February 18, 2005

Afro-Mexicans: Mexico’s forgotten roots

Bob Marley Day Festival in Tijuana will celebrate Mexico’s black history

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Mexico has a rich African heritage that needs to be recognized by its people, according to Makeda Dread, director of the World Beat Center, a cultural organization located at Balboa Park.

“Mexicans should not only be proud of their Indigenous and Spanish blood, but they must learn about their black history as well,” Dread said.

There has been such an important black presence in Mexico, that, in fact, it was there where the first African slaves were freed, Dread said.

She gave the example of Yanga, an Afro-Mexican freedom fighter who’s rarely mentioned in history books.

Dread added that there’s archeological data that proves that the Olmec culture, considered the Mother Culture of Mexico, had it beginnings in Africa.

In order to make Mexicans aware of their black roots, this Friday, February 18, the World Beat Center is hosting a Bob Marley Day Festival in Tijuana, where organizers plan to celebrate the richness of Afro-Mexican heritage.

“This is a good opportunity for Mexicans to recognize that Africa is part of their history,” Dread said. “Reggae music is about oppression and liberation. This is the perfect time to recognize the diversity that exists in Mexico.”

In the festival will participate several reggae bands from Tijuana and San Diego, as well as some guests as far from Brazil, including Don Carlos, Tribo de Jah, Martin Campbell, Esencia, and Stranger.

There will also be speakers and information booths. The event will take place at El Foro (Antiguo Palacio Jai Alai) on Avenida Revolución. Doors will open at 8 p.m. and tickets will be available there.

Dread said that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the African-Mexican Library in Costa Chica, Oaxaca, a community in southern Mexico with a large black population.

Dread added that the regions in Mexico with a strong African presence are the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero.

She said that many Mexican youth are learning about this heritage through reggae.

“I see all these young Mexican kids who not only learn about their Spanish and Indigenous heritage, but who are learning about their African history as well,” said Dread, who hosts ‘Reggae Makossa’ on 91X FM, a reggae radio show, now celebrating 20 years of spreading the positive messages of love, world peace, and pursuit of equal rights.

The WorldBeat Cultural Center, located at Balboa Park, is a non-profit multi-disciplinary cultural organization. It is dedicated to promoting, presenting and preserving the Indigenous cultures of the world through music, art, education, culture and technology.

It strives to enhance the visibility of cultural artists of color, expand opportunities for cultural enrichment, and broaden the understanding of various world cultures, through events such as the Bob Marley Day in Tijuana.

Dread said that black Mexicans are a reality that can’t be denied. She said that one can see Africa on the faces of people from the coasts of Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Guerrero.

She even said that former Mexican president Vicente Guerrero and revolutionary Pancho Villa had black blood in them.

“Afro-Mexicans are the missing group. They are Mexico’s forgotten roots,” Dread said.

And although history books never mention this reality, Dread said it is really important to rescue Mexico’s rich African heritage in order to unite the African-American and Mexican-American communities in the United States.

“There’s a huge gap between black Americans and Afro-Mexicans. Only when both groups recognize they have so much in common, will the rivalries between the two will stop,” she said.

The World Beat Center will also host Bob Marley Day in San Diego on Monday, February 21, at the Sports Arena.

For more information, you can call (619) 602-9003, or visit www.worldbeatcenter.org.

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