Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Given the discovery of numerous Olmec artifacts depicting Blacks begs a number of questions: “Were there Black or African people in ancient America? Do the African heads of the Olmec confirm an African presence in Mexico or do they show present-day Mayan people? What is the relation between contemporary Black Costa Chicas (negrocostachicanos) and Blacks depicted in Olmec artifacts?
The idea of mestizaje was developed by Jose Vascoucelos. Mr. Vascouselos became Minister of Education in 1921. During his tenure Black heroes of Mexican history were whitened as Vascoucelos pursued a policy of homogenization of Mexicans (Cuevas, 2004).
In 1946, Black Mexicans were rediscovered by Aguirre Beltran (1972) when he found the Blacks in Costa Chica. This was a rediscovery because the idea of mestizaje stressed the idea that there were only Mexicans, and not Amerindians, Whites or Blacks. The only problem with this idea was that Black Mexicans became associated with poverty and ignorance. These Blacks also experience much discrimination throughout Mexico, and much hostility in Costa Chica (Vaugh, 2005a, 2005b).
The Negrocostachicanos claim that they have never been slaves and are indigenous to Guererro and Oaxaca on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The 1990 Mexican census recorded 66,000 Negrocostachicanos. These Mexicans live in African style huts and practice rituals which may be of African origin (Vaugh,2005a).
Most researchers believe that the Negrocostachicanos are decendants of marrons or runaway slaves (Aguirre Beltran, 1972; Vaugh,2005a). But none of the Blacks of Costa Chica have songs about slavery and its hardships (Baja.com.2005).The Negrocostachicanos say “they are not they insist, the descendants of African slaves. There was never slavery here, even in ancient times” (Baja.com,2005). Bobby Vaugh (2005b) noted that he found “no consciousness of slavery among people in Costa Chica” (p.5). Another researcher, noted that “Housewives in San Jose Estancia Grande and Santiago Tapextla [in Costa Chica] say their ancestors did not come from Africa, that their families have always lived right here” (Baja.com, 2005, p.6).
The fact that the Negrocostachicanos claim that they were never slaves has troubled some researchers who believe that the only Blacks in Mexico came to the New World with the Spanish. Although this is the popular view concerning the origin of Blacks in Mexico, this view may be Eurocentric because the archaeological and historical evidence indicate that Blacks were already in Mexico when the Spanish made there way to Mexico.
Leo Wiener in the African Discovery of America (1922), provides a detailed account of the Black gods of Mexico in the third volume in this series of books. Wiener outlined that the Blacks were traveling merchants in Mexico selling cocao, feathers and other products.
The major Black gods of the Mexicans was Quetzalcoalt, and the Mayan gods L and M, Xaman and Ekchuah these gods are depicted in the Codex Troano(Wiener, 1921, [vol.3] p.258). Sahagun tells us that Ekchuah was also the god of the Amanteca. The Nahuatl term Amanteca, was probably the name of the Mandinka or Mandinga people who were the foundation of the Olmec people (Winters, 2005).
Ekchuah and the Mayan God M, was the god of merchants and warriors. He is also depicted in the Codex Cortesianus and 17 times in the Madrid Codex.