Vicente Guerrero: The first Afro-Mexican President of the Americas

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Mexico’s black president abolished slavery before the U.S. Civil War

common doubts, Independence Mexico, national holidays, September 16

Vicente Guerrero, the first black president of Mexico, who was also a version of Abraham Lincoln for the nation. In 1829 President Guerrero issued a Mexico-specific decree to abolish slavery (which led to Texas slave owners removing Texas itself from Mexico a few years later).

Negro Slaves

In the Colony, in the states of Guerrero and Veracruz, there was miscegenation between black slaves and the native population of Mexico who were called “pardos” by the Spanish. They and the mulattoes were the results between the white boss and the black slave.

Both whites and blacks and indigenous people openly rejected the men and women who came from the mestizaje; therefore Afromestizos were not recognized either as indigenous or as Africans, much less as whites.

Vicente Guerrero was born in the small town of Tixla in the Mexican state of Guerrero. His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an Afro-Mexican, and Guadalupe Saldaña, an Indian. Vicente had very humble beginnings. As a young man he worked on what came out for him and he did it as a mule muleteer in his own father’s mule races. This work took him on a journey that marked his life and ideologies. Guerrero worked throughout Mexico and began to listen to the voices of the people and their collective ideas of independence. On one of the trips, he met the famous rebel General José María Morelos y Pavón. In November 1810, Guerrero decided to believe in the general idea of ​​the revolution and joined Morelos. Unfortunately, Morelos was assassinated by the Spanish, and Guerrero became Commander in Chief.

José María Morelos y Vicente Guerrero, figuras de la Independencia ...

Iturbide agreed to an alliance with the independence movement and supported Guerrero in a series of national measures known as “The Iguala plan.” This plan, however, gave civil rights to the Indians but not to the Afro-Mexicans. Guerrero refused to sign the plan unless Afro-Mexicans and mulattos were also given equal rights. Clause 12 was then incorporated into the plan. It said the following: “All the inhabitants. . . regardless of their European, African or Indian origin, they are citizens. . . with full freedom to exercise their means of subsistence according to their merits and virtues ”.

Later, Guerrero was part of a “Junta” of three people who ruled the then independent Mexico of 1823-24. Guerrero, head of the “People’s Party,” ordered public schools, property title reforms, and many other liberal programs. Guerrero was elected the second president of Mexico in 1829. As president, Guerrero went on to defend the cause not only of the racially oppressed but also of the economically oppressed.

President Guerrero formally abolished slavery on September 16, 1829. Shortly after, betrayed by a group of reactionaries who removed him from his home, President Guerrero was captured and eventually executed, like Lincoln. Guerrero’s political platform was based on the belief that civil rights are for everyone, including Afro-Mexicans. Mexicans with a heart full of pride call him the “greatest colored man.” 

However, the concept of miscegenation was forced to change after Independence and during the Reformation. It was after Independence that it began to be said that Mexicans were mestizos (children of Spanish and indigenous people) and thus, little by little, the enormous number of Afro-Mexicans were disappearing from the national discourse. Today, many people do not recognize the existence of Afro-Mexicans, much less know the contributions they have made to our country.

Many of the heroes of independence were Afromestizos, among them the first African-American president of Mexico: Vicente Guerrero.

Vicente Guerrero marked the social, military, and political sphere of the first half of the 19th century.

Vicente Guerrero participated in the War of Independence using the Guerrilla War which is also characterized by resistance.

Guerrero received a coup d’etat from the conservatives, he left the country, and in 1831 in Acapulco, they betrayed him to be sent to shoot by orders of the centralist Bustamante.

His contemporaries did not always recognize the role of the general due to his humble background. In written representations, Guerrero was admired and respected by some, as well as despised and insulted by others, due to his intellectual abilities and racial origin. In the visual representations that we have of Guerrero, it is clarified despite having been Afro-Mexican.

In Mexico, it is believed that there is no racial problem due to the skin color of Mexicans, but INEGI studies showed that this is a lie. We live in a country racist enough to erase the origin of one of its national heroes. In the state of Guerrero, a large part of the population is Afromestizo and, despite this, the contributions made by men and women whose ancestors came from Africa are currently being denigrated or ignored.

10 Afro-Mexicans who made history

We have already told you about the history of Afro-Mexicans, the third root of our country, and we have also studied in depth the inhabitants of African origin in Veracruz. Today I want to tell you about these important Afro-Mexican characters who made history and who influenced the cultural life of our country.

José María Morelos y Pavón (1765 – 1815)

Known today as “the servant of the nation”, José María Morelos y Pavón was born in Valladolid (today Morelia, Michoacán) and was a Mexican insurgent priest and military man, considered the forger of the second stage of the War of Independence (1811- 1815).

He and his troops openly supported Afro-descendants, slaves, and mestizos during the armed movement in Tierra Caliente. When Morelos became a prisoner of the royalist forces, he was tortured by the Inquisition, who declared him “heretic, blasphemer of the sacraments and traitor to God, the King and the Pope” Even the council meeting that handled his case held that, due to his physical features and in case of not being sentenced to death, he should be deported to Africa.

Vicente Guerrero (1782—1831)

Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña was a Mexican politician and military man, a militant of the insurgency in the Resistance stage of the Mexican War of Independence. He held the presidency of Mexico from April 1 to December 17, 1829. He was the first president of Afromestizo descent on the American continent. Guerrero was considered a mulatto, according to the caste system of the colonial era.

Afro-Mexicans who made history

Gaspar Yanga

He was the leader of a slave rebellion during the beginning of the Spanish colonial mandate in present-day Mexico. It is believed that he was a member of the Gabonese royal family. Yanga came to Veracruz as a slave, around 1570. He and his followers founded what is considered the first free colony in America, which they called San Lorenzo de Los Negros. Five decades after Independence, Yanga was named a national hero. Today a town in Veracruz bears his name.

Emiliano Zapata

Hero of the Mexican revolution in 1910, he led a peasant army in the Cuautla valley and organized the peasant committees from which the land possession reform emerged.

It is known that his family was a descendant of indigenous and Afromestizos, from family photographs and because, in Cuautla, the mestizo and Afro-descendant populations had been mixed for at least four generations ago with the indigenous people of the region.

Pius of Jesus Pico (1801-1894)

He was the last Mexican governor of Alta California. He was the fourth of 10 children of the marriage and his ancestry comes from a mixture of African, Native American, Spanish blood, and other European roots.

Toña la Negra (1912 – 1982)

Antonia Peregrino was born in the city of Veracruz, in the La Huaca neighborhood. Her paternal grandfather, Don Severo Peregrino, was Haitian and had emigrated to Mexico in the 19th century. This singer and actress was very famous for her interpretations of the boleros and the tropical songs of the composer Agustín Lara, who considered her as “the greatest songwriter of all time”. Lara created songs for her such as “Lamento Jarocho”, “Veracruz”, “Noche Criolla”, “Oración Caribe”, “Palmera”, “La clave Azul” and “La Cumbancha”.

Álvaro Carrillo (1919 – 1969)

This great Mexican composer of popular music and originally from the Costa Chica of Oaxaca studied to be an agricultural engineer, but his thing was to compose songs. He created more than 300 and, among them, the most popular are “Sabor a mí“, “El andariego” and “Pinotepa”.

Johnny Laboriel (1942- 2013)

His real name was Juan José Laboriel López. He was a Mexican rock singer who, along with Angélica María, César Costa, Enrique Guzmán, Alberto Vázquez, and Manolo Muñoz, was part of the so-called golden age of rock and roll in Mexico. His group “Los Rebeldes del Rock” was the first rock group in Spanish of that time to get a record released. One of his most famous songs was Angel Rock

Pedro Sergio Peñaloza Pérez (1953)

Born in Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero, this Afro-Mexican professor and activist is president of the anti-racist organization México Negro AC, founded in 1997. He studied at the Autonomous University of Guerrero and his work as an activist has been to promote respect and knowledge of the rights of people of African descent in Mexico for more than twenty years.

Peñaloza and México Negro AC fight for the constitutional recognition of black peoples in Mexico. They have organized popular, academic, and folkloric forums, as well as events on Afro-descendants abroad. In 2017, he participated in the collection of signatures with the goal of becoming a pre-candidate for the Mexican presidency through an independent candidacy, but he did not obtain the desired success.

recognition of Afro-Mexican peoples

In that same year, he participated in the construction of a proposal for constitutional reform in Mexico City, with the aim of recognizing Afro-descendants on a territorial basis, without limiting official recognition to legal visibility.

Alejandra Robles “The brunette” (1978)

Born in Puerto Escondido, in the coastal region of the state of Oaxaca, she showed interest in music and dance since she was a child, especially for the sounds and the Chileans of Guerrero and Oaxaca. Always encouraged by her father, who accompanied her on guitar, and inspired by her maternal grandfather, an Afro-descendant from San Marcos, Guerrero, a traditional musician, pioneer of the trios in Oaxaca.

His musical style represents his Afro-Mexican and Oaxacan roots. She studied classical singing formally in Paris and at the Xalapa Conservatory of Music, Veracruz.

Source: noticieros.televisa.com, historiadeafrica.com, matadornetwork.com

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