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A Group Of Women In Oaxaca, Mexico Are Empowering Women To Feel Proud Of Their African Roots Through Dance

Afro-Mexicans: Dancing Their Way Back To Their Roots

These young Afro-Mexican women are dancing to reconnect with their roots. With no formal training, they've turned to YouTube to learn the steps.

Posted by AJ+ on Sunday, December 4, 2016

A group of women in Oaxaca, Mexico are driving a movement to encourage other Afro-Mexicans to feel proud of their roots.

And they’re doing this through dance.

The Internet plays a huge part of this movement. After researching online and discovering that most Afro-Mexicans descend from the northeast region of Africa, they decided they would only focus on dances that come from that part of the continent. And as for how they’re learning the traditional dances? YouTube.

Their efforts are inspiring many to feel a sense of pride, but this group is also impacting the Mexican Census. Afro-Mexican was never an option in the Mexican Census until 2015. That year, 1.4 million were mexicanos identified as Afro-Mexicans.

“We want equal rights and we want to be proud of being black and be able to share that pride,” said Anai Herrera, a lead of the Obatala Afro-Mexican dance group.

READ: @blaxicansofla Gets an Intimate Portrayal of What It’s Like Growing Up Black & Mexican

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How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

Things That Matter

How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

Photo via SusanaHarp/Twitter

Black history month is the time of year that we shine a spotlight on the rich and unique history of people of African descent in the United States–a past that has consistently been downplayed, ignored, and in some cases, erased from our history books.

At this point, it’s evident that the Black experience is not a monolith–there is no “one way” to be Black. And yet, many people still struggle to comprehend the fact that Afro-Latinos exist.

When you hear the term Afro-Latino, you might immediately think of a few Caribbean Spanish-speaking nations with explicit ties to the African diaspora–Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, for example.

But the fact is, Black people are everywhere in Latinidad. But Afro-Latinos in non-Caribbean countries often feel overlooked, erased. And this phenomenon is especially true for afromexicanos.

In 2020, after years of fighting, Afro-Mexicans finally got recognition on the Mexican census.

The question was simple, but powerful: “Por sus costumbres y tradiciones, ¿se considera usted afromexicano, negro o afrodescendiente?” (“Based on your culture and traditions, do you consider yourself Afro-Mexican, black or Afro-descendant?”)

For Americans, especially, it can be hard to understand why the question wasn’t on the census in the first place. After all, Americans live in a country where identities are divided into strict categories: Black, white. Hispanic, non-Hispanic.

But for Mexicans, the concept of race and ethnicity is a bit more complicated. To critics, separating people into Black, white, and Indiegnous categories on the census seemed divisive. Many Mexicans identify as mestizaje–a combination of indigenous, European, and, to some extent, African roots.

But for the organizers of the #AfroCensoMx campaign–a campaign to add the negro/afromexicano to the census–the movement was more than just identity politics.

Self-identifying as Black on the Mexican census is, of course, a little bit about pride in one’s identity, but it also has more practical concerns.

The census numbers who also inform organizations about socio-economic patterns associated with being Black in Mexico–information that is invaluable. Because as of now, afromexicanos have unique experiences that are informed by their heritage, their culture, and their place in the Mexican stratum.

As Bobby Vaughn, an African-American anthropologist who specializes in Black Mexicans, put it bluntly: “Mexicans of African descent have no voice and the government makes no attempt to assess their needs, no effort to even count them.”

But for afromexicano activists, being identified as such on the Mexican census is empowering.

Lumping all Mexicans together and ignoring their (sometimes very obvious) differences can have the effect of making certain groups feel erased. Yes, Black Mexicans are simply Mexicans–that fact is not up for debate. But stories abound of afromexicanos being discriminated against because of the way they look.

An Afro-Mexican engineer named Bulmaro García from Costa Chica (a region with a significant Black population) explained to The Guardian how he is grilled by border guards and asked to sing the Mexican national anthem whenever he crosses into Guerrero.

He says the guards’ behavior is “classic discrimination due to skin color. [They think] if you’re black, you’re not Mexican.”

The differences exist, and by acknowledging it, we are more able to speak truth to power.

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Latinas Talk About Their Fave Dance Craze

Culture

Latinas Talk About Their Fave Dance Craze

There’s no denying the fact that dance has a pretty firm place in the hearts of just about every Latin American culture. Across our countries and cultures, and thanks to native and Afro roots, Latin Americans know how to toe step and grind better than the rest of them. From salsa and bachata to danzón and merengue dance has permeated our lives making parties, ceremonies, and even sad occasions some of the most memorable and colorful.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we turned to Latinas to ask about their favorite dances from their cultures and how it has made their life better.

We posed the question “Latin America consists of many different cultural dances. What can you say about the ones from your país? We will be featuring your answers on one of our editorial pieces.⁠”

Check out the answers below!

“CUMBIA! And Joe Arroyo so beautiful said, ‘del Indio tiene la fuerza, y el Negro la fortaleza, que le imprime el movimiento.’”- lauraarendonn


“Ritmos africanos combinados con tambores pre-colombinos y la flambuya y elegancia de los gitanos y corte española. Mi herencia cultural es un sabroso pozole.”- mercedesmelugutierrez

“Chamamé, vanera… – Southern Brazil. Super important to the gaucho culture that southern Brazil shares with argentina and uruguay.”- its.lilas.world

“El baile de los viejitos, Michoacán, México.”- angelyly_



“Punta!! Like ‘Sopa de Caracol.’”- laura_gamez27

“Samba — originated in Brazil from men and women ( mostly from West African region) that were enslaved by Portugal — and brought to Brazil.”- la_licorne_en_velours_

“BOMBA!!! A style of dance in Puerto Rico heavily influenced by our African roots.”-xosamanthaotero


“Festejo… “- jesthefania

“Danza.”- karifornialove

“Cueca from Chile.”- calisunchine



“Huapango Arribeño- San Luis Potosí, Mexico.”-hijxsdetonatiuh



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