-literally the dark side of existence. Pedro el Negro, his brother Gaspar, his mother Camila, his grandfather Mulay, Lino el Mulato, and a mob of Mulattoes servants. Pedro el Negro is ten years old (131) in 1796, when the story begins to unfold (30). Predictably, Pedro lives in the low-life Mexico City neighborhood of La Palma [Merced] (131), outside of the city grid with his freed family: African grandfather, Mulay; Mulatto mother, Camila; and sickly Mulatto brother, Gaspar.
According to the storyline, the grandfather and mother were captured in the sands of Africa by a band of Spanish enslavers and, after being brought to New Spain, were sold into slavery (136). Because Pedro and Gaspar are fatherless Mulattoes, sired after Mulay and Camila were taken from Africa, it may be discerned that the father is a Spaniard enslaver. Notably, these African and African offspring characters are underdeveloped in a fastidiously sweet and squeamish Eurocentric environment where the main young white-like characters of the story are blessed with a cherubic child “extraordinarily beautiful with long blond hair that falls over his naked shoulders” (Mateos 395). Black in the Negrista historical novel represents hopelessness and white, notwithstanding the worst circumstances, the national future.
Because of ten years of enslavement, Mulay aged rapidly and lost his eyesight, whereby he was freed. His master extracted Mulay’s savings in exchange of his family’s freedom (136). This family of freed Africans and African offspring born in New Spain, which unintentionally reveal and embody in part the hidden Africanness of the Mexican nation at its point of birth, makes a living by sewing clothes for the Spanish army (131). Ten-year-old Mexican Pedro is characterized as: malignant; malicious; of perverse inclinations. Through Pedro’s character, his family’s and Lino the Mulatto’s, an innate African and [African] Mexican hopelessness and perversity is forged and injected into the unaware reader and audience. It should be kept in mind that the majority of New Spain’s colonial population, including Spaniards, was illiterate, innumerate and highly superstitious.
Pedro el Negro of Sacerdote y Caudillo joins the 1810 insurrection to kill and plunder (707). Pedro, as a child, feels nothing for his family, robs his own brother (137), and becomes a murderer as a young man (714). Pedro el Negro is present during the Insurgent siege of Guanajuato in 1810, and the Spanish capture and execution in 1811 of the first insurrection commanders who were Criollos (792). Notably, Pedro el Negro in this novel feels deeply for those Criollos and mentions “the beautiful face” of Ignacio Allende (792). Allende is a better developed character.
Pedro el Negro appears 24 times in Sacerdote y Caudillo (131, 133, 137, 138, 140,142, 151, 152, 262, 263, 706, 707, 708, 709, 713, 714, 758, 760, 781, 792, 793, 795, 798, and 799). He is described as an “infernal black,” hateful and vengeful by the age of ten (263). He is a poisonous reptile “who would transform into a horned serpent because there are beings who are born to provide those spectacles that horrify a society and become an epoch in the crime archives” (263). Pedro is doomed because of “his color, deformed by his facial features, of horrible instincts and repugnant because of his behavior.” He is predestined by “Providence as a hurricane for destruction and extermination” (263). Pedro is notorious for his crimes and is the one character capable of outsourcing and finally murdering and robbing (714) his “inseparable friend” Lino the Mulatto (707). Lino, a first rate murderer (692), and one-of-a-kind thief appears seventy times in the novel. Sacerdote y Caudillo forges and reinforces a hundred times an inhuman and condemned black image. The African offspring, the true Mexicans are thereby distorted in a “timeless” cultural text that deploys and redeploys Black stereotypes and codes.
Sacerdote y caudillo narrates Africans and [Africans] Mexicans in a style James Snead identifies in film as codifying through three strategies to forge and reinforce African and Afrodescendent stereotypes: mythification, marking, and omission. Snead proposes that film is never one person’s story but “is always typical, broadcasting certain codes about social status and interrelationships” (143). The same can be said about Mexico’s nineteenth century Negrista novel, which was deployed with the intentions to broadcast the codes described earlier regarding Africans and [African] Mexicans. Snead’s views on film are adopted and applied to the cultural texts studied here.
Doris Sommer in “Irresistible Romance: The Foundational Fictions of Latin America” exposes the coincidence between establishing modern nations and projecting their ideal histories through the novel” (73). Sommer expounds,
Those novels are so central to the positivist project, turned out, rather curiously to be historical romances in whose intimate language Latin American nations were nurtured. By romance I mean a cross between our contemporary use of the word as a love story and a nineteenth century use that distinguished romance as more boldly allegorical than the novel. Latin American romances are inevitably stories of star-crossed lovers who represent particular regions, races, parties, or economic interests which should naturally come together. Their passion for conjugal and sexual union spills over to a sentimental readership in a love that apparently hopes to win partisan minds along with hearts. The undeniable burden for the new novelists then was formal, sentimental, and political at the same time. (75)
Sacerdote y Caudillo is the kind of Criollo-based romance identified by Sommer in other places of Latin America. In addition, Sacerdote y Caudillo is identified herein as a Criollo-based Negrista novel.
Although written by a so-called liberal Criollo who advocated for the end of slavery and independence from Spain, nevertheless the novel professes a wealth of negative views against [African] Mexicans, the Chinos-Cochinos or Chinacos who constructed the nation as duly recognized in Calvario. The characters of Sacerdote y Caudillo with last names, titles, and country of origin that populate the narrative are recognizing their evil doings, all the while are fathering hopeful characters and are described as populating the nation with angel-like blond-haired children (666). All other manufactured characters, regardless of number and affiliation, appear as homogeneous masses and mobs, such as the Insurgents who were not Criollos or the hundreds of “Mulattoes” that comprised Gabriel de Yermo’s Royalists fighters (Mateos 641, 644). At best, they are “Inditos/as,” (little Indians) “Negros” or “Mulattoes” with a color brand name instead of a last name.
The hopeful love that ties the story together in Sacerdote y Caudillo makes the text, as the texts identified by Sommer elsewhere, “relentlessly attractive. The attraction is practically visceral […]. This language of love, specifically of productive sexuality in the domestic sphere, is remarkably coherent despite the programmatic differences among the nation building novels” (Sommer 76). The romance between Rosalía Trevino (82) and Antonio Pedraja (82), just as in the case of the romances cited in Sommer, characterizes “variety of social ideals inscribed in the novels […] ostensibly grounded in the natural romance that legitimates the nation-family through love” (Sommer 76). By adopting Sommer’s lense, one can deduce that “this natural and familial grounding [in Sacerdote y Caudillo], along with its rhetoric of productive sexuality, provides a model for apparently non-violent national consolidation during the period of internecine conflict” (76) of the Mexican manumission and independence revolution of 1810-1821.
Sacerdote y Caudillo constructs Criollos as the leading “Mexicans” and parents of a romanticized nation born out of Criollo chivalry, love and justice. Sacerdote y Caudillo dupes readers and listeners into believing the Criollos were looking out and fought for Mexican interests. While readers and listeners and mesmerized with the fairy-tale, the fabricated justification for the misappropriation is injected into the Mexican psyche and memory. The fact that a very small faction of Criollos fought on the side of Mexicans (and an important portion of these for their own interests) is neatly bypassed.
The [African] Mexican General-in-Chief Morelos is described in Sacerdote and Caudillo as a “man of tall stature, robust, shining eyes under a frontal arch formed by a white handkerchief that covered his head; his eyebrows were full, his nose straight, and a bit lifted in the end, his lips thin, full cheeks, and no beard” (629). On the contrary, Uvaldo Vargas Martínez, one of Morelos’ top biographers describes Morelos as, “a bit less than five feet, thickset face and body” (150); and “given his physical characteristics, a Mestizo within the variety of the Mulatto type” (8).
Throughout Sacerdote y Caudillo, [African] Mexican people appear as a largely nameless mass subordinate to white or Criollo designs. They are enslaved bodies (382) that populate the novel with various nicknames, such as “Caribs” (527), etc. They do not form any class of the society (542). They are characterized as satirical (460). Whenever they are given form, they are descried by their first names, nicknames or occupation (475). The semi-developed non-white characters are evil, the darker “Pedro el Negro” is the most evil, “Lino the Mulatto” follows, and a Gipsy woman is the third. In contrast, Spanish genocidal characters are remorseful, have feelings, conscience and a full name such as the Inquisitor Pedro Nuñez de Clavijero (143).
The above reading with the light of Jackson, Snead and Sommer acquires a particular meaning. African and [African] Mexicans images are revealed as distorted in accordance to a white aesthetic and Black phobia to codify African and Afrodescendants as “naturally” ugly, lazy, unproductive, evil, etc. Sacerdote y Caudillo, as other Latin American historical romances, mythifies whites as beautiful, refined, and in the case of Criollos, chivalrous and valiant, while marking [African] Mexican Pedro- hundreds of thousands of nineteenth-century [African] Mexican Pedros- the darkest of all characters, as the greatest of all evil in the hour of birth of the nation. Omission occurs where prominent African and [African] Mexicans are absent or whitened.
The whitened images of nineteenth-century [African] Mexican Generals José Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero and [African] Mexican presidents of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero and Juan Álvarez that inform the current Mexican psyche are testaments of this lingering Eurocentric strategy. Omission is particularly damaging to the psyche and memory where nineteenth-century African Americans that could be sources of pride and role models-such as Jose Maria Morelos and Vicente Guerrero, among others, led the insurrection during the most crucial times of the Insurgent movement and died valiantly-are whitened in and via the national discourse.
The Criollo-based discourse on nation, deployed by means of the mass media such as the Negrista novel, on the one hand whitened key [African] Mexican figures. On the other, it singled out dark Mexicans who images were less important and demonized them, such as Pedro el Negro, el Negro Carmen, el Negro Enrique, el Negro Lino, el Negro Valero, (Amador), among others. In this manner, the national imaginary was “educated” or programmed to equate lighter skin with goodness and darker skin with evil.

Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. La población negra de México. Estudio etnohistórico. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1972 (1st ed. 1946).
____.Medicina y magia: el proceso de aclturación en la estuctura colonial. México, D.F.: Universidad Veracruzana, Instituto Noacional Indigenista, Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz, Fondo de Cultura económica, 1992 (1a ed. 1962).
Amador, Elias. Noticias biográficas de insurgentes apodados. México D.F.: SEP: Biblioteco Enciclopédica Popular número 125, 1946 (1a ed. 1910). 10 April 2011.
Jackson, Richard L. The Black Image in Latin American Literature. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1976.
____.Black Writers in Latin America.
Mateos, Juan Antonio. Sacerdote y Caudillo (Memorias de la Insurrección) Novela Histórica. México D.F.: Imprenta de Ignacio Cumplido, 1869.
Riva Palacio, Vicente. Calvario y Tabor: Novela Histórica y de costumbres. México D.F.: Porrúa, 2000. (1a ed. 1868.)
Snead, James. White Screen Black Images: Hollywood From The Dark Side. Eds. Colin MacCabe & Cornel West. London: Routledge, 1994.
Sommer, Doris. “Irresistible Romance: The Foundational Fictions of Latin America.” Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi K. Bhabha. London: Routledge, 1990.
Vargas Martinez, Ubaldo. Morelos: Siervo de la nación., México D.F.: Porrúa, 1966.
Velázquez, María Elisa. “Aportes y debates: reciente publicación estodounidense sobre africanos y afrodescendientes en México.” spring_10/reviews/Velazquez_rev.pdf 9 April 2010.
Walker, Sheila S. Compiler. Conocimiento desde adentro: los afrosudamericanos hablan de sus pueblos y sus historias. La Paz: Fundación Pedro Andavérez Peralta, et al, 2010.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Black Armies of the South: A Historical Reconstruction of The Mexican War of Manumission and Independence (1810-1821)

[Nagó, sent by the Oricha of war, tells Morelos] “You have been chosen to return dignity to the oppressed Indians and Blacks, to their mestizo descendants, half-breeds and Mulattoes. You will unite all with your shouts, with your horse, and your sword. Changó’s waterspout, you will open the breach through which runs the river of the insurgents against oppression.”
Manuel Zapata Olivella

Morelos’ army was formed by the [Hermenegildo] Galeana, [Mariano] Matamoros and [Nicolás] Bravo brigades [….] Most of the soldiers were Southern Blacks and Mulattoes.
Uvaldo Vargas Martínez

The disciplined Mexican rebel Armies of the South, formed and led by the Afro-Mexican Catholic priest José María Morelos y Pavón and his cadre, were mainly composed of people identified as “Negros” (Blacks) or “Castas” (African offspring) by the Spanish colonial pigmentocracy. At their peek, the Black Armies of the South were 1,000 trained infantry and a little over 4,000 cavalry. The majority of soldiers were Blacks and Mulattoes from the South….(Vargas 56). Morelos and the main columns of the Armies of the South withstood a seventy-two-day siege in Cuautla (from February 19 to May 12, 1812) by the Viceregal Central Army of New Spain: eight thousand men under the command of Spanish General Felix María Calleja del Rey. Paradoxically, Morelos’ fame as “the supreme general of the insurgency” grew because of the heroic resistance in Cuautla (Vargas 75). Well documented and recognized is, “the heroic defense of Cuautla lifted the spirits of the independence supporters […] and filled the spirits of all Mexicans, even in Mexico City” (Vargas 75). The fundamental role of the Black Armies of the South in achieving manumission, independence and the forming of the new Nation is recognized, however their color has been erased from the national memory.
The Black Armies of the South were crucial in dismantling the three-hundred-year Spanish enslaving and racist structure. The Black or African-Mexican fundamental contributions to the building and establishing of the Nation must be taught and understood to help eradicate the colonial racism that still lingers surreptitiously and openly in various regions, institutions, and social sectors of Mexico, and beyond. The Black accomplishments need to be re-injected into the Mexican national memory in full color in order to assist to end the massive Black endo-phobia that affects, and disenfranchises, a considerable number of Mexicans. Public and private school textbooks should speak louder of the African and Afrodescendant Ancestors of Mexico and their deeds. Mexican children ought to learn that a major portion of the mothers and fathers of the Mexican nation, our Ancestors, were considered “Black” and therefore inferior by the Europeans. And, that this form of violence was confronted and defeated by the Ancestors who rallied under a black flag and ribbons of sky blue and white signaling their devotion to Guadalupe/Yemayá, the Black Madonna of Mexico.
In addition to our First Nations and Asian roots, recognizing our African-ness will assist us to develop stronger global relations with the people of Africa and the African Diaspora in other places of the Americas and the planet. Moreover, the present historical reconstruction destroys the official myth that Blacks during the Colonial Period (1519-1821) were few and disappeared by integration.
This work traces the emergence of the Black Armies of the South from the moment Morelos leaves his church in the hot lands of Carácuaro, Michoacán with twenty-five “dark and humble men” to the siege of Cuautla in 1812, where he and the major portion of the Black Armies of the South were trapped by the 8,000-men Viceregal Army of the Center. The Black Armies of the South and the consequences of their struggles as an integral part of the independent Mexican national life will be discussed after a brief historical profile of the population of colonial Mexico from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century in order to contextualize the problem and to enable us to see that in nineteenth-century Mexico, just as today, there was an important Black presence.
The population of New Spain in 1779, thirty-one years before the armed phase of the Mexican independence-manumission movement started, is reported at 4,500,000 (Abad y Queipo 61). At least six-tenths, or 2,700,000 were classified as “Castas” (the progeny of African, First Nations, Asian and European relations). In the eve of the struggle, the population of New Spain had grown to over six million (Aguirre, La población 233).
Further confusion regarding the make-up of the colonial population was caused by the particular population distribution presented by Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán. Nevertheless, the 1810 Noriega census cited by Aguirre divides the 6,147,355 population of New Spain at the start of the war of independence from Spain thus: 1,338,706 “Castas,” and 10,000 Blacks; 3,676,282 “Indians;” 1,107,367 “Criollos;” and 15,000 Europeans (La población 232). Among the “Castas,” 500,000 are noted as “Mulattoes.” For the purpose of this work, the 500,000 mulattoes and 10,000 blacks are sufficient to document a substantial Black presence in nineteenth-century Mexico. However, being that Mulattoes were the offspring of the relations between, “español y negra” (Spanish male and Black woman), where were the offspring of Black males and First Nations women accounted for? What was their population at the time?
The Trans-Atlantic male/female ratio of the enslaved Africans taken to New Spain starting in the sixteenth century was 2:1. The 500,000 Mulattoes of the census above theoretically were the children of Spanish males and African women because at the time “Mulatto” signified this. Due to the availability of reproductive-age African males and First Nations women, it is believed that relations between African males and First Nations women prevailed. This is deduced, in part, given the incessant Royal Spanish edicts prohibiting African-First Nations relations. The children of African males and First Nations women remained with their mothers and grew up as First Nations: Nahua, Mixtec, Maya, etc. Outside of the First Nations reservations, they were labeled as “Mulatto-Pardos.” Aguirre reports,
The Mulatto-Pardo was the product of the mix between the Black male with the Indian woman. Mulatto-Pardos were the most abundant in New Spain and the color of their skin produced the most varied and curious naming. [….] In general terms, we can assert that they were called Cochos en Michoacán, Cambujos in Oaxaca, Chinos in Puebla, Jarochos in Veracruz, Loros in Chiapas and Zambos in Guerrero; just to mention the most common. (La población 169)
Blacks and their offspring were to be found all over the Colony. According to William B. Taylor, “At the end of the eighteenth century, 381,941 free Negroes and mulattoes, many of whom were descendants of slaves who had grasped freedom by deserting their masters, were identified in a wide area of the highlands as well as the coastal regions of central Mexico” (440). From the tax reports of the Mexican National Archives, he cites the following Black distribution: Mexico 46,813; Puebla 11,304; Veracruz 5,849; Oaxaca 16,767; Potosi 49,140; Arispe 10,070; Valladolid 48,768; Guanajuato 42,868; Guadalajara 63,009; Zacatecas 58,317; Merida 29,033 (440, n4.). These numbers are dramatic when considering that the reported European Spanish population of New Spain in 1810 was 15,000.
While some Africans arrived as free men from the onset of the Spanish venture, they were the exception. One such case is Juan Garrido, the “Black Conquistador” who planted the first wheat grains in Mexico City, and who had a wife and children and a job as guardian of the city’s water supply; but never held a significant position. Throughout the Colonial Period in Mexico, some African offspring were freed by being born of free wombs (First Nations mainly); their Spanish fathers buying their freedom; or their masters. Regardless of their free/slave status, Blacks were barred from administrative positions and assigned and performed the most labor-intensive occupations.
In the eve of the war of 1810-1821, most Blacks in New Spain were agriculturalists, cowboys, miners, muleteers, port-dock workers, laborers, construction workers, militias, butchers, cooks, bakers, shoe makers, carpenters, tailors, weavers, candy makers, fruit and nut-candy vendors, enchilada makers and aguas frescas vendors, fruit and vegetable merchants, tobacco traffickers, banditos, etc. They lived in ports, urban centers, villages, mining towns, plantations, or on the road. Aguirre notes that,
by 1793, the contradictions of the Spanish economy became obvious where they would “destroy harvests or let them rot in the granaries for lack of markets, while the population of shifters, continuously increasing, was kept on the brink of starvation. The Colonial government was constantly preoccupied with the behavior of numerous shifters, mainly Afro-Mexican. The government was incapable of solving its own desperate situation. On the one hand, it greatly feared the Afro-Mexicans. On the other, the government believed that increasing the oppression (that it had been exercising since a while back) would lessen the danger. (La población 232)
The Insurgents, but in particular the Black Armies of the South, drew their strength from the populations mentioned above.
Word from Josefa Ortíz de Domínguez got to Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the erudite criollo Catholic priest of Dolores, Guanajuato, that their planned conspiracy had been discovered. This forced Hidalgo to issue a call to arms during an unscheduled early mass on 16 September 1810. Thereafter, Hidalgo and six-hundred-freedom-fighters, most of the men from Dolores, poorly armed and clad, unruly and undisciplined “Castas” and “Indians,” began their march toward Mexico City. In the name of the Virgin of Guadalupe, as seen by the symbol of their flag (the Black Madonna mother of the Americas), these first Mexican nationals were determined to obtain freedom and equality under the law.
Hidalgo and his men marched through San Miguel and Celaya. Then on 28 September, they arrived in Guanajuato, one of the most important mining towns of New Spain (others were Zacatecas, Pachuca, Taxco, Real del Catorce, and San Luis Potosi). By that time, Hidalgo’s army had grown to 30,000. They apprehended and slaughtered four hundred Spanish and wealthy Criollos (most of the European and Euro-descendant men of the town who had barricaded themselves inside of the fortified public granary). “Word of the horrors of Guanajuato soon spread throughout Mexico. The authorities in Mexico City quickly realized that they had a major uprising on their hands and began organizing its defense, which would clash with Hidalgo again on Monte de las Cruces.”
On October 30, 1810, Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende’s forces, which had swelled to 80,000 clashed with a Spanish force led by General Torcuato Trujillo. Trujillo had one thousand foot soldiers and 400 cavalry. The rebel army overwhelmed the Spaniards and captured their two cannons. Hidalgo, against Allende’s counsel, decided to retreat and not attack Mexico City. The reasons, speculated by historians, are many. Among them, is that Hidalgo feared General Calleja’s well-armed army of four thousand veterans; or that he wanted to spare the population of Mexico City from the mob. Perhaps, Hidalgo feared for the thousands of Spanish/Criollo lives. Hidalgo was an educated man; he read French and surely knew of the fate of the European French in Haiti a few years earlier. After all, Hidalgo’s previous campaigns pointed in that direction. Historians generally agree however, that Hidalgo and Allende’s troops could have easily taken Mexico City.
General Calleja del Rey caught up with the Insurgent army in the entrance of Guadalajara, January 17, 1811. The explosion of a rebel munitions wagon sent Hidalgo’s army into disarray. Hidalgo and Allende fled toward the United States. Hidalgo traveled as Allende’s prisoner. The disputes they had had regarding how to conduct a war had climaxed (Hidalgo was a priest and Allende was a trained warrior).
In the north, they were betrayed by local insurrection leader Ignacio Elizondo and captured. In short order, they were given to Spanish authorities and sent to the city of Chihuahua to stand trial. Also captured were insurgent leaders Juan Aldama, Mariano Abasolo and Mariano Jiménez, men who had been involved in the conspiracy since the start. (Minster)
Hidalgo was executed 30 July 1811. “The heads of Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Jiménez were preserved and hung from the four corners of the granary of Guanajuato as a warning to those who would follow in their footsteps.”
Nine months earlier, on October 20, 1810, Hidalgo had met with Morelos in Indaparapeo, Michoacán. During that meeting, Hidalgo entrusted Morelos with recruiting people from the South. Two days later, Morelos left Curácuaro on October 22, 1810, with twenty-five men for the first of four campaigns. Following Hidalgo’s and his cadre’s capture and execution, Morelos rose to become the supreme Insurgent commander. As supreme commander for three years, he led 36 important battles “almost always fighting against the most distinguished Royalist commanders,” accumulating 25 victories. During his four campaigns, beyond “grave political worries,” Morelos and the Black Armies of the South caused the Spanish viceregal government loses of forty million pesos (Vargas 31).
According to one of Morelos’ top biographers, Mexican historian Uvaldo Vargas Martínez (1913-1972), fundamental to note is that Morelos was the first Insurgent chief that truly organized the units of the freedom army. He provided them with “a true military character with a group of generals […] and competent officers.” In addition, he made gradual efforts to provide the men with adequate training, uniforms and weaponry (32). The Black Armies of the South emerged in contrast to Hidalgo’s disorganized and undisciplined mob. What has been obscured, as mentioned earlier, is that the troops of the Armies of the South were mainly Blacks.
The Black Armies of the South operated primarily in four zones: Valley of the Balsas River; Oaxaca Valley; Austral Slopes of the Sierra Madre del Sur to the Pacific Coast; and the region from the Gulf of Mexico slopes to the valleys, waterfalls and buttresses of the Eastern Sierra Madre. At the time, most of New Spain’s small villages were practically defenseless. Ben Vinson, III cites that “in many of the central coastal lowlands the Black population was greater than the white at a ratio of 10:1” (“Los milicianos” 96).
In the hot lands, there were small groups of undisciplined Royalist militias in some villages of relative importance and small contingents in important towns, cities or ports. The Royalists militia companies in some of these towns were formed by groups that seldom met for military instruction, “weapons were stored in the captains’ houses and the majority of officers resided in the capitals or major towns. They held these jobs for prestige and had never met their soldiers” (Vargas 34).
Vinson, in his now classic work, Bearing Arms for his Majesty: The Free-Colored Militia in Colonial Mexico reports of the Black presence, including that of free-Colored militias. A closer reading, for the purpose of this work, exhibits the Black presence in various villages and towns of the route taken by Morelos during his first campaign. According to Vinson, along the Pacific Coast, over one thousand Colored militia families in the province of Zacatula (Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Papanoa, and Petacalco) were petitioning for lands (101). As royal census recorder, Joseph Antonio de Villa Señor y Sánchez, in 1745 (7), informed that Acapulco had a population of “four hundred families of Chinos, Mulattoes and Blacks” (“Chinos” in this context is short for “co-chinos” “pigs”); or about sixteen hundred “casta” people. During the Colonial Period, given the deadliness of the hot lands, Spaniards and Criollos lived mainly in fortified towns in temperate climates.
During their first campaign, the Black Armies of the South began to take shape to become the fighting force whose bellicose actions were crucial for the end of slavery, gaining independence from Spain and the emergence of Mexico as a nation. By November 13, 1810, the Black Armies of the South that attacked Acapulco had grown to 2,000. The majority of said men lacked proper weaponry; but their good will and disciplined obedience to Morelos and cadre, “made up for the evident deficiencies” (Vargas 37).
With the Burbon military reforms of 1762 and 1793, the colonial Black militias’ structure and their system of privileges changed (Vinson, “Los milicianos” 106). Many units throughout New Spain were disbanded and these soldiers and their relatives were stripped of all privileges. In southern New Spain, there were disgruntled Black and Afrodescendants who possessed military training, who new the roads of New Spain, were excellent horse riders, and became convinced that the time was ripe for the Insurgent cause. The Insurgents envisioned a nation where all people, regardless of ethnic background, would be full citizens with equal rights under the law.
The first campaign lasted from October 22, 1810 until August 16, 1811, when the Armies of the South captured Chilapa and four hundred rifles and four cannons. They marched from Cuarácuaro through Zacatula, Patatlán, San Luis, Tecpan, Coyuca, Veladero, Acapulco, El Marqués, Tres palos, La Brea, Chichihualco, Chilpancingo, Tixtla, and Chilapa. In Chilapa, the Armies of the South stayed for three months to train and be better clad.
Mid-November 1811, The Black Armies of the South initiated their Second Campaign. Following the battle of Chiautla and Izúcar, instead of going to Puebla, as expected by the Royalists, they retreated to take Cuautla to ensure that all the south lands were under Insurgent control. Cuautla is located in the center of the hot lands of the current state of Morelos and its region. From the start of the Colonial period, Cuautla was the site of sugar cane plantations whose labor force included enslaved Africans and their offspring up to the time of the war of manumission and independence in the nineteenth century. According to a 1793 census, 5,215 Mulatto-Pardos; 1,539 mestizos; 462 Criollos; and 1,324 Spanish formed Cuautla’s population (Aguirre, La población 226).
Nineteen years after said census, from February 19 to May 12, 1812, in Cuautla, the Black Armies of the South of about 8,000 “Blacks, Indians and Mulattoes” (Vargas 63) withstood a heroic seventy-two day siege known as the Siege of Cuautla. Narciso Mendoza, a 12 year-old child of Los Emulantes, distinguished himself during the first battles of Cuautla and became known as the “Gunner Child” (Vargas 60). The Emulantes were a group of “Black, Mulatto and Indian” youth collaborators formed by Morelos in Cuautla. Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, Morelos’ son, was in charge of Los Emulantes.
The Black Armies of the South broke the siege. The Insurgents had planned to march quietly out of Cuautla during the wee hours of the morning. The plan was discovered and the Insurgents were attacked furiously. Cuautla’s inhabitants, who were trying to abandon Cuautla with the Insurgents, suffered the worst. “The town’s people received the fury of the Royal Cavalry who decapitated everyone found in their way” (Vargas 71). The Black Armies of the South were decimated and Gabriel de Yermo, owner of various sugar and cattle haciendas, captured Nicolas Bravo, a top Insurgent commander. Cuautla was “savagely ransacked” (Vargas 72) and burned to the ground by the Royalist Army. This behavior reveals, in part, the source of hatred underlying the savagery of the post siege acts of the Spanish soldiers and their lackeys; the majority of the population of Cuautla, as well as the Insurgent Armies of the South, in the eyes of the Spanish Royal Army were balking Blacks.
Paradoxically, the Black Armies of the South acquired fame from their heroic resistance. Their saga uplifted the spirit of Mexicans (Castas) throughout the land and sent major liberation and equality shock-waves throughout the Spanish realm. Jorge Gurría Lacroix recounts that Calleja expressed:
If the tenacity and activity of Cuautla’s defenders were morally directed towards a just cause, some day they would deserve a distinguished place in history. Harassed by our troops and afflicted by need, they manifest enthusiasm at all times. They bury their dead with carnavalesque dances and drunkenness. When they return from their frequent escapades, successful or not, they impose the death penalty on anyone who may speak of misfortunes or defeat.
Calleja’s statement, the Saint Inquisition’s trials and the Cadiz Constitution (1812) as explained hereafter, are windows into the history of the nineteenth-century-Catholic-Spanish-noble-male-patriarchal mentality. Among the Spanish of the time, history making was the exclusive province of European males. Calleja viewed the freedom and equality cause of the Mexicans (whom he saw as Colored) as immoral and unjust; therefore, undeserving of a place in history. Calleja, among others, could not relate to the Ancestral spirits of Chango and Huchilopostli, major symbols of resistance against the enslavers. The rumba spirit of the burial rituals that accompanied the Black Armies of the South produced scorn in Calleja. The future Viceroy of New Spain lacked the vision to perceive that Mexicans were protected by Guadalupe-Yemayá, a Black Madonna; and that at all costs, they were determined to recover from the Spanish and their institutions the right to chart their own destiny.
The black flags adopted by the Black Armies of the South signal Black rebellion against the established “white” order that was based on a make-believe pigmentocracy. The sky-blue and white colors of the ribbons which symbolized the peoples’ devotion to the Guadalupe Virgen –La Virgen Morena, interpreted with the light of the Ancestors, cited by Manuel Zapata Olivella in his novel Chango el gran putas, brings to mind Yemayá, the Ocean Mother and mother of all Orishas. As an archetype of maternity, invoked through the ribbons at the time of the birth of the new nation, this view becomes relevant. Yemayá is associated with the number seven. Mexicans recognize Seven African Powers.
From the sixteenth century onward, a number of Saint Inquisition actions throughout New Spain against Africans and their offspring for “witchcraft,” “divination,” and “superstition,” among others, is well documented (Aguirre, Medicina 333-376). Many of these trials occurred in the area currently known as the states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Guerrero, México, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz, and is also the region where the majority of the troops of the Black Armies of the South were recruited. These persecuted practices were part of the Afro-Mexican world visions; similar practices elsewhere in the Americas are: Santería, Candombe, Candomblé, etc. Divination is at the center of such religious practices. Orula, one of the Seven African Powers recognized in Mexico, is the God of divination. The others are: Ochún, Yemayá, Obatala, Ogum, Elegua and Changó. The Spanish and their lackeys consider all of the above heresy and a thing of the Devil.
The nineteenth-century-Spanish-racism against Blacks and Pardos is also documented in the Constitution of Cadiz (1812),
Afrodescendants were excluded [i.e. the so-called “Castas,”] from the category of Spanish citizens (Article 22), so that the “base of representation” for Peninsular Spain would surpass that of American Spain [the Spanish colonies throughout the Americas]. According to the demographic knowledge of the epoch, it was calculated that [Spanish] America had a population of 15 to 16 million inhabitants while Spain had no more than 10 million. However, discounting the disloyal Indians and Castas from the electoral base, the peninsular numerical superiority in comparison to America would be manifest. The discriminatory character of this measure exposes white racism toward Blacks and Pardos. (Tateishi 11).
The Afrodescendants throughout the Spanish Americas, including New Spain, reacted in concert to the centuries-old-white-Spanish-pigmentocratic-rule. The Black Armies of the South began gathering in Curácuaro, Michoacán, October 22, 1810 (Vargas 31). There, twenty-five braves rallied with Morelos as commander. They were committed to the end, to the just cause of manumission, independence and equal rights for all, without exception. August 10, 1812, in Tehuacán, Puebla, Morelos became the de facto Supreme Commander of the Insurgents and the Black Armies of the South, the central force of the Insurgency. This would remain until 5 November 1815, when he was captured in Tezmalaca. Morelos was executed 22 December 1815, in San Cristobal Ecatepec, today State of Mexico.
To continue their fight, the Black Armies of the South adopted guerrilla-style warfare. Some of the commanders retired, but others such as Vicente “el negro” Guerrero with Black-Indian-Black contingents, kept the fight alive in the mountains of Southern Mexico and in the Spanish Colonial supply routes between Mexico City-Acapulco and Mexico City-Veracruz during the “Period of Resistance” until 1821. Guerrero became commander of the Insurgency and the leader who signed the treaty with Agustin de Iturbide that consummated the independence from Spain. The crucial role the Black Armies of the South played in the wars to: end slavery; gain independence from Spain; and enable the emergence of Mexico as a nation is hereby claimed.
Official historians have forged a narrative that “discolors” the history of the Mexican Nation. With the racial miscegenation myth-turned-ideology, Criollos whitened Mexico’s national history according to their interests. By calling the Mexican population “mestizos,”—instead of Castas-- Criollos dealt a master-hand to manipulate the national memory. Criollos and their lackeys re-invented the Mexican “casta” population as “mestizos.” In this manner, they veiled the three-hundred-years of Spanish pigmentocratic rule and Africanization of New Spain. Criollos obscured the deep-rooted torrent of African experiences and memories that created and nurtured, in a crucial way, the Mexican Spirit. Criollos obscured the deeds and zagas of the Black-Indians who constructed Mexico outside the walls of the rulers’ towns and villages.
During the colonial epoch, just as now, the majority of the population of New Spain, including Africans and African offspring inhabited the Central and Southern regions of the land. “Free” Afrodescendants (Pardos, Mulattoes, Coyotes, Lobos, etc.) heavily populated the areas where the Black Armies of the South emerged. Afrodescendants provided the colonial labor force that fueled the Colony for centuries. In the eighteenth century, they formed a major portion of the mass of vagrants that began to shake the colonial stability. As a result, during the Colonial Epoch, Black-offspring, or Afro-Mexicans, were recruited to man the militias of Pardos and Mulattoes who defended Spanish interests. Many Blacks and First Nations fought against the Insurgents; others stayed aloof.
Spanish Vasque plantation owner Gabriel de Yermo, the leader of the Spanish party against the Insurgency, led hundreds of Blacks he had “freed” from his estates against the Insurgents. These newly freed Blacks were now free to defend Yermo’s interests against fellow Afrodescendants. After all, among other estates, he owned the Hacienda de San Gabriel, the biggest sugar plantation of the time and held the monopoly of beef and aguardiente (sugarcane rum) supplies for Mexico City.
The crucial role of the Afro-Mexican Insurgents is “discolored” in the Mexican official national history. In the nineteenth century, all who were not Spanish, Criollos or First Nations, began to be called “mestizos” to supposedly dismantle the Spanish pigmentocracy, i.e. the Willy Lynch ideology was applied in reverse. Thus, Mexicans (the Pardo-Mulatto offspring of Africans, First Nations, Asians and European relations born in the Americas) began to be referred to as “mestizos” in the national discourse. Nevertheless, they were (and still are) not in the same social or ethnic footing as European Spanish. In addition, Criollos and their lackeys usurped the hard-fought name “Mexican” and with it justified themselves as the natural inheritors and rulers of the new Nation. This same European psychological technology was exported to other places of the Americas where the African pride and deeds have been blatantly denigrated, obscured, erased, etc.
Mexicans of today descend from New Spain’s colonial populations, and a few recent migrations from other lands, but few Mexicans know and proudly recognize our African heritage. This, in a crucial way, is the product of the Spanish and Criollo systematic stigmatization of all that is African in Mexico and beyond. The loss of the Mexican African memory has to do, among other issues, with an education system that eludes the proper mention of the African legacies. Such as the role the Mexican Pardos/Mulattoes, who embodied the major part of the Black Armies of the South, played to obtain Mexican freedom from enslavement, Mexican independence from Spain, and the Mexican emergence as the republic of the United Mexican States in 1821. The above history, narrated with its full colors, is mandatory to truncate the pigmentocratic colonial mentality that still rules over many Mexican minds—of people who are far from white-- against the descendants of the Black-Indians who made possible the birth of the nation nearly two hundred years ago.


Mexican patriot, b. at Valladolid (now called Morelia in his honor), Mexico, on 30 September 1765; shot at San Cristóbal Ecatepec on 22 December 1815. His father died while he was still a youth, and, being left destitute, he worked for some time as a muleteer, until he succeeded in obtaining admission, as an extern, to the College of San Nicolas at Valladolid, the rector of which institution was at that time the reverend Don Miguel Hidalgo. Having been ordained priest, he was appointed parish priest of Carácuaro and Nucupétaro in Michoacan. When Hidalgo left Valladolid for Mexico City, after uttering his Grito de Dolores, Morelos offered himself to him at Charo, and Hidalgo commissioned him to raise troops for the cause of Independence on the southern coast, and to get possession of the port of Acapulco. Returning to his parish, he collected a few ill-armed men, marched towards Zacatula, and, following the coast, reached Acapulco with some 3000 men whom he had recruited on the way and supplied with arms taken from the royalists. After defeating Paris, who had come from Oaxaca with the object of relieving Acapulco, he left part of his forces to continue the siege and made for Chilpancingo. Forming a junction there with the brothers Galiana and Bravo, he marched to Chilapa and captured that town. As the viceroy, Venegas, was keeping all the colonial troops occupied with the siege of Zitacuaro, Morelos, who had been joined at Jantetelco by his fellow-priest Mariano Matamoros-thenceforward his right hand in almost every enterprise-organized four armies, which he distributed in various parts of Mexico. But the easy surrender of Zitacuaro to Calleja, and the approach of that commander with all his forces, placed Morelos, with some 4000 men, in the situation of being besieged at Cuautla by 8000 of the best troops of the viceroyalty. With indomitable courage, fighting day after day, Morelos held out for seventy-three days, until at last he succeeded in breaking away with all that remained of his army. He then passed over to Huajuapan, from thence to Orizaba and so on to Oaxaca, capturing all those places, and defeating every body of troops that encountered him.
On 14 September, 1813, the first Independent Congress assembled at Chilpancingo and there passed the decree: "That dependence upon the Spanish Throne has ceased forever and been dissolved. That the said Congress neither professes nor recognizes any religion but the Catholic, nor will it permit or tolerate the practice, public or private, of any other; that it will protect with all its power, and will watch over, the purity of the Faith and its dogmas and the maintenance of the regular bodies". From Chilpancingo he turned towards his native Valladolid, which was then held by the royalist leaders Iturbide and Llano; driven back there he moved on Chupio. At Puruarán his brave companion Matamoros was captured, and was shot at Valladolid, 3 February, 1814. These reverses were followed by the recapture of Oaxaca by the royalist troops. The independent Congress of Chilpancingo had removed to Apatzingan, where it promulgated the Constitution of 22 October, 1814. Then it determined to remove again from Apatzingan to Tehuacán, Morelos accompanied it to protect it, and engaged in the Battle of Tesmalaca, where he was made prisoner.
Having been taken to Mexico City, on 22 November, 1815, proceedings were instituted against him by both the military and the ecclesiastical tribunal, and an advocate was appointed for him. The principal charges against him were: (1) Having committed the crime of treason, failing in his fealty to the king, by promoting independence and causing it to be proclaimed in the Congress assembled at Chilpancingo. Morelos answered to this that, as there was no king in Spain (Ferdinand VII having been taken to France, a prisoner), he could not have been false to the king; and that, as to the declaration of independence, of the said Congress, he had concurred in it by his vote because he believed that the king would not return from France and that, even if he should return, he had rendered himself unworthy of fealty by handing over Spain and its colonies to France like a flock of sheep. (2) Having ordered a number of prisoners to be shot. He declared that he had done this in obedience to orders sent first by the Junta at Zitacuaro and then by the congress at Chilpancingo, by way of reprisals, moreover, because the viceregal Government had not accepted the exchange of prisoners proposed instead of General Matamoros. (3) Having ignored excommunication fulminated against him and the Independents by the bishops and the Inquisition. He declared that he had not considered these excommunications valid, believing that they could not be imposed upon an independent nation, such as the insurgents must be considered to constitute, so long as they (the sentences) were not those of a pope or an oecumenical council. (4) Having celebrated Mass during the time of the Revolution. He denied this, since he had regarded himself as under irregularity from the time when blood began to be shed in the territory under his command.
The case having been concluded in the military tribunal that court requested of the ecclesiastical tribunal the degradation and surrender of the condemned priest, in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the canons; the ecclesiastical tribunal granted both requests, and communicated its decision to the viceroy. It was at this point that the tribunal of the Inquisition intervened, requesting the viceroy, Calleja (who had succeeded Venegas) to delay execution of the sentence four days, and citing Morelos to a public auto de fe on 27 November. On that occasion, with all the formalities proper to such proceedings, twenty-three charges were preferred against him: the Inquisitors added to the charges brought at the former trial others which they believed themselves competent to try, as implying, according to them, suspicions of heresy. These were: (1) Having received Communion in spite of the excommunications which he had incurred. Morelos answered that he had communicated because he did not believe the excommunications valid. (2) Not reciting the Divine Office while he was in prison. He declared that he could not recite it in the dungeon for want of light. (3) Having been lax in his conduct. This he granted, but denied that scandal had been given, since it was not publicly known that he had begotten children. (4) Having sent his son to the United States to be educated in Protestant principles. He declared that, so far from wishing the son whom he had sent to the United States—as he could not place him in any institution within the kingdom—to be brought up in the doctrines of the Reformation, he had directed him to be placed in a college where he would not run that risk. In spite of these arguments, the tribunal decided: "that the priest Don José Morelos was a formal negative heretic, a favourer of heretics, a persecutor and disturber of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, a profaner of the holy sacraments, a traitor to God, the king, and the pope, and as such was declared forever irregular, deposed from all offices and benefices, and condemned to be present at his auto in the garb of a penitent, with collarless cassock and a green candle, to make a general confession and a spiritual retreat; and that, in the unexpected and very remote case of his life being spared, he was condemned for the remainder of it to confinement in Africa at the disposition of the inquisitor general, with the obligation of reciting every Friday in the year the penitential psalms and the rosary of the Blessed Virgin, and to have his sambenito (penitential inscription) placed in the cathedral church of Mexico as that of a reconciled formal heretic".
It was one of the decrees of the Inquisition which have done most to damage the reputation of that tribunal in New Spain. The proceedings lacked the legality and judicial correctness which should have marked them. Morelos was out of the jurisdiction of the Inquisition both as an Indian and as having been already tried and condemned by another, competent, tribunal; nor was there any reason in condemning him for charges to which he had made satisfactory replies. It may be that the tribunal, re-established in New Spain only a little more than one year before this, and carried away by an indiscreet zeal, was unwilling to miss the opportunity presented by so famous a case to ingratiate itself with the Government and call attention to its activity.
Morelos, degraded in pursuance of his sentence, according to the ritual provided by the Church in such cases, was transferred from the prison of the Inquisition to the citadel of Mexico and put in irons. On 22 December he was taken from the city to San Cristobal Ecatepec, where he was shot. As a guerilla leader, Morelos must occupy a prominent place among those who struggled and died for Mexican independence. He appeared at the moment when the first great army of the Independents had been routed at the Bridge of Calderon, and when its first leaders were being executed at Chihuahua, and he achieved his first successes in the rugged mountains of the south. He began his campaigns without materials of war of any kind, expecting to take what he needed from the enemy, and no one ever used the resources of war better than he did, for the extension of the national territory. Profoundly astute and reserved, he confided his plans not even to those of his lieutenants for whom he felt the most affectionate regard. The stamps of genius is discernible in the astonishing sagacity with which he handled the most difficult problems of government, and in multiplied instances of his rapid and unerring insight into actual conditions. When, after the ill-starred campaign of Valladolid, the hour of adversity came upon him, he faced disaster as serenely as he had previously accepted good fortune, and, in that famous retreat upon Tehuacan, deliberately gave his own life to save the lives o
his associates in the Independent Government.


Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. Medicina y Magia: el proceso de aculturación en la estructura colonial. México, D. F.: Fondo, 1992.
_____. La población negra de México. Estudio etnohistórico. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1972 (1st ed. 1946).


Hernández Cuevas, Marco Polo. África en el Carnaval Mexicano. México, D.F.: Plaza y Valdés, 2005.

Taylor, William B. “The Foundation of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los morenos de Amapa.” The Americas. Vol. 26 No 4 (April, 1970): 439-446.

West Africa and the Origin of Mexican Rice Cultivation and Rice Gastronomy

From the sixteenth century, African rice crossed the Middle Passage of slavery to the Americas, not merely as food in ship cargoes but also as an indigenous knowledge system known to [West Africans].
Judith Carney (Black Rice 43)

Four reliable sources document the presence of rice in New Spain (the colonial name for Mexico) soon after the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the sixteenth century. The first, while solely concerned with the first three grains of wheat to be planted in the Continent, indirectly mentions a “sack of rice” and “a small amount of rice” (Alegría 84) from the port of Veracruz brought to Hernán Cortés in Coyoacán, Mexico City c. 1522. The second informs, “Mexico […] received its first lot of rice seed around 1522 in a cargo mixed with wheat” (Chang 139). The third states that Champotón, a Spanish sugar mill in Campeche, in the Yucatan Peninsula, exported rice among other goods in 1559 “twenty years after its establishment” (Redondo 358). The fourth, in medieval Spanish, asserts that in 1579 in Santa María de la Victoria, Tabasco, “se a senbrado el arroz e millo e se da muy bien […]” (rice and millet have been planted and have adapted well). (Colección 368).
Incompatible with the evidence above stated and gathered here are the two main widely accepted versions regarding the post-Colombian arrival of rice to Mexico. The first account states, “the cultivation of rice [was] introduced by the Arabs into Europe and by the Spaniards into America” (Humboldt 458). The other story reports that rice came into Mexico from the Philippines via the Manila-Acapulco Galleon.
The present work reveals that, among others, rice, rice cultivation, and a major part of rice gastronomy, arrived in Mexico in the sixteenth century from the Senegal-Gambia region of West Africa as cultural capital of the West African Ancestors who were brought to Mexico at the time. The reconstruction of a plausible history of the successful transplantation of rice to Mexico in the first half of the sixteenth century provides agency to Senegalese-Gambian women and men in the building of Mexican national crops, gastronomy and identity. The historical reconstruction provides a clearer view of the agricultural advancement of West Africa at the time of contact with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. This major feat of the West African Diaspora to Mexico has been obscured given the Eurocentric aesthetics that have dominated the discourse on nation. The present work de-myth-ifies, in part, the European paternalistic readings of history that permeate Mexican official history, and beyond. It contributes to the diversification of the understanding of the African cultural capitals, among others, involved in the construction of Mexico and its so-called popular cultures from the sixteenth century onward. In addition, the historical reconstruction of this work allows the reconnection of the history of the Americas beyond European contrived borders.
To support the premise that West African millenary agricultural knowledge was crucial for the successful transplanting of rice to sixteenth century Mexico, the present multidisciplinary study offers first a historical summary of rice in Africa and Asia. Following, the European and West African histories of rice-crop systems are reconstructed. Thirdly, contesting the official history of rice in Mexico, the emergence of rice as a crop-system in the sixteenth century southeast Gulf of Mexico (Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche) is hypothesized in light of the African Diaspora to Mexico, and particularly to the Veracruz-Tabasco-Campeche region. Finally, working retrospectively with various Mexican popular culture texts or “popular culture sites” (food, cooling beverages, etc.), the regional history of rice in Mexico is reconstructed to include its West African parentage.
Rice belongs to the grass family and the genus Oryza (tribe Oryeae): “ The genus Oryza includes 20 wild species and two cultivated species. The wild species are widely distributed in the humid tropics and subtropics of Africa, Asia, Central and South America and Australia” (Chang 133). The two cultivated species are, the African Oryza glaberrima (red rice) and Oryza sativa native to Asia. Asian rice is the most common. With the advent of successful mechanized milling toward the end of the eighteenth century, the Asian variety gained prominence due to its sturdiness. African rice has to be milled by knowledgeable hands with mortar and pestle to obtain the desired whole grains (Carney, Black 125). Until recently, it was believed that African rice did not develop beyond the Niger Delta.
Noting that there are some molecular links missing in the evolutionary pathway of glaberrima, a 2005 study of the potential benefits of trait combinations of both species proposes, “It is believed that both the cultivated species may have evolved from an unknown common ancestor following a sequence from wild perennial to wild annual to cultivated annual ancestors” (Sarla 956). N. Sarla and B.P. Mallikarjuna Swamy explain, “The hypothesis of parallel lines of evolution of the two cultivated species has been confirmed by cytological studies;” and further elucidate, “Major portions of chromosomes of O. glaberrima could not be distinguished from those of O. sativa (956). It is well established that African Oryza glaberrima was cultivated in the Niger delta by Proto-Manding people since c. 1500 B.C.” (956).
Tracking African rice history, Judith Carney, the dean of Black rice in the Americas, states, “The techniques of rice production were vested in the knowledge carried by many African peoples to the Americas, particularly those enslaved from Senegal to the Ivory Coast which is home to the indigenous West African rice, Oriza glaberrima (“From Hands…” 1). Carney reveals further:
Enslaved West Africans brought an indigenous knowledge system that would establish rice as a subsistence and plantation crop over a broad region from South Carolina to tropical South America. With them, rice arrived in the Americas in the holds of slave ships, crossing over the ocean grave of the Middle Passage as provisions for its survivors. The cultivation, processing, and preparation of rice reveal a profound knowledge system brought to the Americas by those enslaved from West African rice-growing societies. (“Out of…” 204)
According to Carney, “Rice cultivation accompanied the forced settlement of African slaves to the western Atlantic throughout the early modern period;” and regarding Mexico notices, “In another prominent wetland area of the Americas—near Tabasco along Mexico’s Gulf Coast—a Spanish land grantee noted as early as 1579 the cultivation of rice ” (“Out of…” 219). The colonial source where Carney’s information originates is a 16th century Spanish report regarding Yucatan. In the sixteenth century, the Province of Tabasco was part of Yucatan. Said colonial source notes the planting of rice and millet in the sixteenth century and refers to natives and “negros” (Blacks) who use tobacco as medicine (Colección 368).
West Africans (Wolof, Fulani, Tukulor, Baga and Mandingo) represented 29 percent of the African population in Mexico by 1549 (Diouf 47). Wolof, Mandingo, Tukolor, and Fulani, among others, entered Mexico before 1580, classified as Cape Verde Blacks (Aguirre 106-123). In 1528, Africans accompanied Francisco de Montejo in his attempts to conquer Yucatan (Aguirre 19-20). The Maya repelled him. By 1530, Montejo had made a base in Tabasco just below Campeche. Montejo sought to “pacify” Yucatan from there. Champoton, Campeche was founded five years later in 1539. By 1559, rice was being exported from Campeche (Redondo 358).
As in other places of the Americas, African rice most likely arrived in Mexico in the holds of the ships that brought the West Africans above mentioned. To feed their human cargo, the Portuguese slave ships of the sixteenth century would load rice, “Rice proved so abundant along the West African coast that by 1480 Portuguese ships were purchasing the cereal for provisions, often from female traders” (Carney, “From Hands…” 12). Probable as well is that part of the gastronomy (foodstuffs and know-how) that precedes present “Mexican” rice, mole sauce, and aguas frescas [jamaica (roselle) and tamarindo (dakar)] originated in West Africa.
According to the Consejo Mexicano del Arroz (Mexican Rice Council),
toward 800 B.C.E., Asian rice acclimatized in the Near East and southern Europe. The Moors introduced it to Spain when they conquered it around the year 700 of our era. Later on, rice was propagated in Italy in the mid 15th century, in France, and after the epoch of the Great Discoveries, was implanted in all continents. (Arroz).
From this account, one is left to deduce that rice came to Mexico via Spain. This would at first appear logical; particularly where the current Spanish national dish is “Paella,” a rice–based dish connected to the Moors, flamenco dance, and the soulful singing style cante-hondo. What has been obscured is that the Moors, who introduced rice and rice cultivation to the Iberian Peninsula in the tenth century, were Muslim and part of the immense empire of Islam. The Spanish considered rice a pagan cereal unfit for Christian consumption until the nineteenth century. In 1943, Lois Olsen and Helen L. Eddy expose:
Two hundred years ago the “Kitab al-Felahah” or “Book of Agriculture” of Ibn-al-Awam was rediscovered in the Royal Spanish Library of San Lorenzo del Escorial and hailed as the greatest of all medieval treatises on agriculture. For hundreds of years this work had been completely lost to the Spanish farmers for whom it had been written in the latter half of the twelfth century of our era. Other European countries had never heard of Ibn-al-Awam. The earlier Roman agricultural writings, including those of Spanish born Columella, had been preserved in monastery libraries, but Ibn-al-Awam was a Moor. As long as the conflict between the Moors and the Christians remained fresh in their memories, church and state alike condemned everything Moorish, even their agricultural achievements. (100)
Ibn-al-Awam’s Book of Agriculture was translated from Arabic to Castillian Spanish in 1802 by José Antonio Banqueri (Awam). Until 1802 (or the 19th century), rice and rice agriculture were unknown to most Spaniards. Janet Mendel informs:
By the time of Valencia’s Reconquest in 1238, rice plantations were fairly widespread where water was abundant. After the expulsion of the Moors, with their irrigation know-how, rice growing went into decline and at times was even banned because it was believed to be a cause of the dread[ed] disease malaria. By the end of the 19th century, after the bans were lifted, rice cultivation picked-up. (120)
The Moors introduced rice and rice agriculture, among many other food and ornamental plants, to Europe in the 10th century (Van Sertima 10). It should be mentioned: “following the Moorish conquest of several Mediterranean islands as well as Spain beginning in 711, agricultural slavery spread to the Iberian Peninsula” (Lipski 14). African “Black slaves supplied by the Saharan trade were of course to be found in Iberia many centuries before the Portuguese discoveries; but the Valencian records first record a ‘natural of Gujneua’ (native of Guinea) in 1457” (Hair 129 n.4)
The Spanish did not adopt rice consumption and rice cultivation until the early nineteenth century. Modern “Spanish” paella, the current Spanish national dish par excellence did not emerge until the middle of the nineteenth century (Paella). Interestingly, the amazing similarity of paella and Wolof rice can be explained through the presence of thousands of enslaved Wolof people in Valencia between 1482-1516 (Hair 120). Ian I. Smart noted in 1996, “The dish enjoyed throughout West Africa and known as ‘Wolof rice’ is particularly dear to natives of The Gambia, some of whom consider it a national dish […] It is however, indistinguishable from the plato típico par excellence of Spain, namely, paella” (64).
According to the “Historia de la Paella,” (History of Paella) “Paella emerges in the rural zones of Valencia between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries […,] the rice cultivation zone near the lake of the Albufera, with near certainty, may be said to be the exact place of origin of the dish.” This acquires special meaning in the light of the West African Wolof presence in Valencia in the fifteenth century; and the rice gastronomy and rice-cultivation that followed in the Americas, including Mexico, where the West African presence, among others, has been documented as influential as well.
To drive the point, one may look closer at the history of the planting of wheat in New Spain. The three grains of wheat planted by the freed African Juan Garrido were found in a sack of rice (Alegría 84); yet, wheat has received most of the attention and ink. Justo L. del Río Moreno and Lorenzo E. López y Sebastián have documented “the scant number of accredited farmers” in sixteenth century Mexico (34); and that wheat and meat were the most common food of the Spanish diet (35). The Spaniards, who arrived in Mexico in 1519, were Catholic wheat eaters; the First Nations people had maize. Rice in sixteenth century Mexico was for Africans. The history of rice, rice cultivation and gastronomy in Mexico, where Wolof, Fulani, Baga, and Tukolor, among other Africans, were present in sixteenth century Mexico will reveal, inter alia, the Mexican patterns of Africanization.
The patterns of Mexican Africanization can be delineated with the support of other African gastronomical practices and foodstuffs present such as the cooling beverages dakhar (tamarind) and bissap (roselle, grosella or jamaica) consumed today in Senegal as well as Mexico. In Mexico, the trilogy of national aguas frescas (cooling beverages) are: horchata, tamarindo and jamaica. In addition, just as in other places of the African Diaspora, Mexicans produce and enjoy candied fruits, roasted coconut cakes, peanut or other nut patties, fritters, stews thickened with nuts, meat “used sparingly and mainly for seasoning” (Harris 173).
The almost four-century-long period of the transatlantic slave trade was marked by a second trade in foodstuffs necessary for the enslaved Africans to survive their arduous and unspeakable journey. This survival was of prime importance to the traders, who were more sagacious about West African cultures and habits than many thought. James A. Rawley, in The Transatlantic Slave Trade, presents his observations, noting that captives from the Bight of Benin were accustomed to jams, while those from Windward and Gold Coasts were accustomed to rice. The newly enslave Africans were said to have ‘a good stomach for beans’” (Harris 173).
Thus, the story that the Spanish brought rice cultivation from the Iberian Peninsula is de-myth-ified. The Moors brought rice and rice cultivation to the Iberian Peninsula in the tenth century, but such a “Muslim” knowledge was not discovered by the Christian Spanish until the nineteenth century. The sixteenth century Spaniards who arrived to Mexico were interested in two European grains: wheat and barley.
The second most accepted story of the arrival of rice in Mexico and its current uses is articulated in the following quote of a 2001 thesis of the Escuela Superior de Turismo (Superior School of Tourism) of the Instituto Nacional Politécnico (National Polytechnic Institute):
Rice is a grain from Eastern Asia brought to Mexico from the Philippines at the start of the colonial period. Traditionally, in Mexico, rice is browned in oil or lard with onions, garlic and salt before boiling. There are various ways to prepare rice such as: white; red; black; yellow; Puebla style; jardinière; and tumbada (Veracruz style) rice. Rice is used also to accompany different stews, roasts, mole-sauces, and adobo-sauces. The proper cooking point, texture, and consistency is a true controversy among different families and regions. In Southeast Mexico, rice is made mainly white to accompany the main dish of the meal. In Mexico City and other parts of Central Mexico rice is usually cooked red [with tomatoes] and is served as a dry soup after the sopa aguada (broth-y soup), and before the main dish. It is common to add a fried egg to it, slices of banana and even mole sauce.
In other places of Mexico, rice is part of the main dish as rice with chicken or pork. In Oaxaca, rice flavored with chepil dry leaves is common. Rice is eaten also with minced chicken innards, oregano, chili and parsley; it is a rice dish for special occasions. Another festive rice is Party Stewed Rice: red rice with pieces of pork ribs, Serrano peppers, parsley, peas and oregano. White rice is eaten in Veracruz with slices of fried plantain; it is typical in all of the Sotavento region. (Frías 60-61)

The theory of the arrival of the first rice in Mexico from the Philippines falls short where the Philippines-Acapulco original contact did not occur until 1565 where rice cultivation in Tabasco is reported a quarter of a century earlier. Because navigation charts for the route had to be made, the first ship with Asian cargo did not arrive to Acapulco until 1573 when “one of the greatest commercial exchanges of the epoch” started (Galeón 93). The Philippines-Acapulco-Philippines trade lasted 242 years until 1815:
Manila was the center of a commercial route that brought products from China, Japan, the Pacific Islands, and even India. The typical cargo of the Manila Galleon or the Nao of China was: cloves, cinnamon, pepper, silk, velvet, satins, taffetas, rope, copra, Chinese ceramic, delicate gold works and precious stones, carved wood, amber, flour, swords, etc.; in exchange the Chinese asked for silver from New Spain, which they needed urgently for their commercial activities. (Galeón 93)
Indubitably, Asian rice was present in the Philippines and was used to feed the sailors in the Manila-Acapulco trade route. Unquestionable too is that Asians and others began entering Mexico through that route in the late sixteenth century. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán has recorded, “Acapulco, a small village, located in the mountainous coasts of the [Mexican] South Seas […] regularly received the visit of the China Galleon with goods and slaves from the Philippine islands” (49). The enslaved were not natives of the Philippines as explained by Aguirre,
From the time that Fernando de Magallanes reached the Philippines archipelago for the first time in 16 March 1521, until López de Legaspi conquered it for the Spanish crown in 1565, numerous expeditions were formed to reach the Spice Islands. The Spanish, once established in Manila, followed the norms established in Mexico for the treatment of the natives; this means that the natives were exploited in encomiendas and repartimientos but not sold as slaves. There were prohibitions passed in this respect […] a few Indians from the Philippines were taken enslaved to New Spain. (49)
Manila had been the center of Eastern Trade long before the Europeans’ arrival, and people and slaves from all over Asia and Indonesia concurred in Manila yearly; “When López de Legaspi took Manila from the Zulu Moors he acquired the slave trade rights” (Aguirre 50). Toward the end of the 16th century, a Spanish galleon destined for New Spain began to leave Manila loaded with slaves and merchandise. The ship unloaded its products in Acapulco and returned to Manila with silver from the Mexican mines. Mexican silver was greatly appreciated by the sangleyes, the name given at the time to Chinese merchants.
The Spanish preferred not to live in Acapulco. Due to its inhospitable climate and environs, mainly Africans and their offspring populated colonial Acapulco from mid sixteenth century onward. Aguirre mentions that Philippine slaves were sent to New Spain by López de Legaspi. They received their freedom in the seventeenth century and founded a borough in Acapulco, “They called themselves Philippino Indians, but among them there were many mulattoes. This allows one to suppose that they were not exclusively natives of the archipelago, but from many other places of the Orient” (Aguirre 50). Most of the enslaved that arrived in Acapulco from Philippines “came under individual contracts” (Aguirre 50). An unknown number of enslaved East Africans entered Mexico via Acapulco classified as “chinos,” or people whose bloodline was nevertheless perceived as tainted by inferior (Non-European) blood, especially African.
In 1745, Spanish crown census maker Joseph Antonio de Villaseñor y Sánchez noted in his report, “There are no Indians in [Acapulco…], there are only four hundred families of chinos, mulattoes and blacks” (171). “Chinos” in this context is short for “cochinos” (pigs), people who are perceived as Afro-descendants and therefore carriers of Black “tainted” blood. In Mexico during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the name “chino” referred to the offspring of Black and Indian, “mulatto and chino were synonyms” (Aguirre 179).
Within the Mexican rice cultivation and gastronomy context, the above recounting of the history of the Asia-Mexico trade is of fundamental importance as well to help disentangle the confusion created by the misinterpretation and mistranslation of the term “chino” which did not mean “Chinese.” The “chinos” recorded in most Spanish colonial documents, as mentioned, are the offspring of people of the Original Nations and Africans. Thus, the version that rice was first brought to Mexico from Asia is not substantiated.
The Spanish lacked a cultural interest in rice; but they understood that rice was a cultural staple of West Africans. Rice agriculture and consumption in Mexico is recorded alongside Africans decades before the onset of the Acapulco-Philippines trade. Moreover, beyond rice cultivation, Mexican rice gastronomy reveals patterns of cooking and consumption similar to those found in Valencia and the Americas where West Africans, from the African Rice Coast, were present.
Logic dictates that West Africans were among the sixteenth century Africans taken (by the Spaniards) over the land from Veracruz to colonize and settle Acapulco. The likelihood that African rice came with them to Acapulco and the region must be contemplated. A call is made to academicians from all disciplines to engage in the serious and systematic study of Mexico’s kinships with the various nations of Africa. A few grains of Oryza glaberrima excavated by anthropologists from 16th century Mexican sites would provide further clues and directions toward recovering our African memory.
The cultural impact of West Africa in Mexico is yet to be officially recognized. Most of the African contributions and influences, as is the case of rice cultivation and gastronomy, have been wrongly assigned European, Asian, Hindu or when nothing else works “Arab” origins, (The Moor legacies are whitened with the name “Arab.” The Black Berbers called Moors (Van Sertima 4) were Arabic-speaking people; whereas the Arabs were a small minority of Islam). Consider this:
six basic preparation techniques that can arguably be extended to much of West Africa and are assumed to have been known to West Africans before Columbus. They are: boiling in water; steaming in leaves; frying in deep oil; toasting beside the fire (this can also be described as grilling); roasting in the fire; and baking in ashes” to this one can add “seven culinary tendencies that traveled from West Africa to the Americas and are emblematic of African-inspired cooking in the hemisphere. They are: the preparation of composed rice dishes; the creation of various types of fritters; the use of smoked ingredients for flavoring; the use of okra as a thickener; the abundant use of leafy green vegetables and the consumption of the ‘pot lickker;’ the abundant use of peppery and spicy hot sauces and condiments; and the use of nuts, beans (such as peanuts, which are beans not nuts), and seeds as thickeners. (Harris 172-3)
An important portion of the above can easily be detected in Mexican gastronomy and may be attributed, in part, to the pre-Columbian Mexican Indigenous origins. The point to underline is that current popular Mexican and West African palates possess amazing similarities in the ways that rice is prepared and enjoyed. Many West African and Mexican dishes and table sauces are red hot. This reveals cultural texts from both sides of the Atlantic with a series of incontestable affinities.
Let us compare for instance Jollof rice and Arroz a la mexicana; both are national cultural texts with characteristics that reveal deep-rooted affiliations. Jollof rice is one of the most popular dishes in West Africa; the common ingredients are: lean beef or chicken; salt and ground white pepper; vegetable oil for frying; stock or (water with crushed stock cubes); finely chopped onions; peeled and finely chopped garlic; finely chopped chilies (hot peppers); blanched, peeled and blended or mashed tomatoes; and tomato paste, assorted chopped vegetables, e.g. carrots, green beans, mushrooms and capsicums (sweet or bell peppers); long-grain rice; lettuce, parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro) and hard-boiled eggs to garnish. The cooking directions are:
Heat oil in fry pan and fry the meat or chicken pieces until brown. Remove meat from oil and add to the stock in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Simmer on low heat until meat begins to soften, and then remove from heat. Drain excess oil from fry pan leaving enough oil to fry onions, garlic and chilies (hot peppers) until golden. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, half the combined vegetables and stock from the meat mixture. Stir well, adjust seasoning and simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add this vegetable sauce to the meat mixture in the saucepan and simmer gently. Finally, stir in the uncooked, long-grain rice. Arrange the remaining vegetables on top of the rice and continue to simmer until the rice absorbs all the stock, softens and cooks, and the meat is tender. Serve hot, garnished with chopped lettuce, parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro) and hard-boiled eggs. (Hafner)
Arroz a la mexicana (or red rice) is one of the most popular ways to prepare and enjoy rice in Mexico and southwest United States that has a large “Hispanic” population. The common ingredients are: ripe tomatoes; chicken broth, olive oil; chopped onion; finely diced carrots; minced garlic; medium-grain rice; salt; bay leaf (some recipes use cumin and cilantro); serrano chile; and fresh or frozen peas. Mexican rice is served as a sopa seca (dry soup) before the main dish, or to accompany chicken, fish, beef or other stews. The cooking directions are:
Cut the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Add the tomatoes and 2 cups of broth to a blender and puree. Strain into a bowl and reserve the liquid. Add enough extra broth to make 4 cups of liquid. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute for 4 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the rice and cook until slightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato broth mixture, stir and bring to boil. Add the salt, bay leaf, and the serrano chile. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Scatter the peas over the top of the rice, cover, and let the rice stand 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork, transfer to a serving bowl and serve. For a deeper colored rice, stir in 2 tablespoons of tomato paste when adding the salt, bay leaf and serrano chile. (Foolproof)
Arroz a la tumbada (Veracruz style rice) is another popular Mexican rice dish related to Jollof rice. The ingredients and preparation of Arroz a la tumbada follow:
vegetable oil; washed and dried medium grain rice; peeled and chopped onion; peeled and minced garlic cloves; roasted, seeded, peeled and liquefied Roma tomatoes; fish stock; 1-in. pieces of raw fish fillets; shelled and de-veined raw shrimp; octopus chopped and cooked; soft-shell crabs; scrubbed clams; and chopped parsley. Arroz a la tumbada is normally prepared as follows:
In a clay cazuela or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the […] oil. Add the rice, onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is just turning golden. Add the liquefied tomatoes and cook until they are nearly absorbed by the rice. Add the fish stock, fish fillets, shrimp, octopus, crabs and clams. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover tightly and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid, sprinkle with chopped parsley, bring the cazuela to the table and serve from it. (Arroz)
Paella a la mexicana is another foundational cultural text performed in the corridor Veracruz-Mexico City. With some variations, its main ingredients include: rice, saffron, olive oil, chicken and chicken stock, pork, bacon, chorizo sausages, clams, shrimp, crabs, fish stock, artichokes, green beans, peas, carrots, olives, pimentos, onions, and garlic. Alavarado, Tlacotalpan, Mandinga, El Conchal, Boca del Río, are a few of the Port of Veracruz meccas of Paella a la mexicana. In Mexico City, one can find the best paella performed throughout the city. If this dish was a musical piece, it would be possible to detect the African rhythms that through its appearance, consistency, aroma, flavor, and others communicate a story (just like the Son musical complex in Latin America and Rhythm Blues in USA do) as one of the most creative and beautiful responses to the African-Mexican experience, unique among its sister cultures, but yet an African offspring.
Particularly in the Bajio, Central and Southern Mexico, South Pacific and Gulf regions rice is served as part of the main meal of the day. Comidas corridas (set menu) in Mexico City include a sopa aguada (liquid soup), a dry soup (rice or pasta), a stew, beans, and agua fresca (cold drinks made of: rice, tamarind, roselle, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, etc.). Rice may be added to Caldos (broth-y beef, chicken, lamb or fish soups). In most Mexican recipes, rice is browned in vegetable or animal fat and then a sofrito (a mixture of lightly fried onions and garlic, usually with tomatoes and other vegetables, used as a base for soups and stews) is added before the animal or vegetable broth that will be absorbed to flavor the rice. Rice is also served as a dessert (arroz con leche), or as a cold drink (horchata). As a dessert, rice is cooked in milk with cinnamon, raisins and sugar (with some variations). As a drink, rice is cooked with milk, water and cinnamon. Once cooked is pureed and strained. Sugar, milk and water are added to taste.
The direct connections of rice gastronomy between Mexico and West Africa are unavoidable. As discussed earlier, rice did not become part of the Spanish diet until the nineteenth century. First Nations people did not know rice, onions, garlic, cilantro, cumin, carrots, peas and frying. The First Nations may not have known of chickens either. Rice however, was a staple in the diet of a large portion of the West Africans brought from the Senegal-Gambia-Guinea (African Rice Coast) region to New Spain in the sixteenth century. The West Africans knew onions, garlic, chicken, cilantro, carrots, peas, and the making of sofrito. West Africans have adopted from the Americas peanuts, tomatoes, corn, cacao, chilies, avocados, corn, and pineapples, among others.
During the post-Columbian exchange (a two-way avenue) other West African traditions arrived in Mexico (and other places of the Americas) during the colonial period and became part of the current Mexican national gastronomy, and gastronomies of other American nations where the African influence has been studied and accepted. The popular comidas corridas (set menu) mentioned above are traditionally accompanied by one of the national trilogy of aguas frescas (cold drinks): horchata de arroz (rice sweet drink), jamaica (roselle), or tamarindo (tamarind). The following histories of roselle and tamarind may complement and be parallel to the history of African rice in Mexico:
The Cambridge World History of Food reports that roselle is,
Probably a native of West Africa (it is a close relative of okra), roselle (Hisbiscus sabdariffa) is also called “rozelle,” “Indian sorrel,” “red sorrel,” “Jamaican sorrel,” and just plain “sorrel.” The young shoots and leaves of the plant are eaten raw or as a cooked vegetable, and the flowers {actually the calyx), which constitute the main reason for the cultivation of roselle, are used to make beverages, jellies, sauces, preserves and chutneys. Roselle was introduced in Brazil in the seventeenth century but may have reached the West Indies even earlier—both of these introductions occurring via the slave trade. (1844-5)
Regarding tamarind, the same source dubiously states:
The tamarind, a basic ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, has a Latin name (Tamrindus indica) that certainly suggests an Indian origin, but East Africa also claims the plant. Its name, which comes from the Arabic, tamar-bindi, means “Indian date.” The tamarind has been cultivated since ancient times in India, where it retains a place in formal Hindu ceremonies. It must have reached Europe sometime before the Spaniards moved into the Americas, because they carried the plant to the West Indies and Mexico. (1865)
The California Rare Fruit Growers inform, “The tamarind is a native to tropical Africa and grows wild throughout the Sudan [region]. It was introduced into India so long ago, it has been reported as indigenous there also. […] Sometime during the sixteenth century it was introduced into America and today is widely grown in Mexico.” The Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts reports, “Other theories suggest tamarind originated in various locations in Africa including Madagascar and Central and East African countries” (400).
“N’dakar” in Wolof, a language of the Niger-Congo family spoken in Senegal, Mali and Gambia currently, means “tamarind tree.” The connections between the origin of the tree and fruit and its specific usage as a cooling beverage in Mexico and West Africa, and not in Spain, should not be dismissed; particularly where tamarind drink and roselle drink are two of the three national cooling drinks of Mexico. The third one is horchata de arroz (rice drink). Thus, the relationships between West Africans in Mexico in the sixteenth century and rice, roselle and tamarind gastronomical usages in Mexican national gastronomy may be viewed in conjunction with other Mexican foodstuffs and food practices as having profound West African roots.
Under the light of the foregoing, the conspicuous similarities between Mexican “Mole Poblano” and Senegalese Mafe (a type of mole served and eaten in an ample bed of rice) need to be studied. The author of the present work learned of Mafe for the first time during his visit to Dakar in December 2010. West African rice, rice cultivation and rice gastronomy arrived in the sixteenth century to Mexico along with the Wolof, Fulani, Tukolor, Baga, and other West Africans brought to New Spain at the onset of the Spanish colonial period. This is also supported by the four sources cited in the first paragraph of this study where rice cultivation is reported in 1539. Although mostly enslaved, these Africans did not come void of cultural knowledge and empty handed as has been narrated in the official histories of Mexico, and elsewhere.

(Please see after the bibliography pictures of food items referred to in this essay).

Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo. La población negra de México. Estudio etnohistórico. México, D.F.: Fondo, 1972 (1st ed. 1946).
Alegría, Ricardo E. Juan Garrido, El conquistador negro en las Antillas, Florida, México y California. San Juan: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, 2004 (1ª Ed. 1990).
“Arroz a la tumbada.” 11 January 2011.
Awam, Ibn-al-. Libro de Agricultura. Clásicos agrarios. Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, 1988 (1st translation 1802).
California Rare Fruit Growers. . 10 January 2011.
Cambridge World History of Food, The. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.
Carney, Judith A. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge: Harvard, 2001.
_____. “From Hands to Tutors: African Expertise in the South Carolina Rice Economy.” Agricultural History, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Summer 1993): 1-30.
_____. “Out of Africa: Colonial Rice History in the Black Atlantic.” Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World. Eds. Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swan. Philadelphia: U of Penn P., 2005.
_____. “ ‘With grains in her hair’: rice in colonial Brazil.” Slavery & Abolition, 25: 1. (2004): 1-27.
Chang, Te-Tzu. “Economic and Biological Importance of Rice.” The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, (2000): 132-149.
Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas de ultramar. 2nd Series; Vol. II: I “Relaciones de Yucatán.” Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1898.
del Río Moreno, Justo L. and Lorenzo E. López y Sebastián.”El trigo en la ciudad de México. Industria y cultivo de un cultivo importado (1521-1564).” Revista Complutense de Historia de América, 22. Madrid: Servicio de Publicaciones UCM, 1996.
Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: NYUP, 1998.
Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts, The. Eds. Jules Jenick et al. Cambridge: CUP, 2008.
Foolproof Mexican Rice (“Arroz Mexicano”). The Foodnetwork.http://www. . 11 January 2011.
Frías Valenzuela, Marta Argelia, María Elena Malcara Herrera, Edgarad Martínez Gallardo Sánchez, and Monteserrat Sánchez Orozco. “La importancia del rescate de la comida barroca como arte culinario dentro de la gastronomía del estado de Puebla.” B.A. in Thesis. México, D.F.: IPN, 2001. 2 January 2011.
“Galeón de Manila, El.” 4 January 2011.
Hair, P.E.H. “Black African Slaves at Valencia, 1482-1516: An Onomastic Inquiry.” History in Africa, Vol. 7 (1980): 119-139.
Hafner, Dorinda. “Jollof Rice” Recipe. The Global Gourmet Main Page. From A Taste of Africa.
jollofrc.html#axzz1AjtTLc2V. 11 January 2011.
Harris, Jessica. “Same Boat, Different Stops: An African Atlantic Culinary Journey.” African Roots/American Cultures: Africa in the Creation of the Americas. Ed. Sheila Walker. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield P., 2001.
“Historia del la paella.” 3 January 2011.
Humboldt, Alexander de. Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. Vol. II. Translated from the Original French by John Black. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown; and H. Colburn, 1814.
Lipski, John. A History of Afro-Hispanic Language: Five Centuries, Five Continents. Cambridge: CUP, 2005.
Mendel, Janet. Traditional Spanish Cooking. London: Frances Lincoln Limited P,. 2006.
Official Mexican Rice History. Consejo Mexicano del Arroz. Juanuary 2011.
Olsen, Lois and Helen L. Eddy. “Ibn-al-Awam: A Soil Scientist of Moorish Spain.” Geographical Review, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan. 1943): 100-109.
“Oriza glaberrima.” Jstore Plant Science. 2 January 2011.
“Paella: An Introduction to Spanish Paella.” 3 January 2011.
Redondo, Brígido. “Negritud en Campeche: de la Conquista a nuestros Días.” Presencia africana en México. Ed. Luz María Martínez Montiel. México, D.F.: CONACULTA, 1994.
Sarla, N. and B.P. Mallikarhuna Swamy. “Oryza glaberrima: A source for the improvement of Oryza sativa.” Current Science, Vol. 89, No. 6. (2005): 955-963.
Smart. Ian I. Amazing Connections: Kemet to Hispanophone Africana Literature. Washington, D.C. Original World P., 1996.
Sotavento. veracruz-mexico.htm 1-9-2011.
Van Sertima, Ivan. “”The Moor in Africa and Europe.” Golden Age of the Moor. Ed. Ivan Van Sertima. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2007.
Villaseñor y Sánchez, Joseph Antonio. Theatro americano: Descripción general de los Reynos y Provincias de la Nueva España y sus jurisdicciones. Prologue, María del Carmen Velázquez. México, D.F.: Trillas, 1992.

Senegalese Mafe with white rice.

Wolof rice with Chicken

Jollof rice with veggies

Wolof rice AKA “Benachin”

Bissap Drink (Jamaica in Mexico)

Dakhar drink (Tamarindo in Mexico)