It is not easy to make a proper analysis of the social, political, and cultural issues shaping the world of Afro-Mexicans in the 21-st century. The complexity of the situation includes not only the changing economic, ideological, and national scenario, but also conflicts of ethnically differentiated populations in Mexico. This constitutes not just a formal dilemma but a crucial aspect of the understanding of the political processes in which Afro-Mexicans are involved. This paper, by referring to a number of scholarly articles and sources, analyzes the current political, social, and cultural issues impacting the development of the African Diaspora in Mexico, focusing on the contemporary trends in the lives of Afro-Mexicans.
In the first place, it must be emphasized that in Mexico race is neither a relevant nor a sufficient indicator to denote membership in a specific ethnic group. The process of achieving a proper social status has been not only biological but also cultural. Thus, persons who racially are blacks have been able to present themselves culturally as equal members of society. This act supposes the acceptance of an alternate style of life as much as the negation of one’s own. The black exhibits a great historic influence, even though modern-day Afro-Mexicans are generally stigmatized, being considered a matter that should disappear to give way to a modernity understood as westernization. And if race is not a relevant indicator, then style of living often cannot be used to determine the presence of cultural boundaries (Twillie 1995). In fact, many peasant communities that do not speak their native languages anymore do preserve economic, social, and cultural practices that are not very different from those that are being placed within black communities.
Modern racist ideology, which concerns Afro-Mexicans, continues to place a colonial tone on ethnic relations. History, especially that of the 21-st century, reflects a process of making Mexico more western. It has been estimated that Mexico was peopled by about 25 million people in pre-Hispanic times. After the European invasion, around 1650, there were 130,000 mestizos, 120,000 whites, and 1,270,000 surviving Indians (Twillie 1995). In the twentieth century, the 1921 census stated that of 14,344,780 Mexicans, 4,179,000 identified themselves as Indians, but they used an imprecise racial definition (Spigner 2007). After 1930, only a linguistic indicator was used, registering 2,251,086 native speakers in that year and 6,282,347 (over five years old) in 1990 (Spigner 2007).
The black population is increasingly literate but has illiteracy rates that are probably almost double those of other Mexicans. Their income was roughly 36 percent of that of other Mexicans, and Afro-Mexicans were nine times more likely to suffer severe deprivation, probably because those with comparable skills, education, and other characteristics working in black areas are paid significantly less than those working in other parts of Mexico (Von Germeten 2006). Forty-eight percent of pay differentials between blacks and other Mexicans cannot be explained by typically measured characteristics. Moreover, poverty forces Afro-Mexican children to leave school earlier than others; their work provides a larger share of family income (Von Germeten 2006).