As most of you know, the month of February is Black History Month in the U.S., and as Chicanos and Chicanas I think it behooves us to consider how persons of African descent have also played a role in the history and heritage of Chicanos. You see, even though Chicano History Week covers the dates of Feb. 2-8, that does not mean that we as Chicanos have to ignore the remainder of Black History Month. In fact, I would say that Black History Month gives Chicanos another springboard to use in extolling the achievements of historical persons I call Afro-Mesoamericans and/or Black Chicanos. According to Cirenio A. Rodriguez (2015), “The heritage of Africans in Mexico after Christopher Columbus is a rarely explored topic in the history books of the Americas.”
And even though many of us have been involved with matters relating to the arrival and celebration of Chicano History Week (Feb 2-8), that first week in February has now passed. Yet there is “something” more which many persons who identify as Chicano or Chicana may want to take into consideration. That “something” is that we are still in the midst of the celebration of Black History Month in the U.S. So some of us may want to change from our usual “non-black” modus operandi and/or frame of mind, and think: What black Chicanos or Chicanas do we know? I think that we as Chicanos and Chicanos owe it to ourselves to address this question during Black History Month (as well as during Chicano History Week, Feb. 2-8). I hope you agree.
It is important to keep in mind that during the 16th and 17th centuries, the two countries of Peru and Mexico together imported more slaves than the entire United States. Dr. Cirenio A. Rodriguez (2015) suggests the following: “Just Google Afro-Mexican heroes and you will find many sources. Also Professor Henry Louis Gates did a film for PBS entitled ‘Mexico and Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closet. This one-hour film deals in part with the history of Africans in Mexico after Christopher Columbus, a topic which is rarely explored topic in the history books of the Americas.”
According to Rodriguez (Ibid.) “Gasper Yanga, was one of the often neglected African figures in the history of the Americas. He was the founder of the town Yanga, located in the Veracruz region of Mexico, between the Port of Veracruz and Córdoba. It is among the first free African settlements in the Americas after the start of the European slave trade. Black slaves also rebelled against the Spanish in 1570. Two Mexican heroes of the Mexican Independence (circa 1810) were also part black, Vicente Guerrero and Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon.”
Additionally, I would like to remind our readers that sometime back I spoke to you about who might be persons in Chicano history who could possibly be considered as Chicano historical “archetypes” (or more perfect versions of ourselves). I had hoped that by doing so, I could put together a hallway display of such persons, and that such a display could then be available for K-12 schools to show their students—well, that project is still in the works. But the reason that I mention the Chicano “archetypes” project is because it has occurred to me that one of those “archetypes” could be, and in my opinion, should be, any persons of African descent who has exhibited any of the multitude of characteristics we find admirable and/or praiseworthy as Chicanos or Chicanas. Well, I am of the opinion that in the history of the U.S. there is just such an example of a heroic “archetype” of a Chicano.
The historical figure that I am thinking about has been known in numerous writings as “Estebanico” or Estevanico (1500-1539), and he was a man of Moorish descent who accompanied and assisted the Cabeza de Vaca party to travel across the U.S. Southwest. He was also known as Esteban de Dorantes or Esteban the Moor. Now you may think that Estebanico may not count as a “Chicano,” but if you look carefully at his accomplishments, you will see that he achieved more in his lifetime than did many famous Chicanos, and he did so bilingually and biculturally!
The other thing that I think Estebanico deserves credit for is the fact that in few years he was in America he learned and utilized many of the indigenous peoples’ ways and lifestyles that he encountered. He then as such acted as an intermediary between the indigenous peoples of America and his Spanish-speaking companions. Have you met very many Chicanos who can match such skills and ability? Estebanico additionally had the ability to navigate, probably by using the stars, and/or by accurately assessing the terrain while guiding the Cabeza de Vaca party in their trek across the Southwest. Have you met many Chicanos who could walk from Galveston Island to Western Mexico without a map or a GPS device? So I think Estebanico deserves to be one of our Black Chicano Mesoamerican Spanish-speaking historical “archetypes?”
In addition, Estebanico (born a Moroccan Arab Negro) may have been among the first “Europeans” to pass through the area in present day Texas which the Spanish later called “Hueco” (Spanish for gap or hollow), or what became present-day “Waco,” Texas. Why do I say this? I say this because after having been shipwrecked on Galveston Island, the Cabeza de Vaca (CDV) party headed west, and the Texas land area south of present-day Waco may have been part of the geography through which the CDV group passed enroute west. The “Hueco” area is also the region where the indigenous Ouachita (changed to “Wichita”) peoples originally lived at one point along the Brazos River in Texas. Anglo speakers subsequently also changed the word “Hueco” to “Waco.” The Spanish may have referred to the indigenous people there as Huecos, however.
Furthermore, one theory as to which route the CDV party took is called the Balcones Escarpment Route. The Balcones fault zone is a geological formation that runs approximately from the southwest part of Texas near Del Rio to the north central region of Texas near Waco, Texas (See “Cabeza de Vaca Slept Here,” by M. J. Garcia—2008.). In addition, a 1996 documentary film by Ken Burns on PBS supports the Balcones Escarpment Route theory. The precise CDV route has been difficult for historians to determine, but one theory holds that the CDV group traveled across present-day Texas then on to Mexico’s northern provinces. I would also like to add that while Estebanico may not be the only Black Chicano whom we might like to remember during Black History Month. I am of the opinion that he, however, would be a very good candidate-due to ethnohistorical, ethnolinguistic, and ethnographic reasons—not to rule out other Afro-Mesoamerican Blacks we may know.
I should add, however, that if English-speaking Blacks in the U.S. want to claim our Spanish-speaking Estebanico as their hero, too, that is their choice to do so as well. So I ask you, “Should Estebanico de Dorantes be in that hallway display of famous Chicano “archetypes” that I am planning?” What do you think?
As I have mentioned in previous writings, nothing validates more what I do through my own writings than the responses I get from my readers about my writings. Such has been the case as a result of my article called “Afro-Mesoamericans” (Part I). For example, I got an e-mail from Dr. Refugio I. Rochin (former Director of the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives and Professor Emeritus from U.C. Davis) thanking me for my article, and he then, in turn, sent me a copy of a paper he wrote called “Latinos and Afro-Latino Legacy in the United States: History, Culture, and Issues of Identity.” (2001) Well, I could not have been happier!
But what’s even better, Dr. Rochin’s research seems to indicate that there may indeed be more historical miscegenation (between persons of Spanish/Hispanic descent and African descent) than meets the eye! Shades of a black grandpa in our closets! (Thank you Henry Louis Gates!) Additionally, the findings reported by Rochin are a very good fit to my first article, and indeed improve on what I started. I think when you read what I report below you will agree. I thank Dr. Rochin for allowing me to quote him profusely—just count the “Ibid’s.”
For example, Rochin points out in Part II of his above-mentioned paper that for persons who prefer to be identified mostly as “Hispanics,” that they should not forget that “they themselves carry African blood derived centuries ago from the Moors.” (Ibid.) Apparently, some persons in America seem to want to sweep history under rug and oftentimes forget that “a Muslim army from Africa invaded Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar in 711!” (Ibid.) Rochin points out that Spain in essence was held as a “dependency” to North Africa. According to him, “Muslim sects from Africa invaded Spain additionally in 1086 and in 1145!” (Ibid.) So can you imagine the amount of “miscegenation” that must have occurred between 711 and 1492 when the Moors were driven out of Spain?!
Rochin further states “for most of the seven centuries prior to Spain’s arrival in the New World, Muslim Africans and Moors lived in and ruled Spain, and undoubtedly transmitted their bloodlines into the Spanish conquistadors and their American descendants.”(Ibid.) In addition, the author also points out that there is even racism between Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Latinos, and that among some persons of Afro-Hispanic heritage they distinguish among themselves based on the color of their skin. Rochin states that, for persons who consider themselves Hispanics and/or descendants of the people from Spain, “it is not a question of a drop of blood making a person either Black or White, for Latinos, shades of color are the basis for discrimination.”(Ibid.)
But what is also interesting about Dr. Rochin’s research is that he points out that “Some Hispanics with the last name ending in “Z” believe that they are descended from the Moors, such as Alvarez or Velasquez, etc.” (Ibid.) If true, then Mesoamericans descended from persons whose surname ended in “Z” might more properly be call “Afro-Mesoamericans,” wouldn’t you agree? But the categorization of persons of mixed ancestry (including Chicanos) includes a number of terms (or castes), according to Rochin, such as being called “Indio” for Indian, “Mestizo” for Spanish/Indian, “Mulato” for Spanish/Negro, and/or “Zambo” (Indian/Negro). (Ibid.) The author also points out, “Historically, Hispanics, are very conscious of skin color because the lighter they are the more likely they ‘look’ Spanish,” thus being afforded more privileges in society.
But even more impressive about the research reported by Dr. Rochin is that he points out there were even more historical instances of the involvement of additional persons of African descent in the exploration of the New World. For example, the author points out the following: a) Pedro Alonzo Nino was an African navigator who piloted one of Christopher Columbus’ ships; b) Juan Garrido known as “El Conquistador Negro,” traveled from Africa to Spain around 1500—then went on to travel with Ponce de Leon in Puerto Rico, and introduced the planting of wheat in North America; c) the expedition of Hernando de Soto to Alabama included a Black man named Robles; and d) and the expedition of Bonilla de Leyva-Antonio Gutierrez and Juan de Onate also included Black members. (Ibid.) For the record, my birthplace was in El Paso, Texas, about a stone’s throw from the very spot where Juan de Onate crossed the Rio Grande for the very first time in the history of the of America!
But Dr. Rochin also reports that Estebanico the Moor (who travelled with the Cabeza de Vaca party) was “America’s first African-Hispanic, Muslim explorer in the New World.” The author writes that “accompanying Cabeza de Vaca and two others was Esteban (or Estebanico). From 1528 to 1536 the four survived out a three-hundred man expedition and made it back to Mexico. Estebanico turned into a sorcero (a medicine man) for survival. He treated Indians and others he met and had a reputation that helped in most places. He was killed ultimately at the hands of Indians in Arizona. But the amazing thing about the ordeal of (Cabeza) de Vaca and Estebanico is that they covered over 6,000 miles of unknown territory, stirred the imagination of other explorers, and lived to tell about the great expanse of the south.” (Ibid.)
I would also like to add that Estebanico was for the most part very well received and well-treated by the indigenous people he met—because they saw his dark skin as a positive characteristic, not a negative one. In fact, he rose to the level of being seen as somewhat of a shaman or “healer” due to his reputation of frequently helping the indigenous people he met. In fact, Cabeza de Vaca himself may not have made the historic trek without Estebanico tending to his wounds and injuries. You see, in the fictional Startrek Captain Kirk had his Dr. Spock, but in real life Cabeza de Vaca had only Estebanico.
In fact, Estebanico may indeed be faulted for one chief thing–he succeeded too much in being accepted by the indigenous people he encountered. That trust may have gotten him killed by enemy tribes to the tribes he befriended. You see, Estebanico was killed by indigenous people from Arizona. It may be said that Estebanico may have made an easy target of himself because he carried a rattling gourd on a stick, which was strong magic given only to shamans or persons with strong healing powers. Also, don’t forget that Estebanico was a slave to the Spaniards he traveled with, so he did not have much control over his destiny.
For those of you who don’t know, my hometown is Fort Stockton, Texas, site also to a natural spring there called Comanche Springs. The lands adjacent to the park where the springs exist belonged to my ancestors (See “La Historieta de Margarito,” M. J. Garcia, 2015). My home while growing up in Fort Stockton was about a half a mile from the springs. (See “Cabeza de Vaca Slept Here,” M. J. Garcia III, 2008.) At the entrance to the park where the springs pour out is a State Historical Marker which reads “Site of Comanche Springs,” and it further states, ”Used as a watering place and camping ground by Indians since pre-Columbian times; the springs were possibly visited about 1536 by the Spaniard Cabeza de Vaca on his wanderings through Texas.” All those years in my life little did I know I would come to appreciate so much the possible historical value of Comanche Springs to Chicanos and Afro-Mesoamericans (See “Afro-Mesoamericans—Part I” M.J. Garcia, 2015, www.latinopia.com)
I also want to point out that in his previously cited paper (Ibid.) Dr. Rochin goes on to describe a number of additional historical instances of the introduction of persons of African descent into the America’s. The author reports, for example, that a large number of slaves from various lands and jurisdictions often sought
refuge, and many times, citizenship somewhere in the Americas whenever was possible. (Ibid) Rochin also distinguishes between what he calls Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Latinos. The author tells us that Afro-Latinos can be distinguished from Afro-Hispanics because “the former are mixtures of African slaves, American Indians, and other immigrants and not necessarily direct descendants of Spain,” like Afro-Hispanics.(Ibid.) Rochin also informs us, “for Latinos whose origins are from the Caribbean region, there is relatively more African and Spanish heritage in their genes than Amerindian blood.”(Ibid.)
Interestingly enough and perhaps in support of my theory of the existence of the Afro-Mesoamerican in the U.S. (descended moreso from persons of Mexican descent), Rochin also states, “Since the mid-1800s, other Afro-Latinos have descended from American slaves who escaped to Mexico and Latin America. One group of “cimarrones” (as they are called) escaped to Veracruz,
Mexico…The community known as San Lorenzo de los Negros is situated in the State of Veracruz.(Ibid.) In addition, Rochin points out that “another group of Latinos descended from shipwrecked African slaves, survivors who settled along the Caribbean coast and intermarried with the Caribbeans…today they are called “Garifuna.” Rochin tells us, “more than 100,000 Garifuna have migrated to the United States.”(Ibid.)
I think, therefore, that Rochin’s geographic, geoethnic and geogenetic dichotomies put a whole new spin on how we may want to think about Afro-Hispanics, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans, and/or Afro-Mesoamericans (which includes Black Chicanos) living in the Americas today. And I think Dr. Rochin is also on the right track when he states, “In a historic sense, I argue that a large proportion of Hispanics have genetic heritage from Moors and African heritage from former slaves. In times of racial discord between Latinos, Hispanics, and African Americans, this historical confluence of cultures should serve as a reminder that both communities share common ancestors and cultures.” (Ibid.)
Thank you Dr. Rochin–I agree, and I suspect, as well, that in many ways we, the Spanish-surnamed peoples in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, may very well all be connected by bonds that go beyond our origin or birth, our identity or nationality, and/or our kind or kin.
Footnote: The above article by me is not intended to do full justice to the extensive information and data contained in Dr. Rochin’s article. Readers interested in the additional content in Dr. Rochin’s article are advised obtain a copy for their use.
This is the last part of a three-part trilogy about what I call Afro-Mesoamericans, but I could as well have called such persons Meso-Afroamericans, or by any of a number of terms that have been used by others. In the time, while waiting to publish this third part, I have also put together two blogs at the following blogspot:
My intent is to build onto the theme of this article by adding further findings or insights that I come across after I finish this paper. In addition, I am pursuing the added theme (later on) as to the cultural, linguistic, and artistic influences that Afro-Mexican or Afro-American groups have had on persons of Mexican decent on both sides of the Mexican border. In other words, are there influences in such things as music, art, dance, and/or other visual arts that we have borrowed from our brethren of African descent? I dare to say yes, and I hope to address that subject matter at another time. In the meantime, I want to share with you additional findings from other writers that shed more light about our Afro Mesoamerican heritage.
Let me reiterate that according to Rochin (2001), “for people who prefer to be known as Hispanics, they themselves carry African blood derived centuries ago from the Moors. A Muslim army from Africa invaded Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar in 711. By 719 Muslim power was supreme and the Spanish peninsula was held as a dependency of the province of North Africa, a division of the caliphate of Damascus. The caliphate eventually split into a number of independent and mutually hostile Moorish kingdoms. Subsequent Muslim sects from Africa invaded Spain in 1086 (Almoravids) and in 1145 (Almorhads).” Additionally, Rochin states “for most of the seven centuries prior to Spain’s arrival in the New World, Muslim Africans and Moors lived in and ruled Spain, and undoubtedly transmitted their bloodlines into the Spanish conquistadors and their American descendants.”
Another writer David Bacon, tells us that “The Oaxacan Jose Vasconcellos, Secretary of Education in Mexico’s first post-revolutionary government, called the mix (of people in Mexico) a new race: La Raza Cosmica, or “the cosmic race.” He and his intellectual companions held that Mexico had people of mixed indigenous, African, and European ancestry, and was therefore moving beyond the boundaries of the old world.” (Parentheses added). SOURCE: http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/? u=fc67a76dbb9c31aaee896aff7&id=20f5ab3c13&e=5b9c19e290
It should be noted that when the phrase “cosmic race” is used, that it does not mean anything like a superior race or have anything to do with eugenics—the science that deals with the improvement of hereditary qualities or a race or a bred. According to Wikipedia, “during a later period, Vasconcelos developed an argument for the mixing of races, as a natural and desirable direction for humankind. This work, known as La raza cosmica (The Cosmic Race), would eventually contribute to further studies on ethnic values as an ethic, and for the consideration of ethnic variety as an aesthetic source. La raza cosmica has been used by Chicano and Mexican American movements since the 1970s, asserting the “Reconquista” of the of the American Southwest, based on their Mexican ancestry.” But let’s get back to the influence of Africans in Mexico.
According to Esteban Marquez (1998), “After all, even today, there are only about 450, 000 or .04 percent Mexicans who claim any African heritage. The last official count shows that there are over 15.7 million indigenous people and 1 in 10 speaks a recognized indigenous language. The rest, of course, went on to intermarry and created a mestizaje that is the overwhelming part of the Mexican population today.” (Source: Mexico: Su Historia Desde la Colonizacion al Presente, Trillas Publishers, 1998).
According to R. Padilla (2015) states, “As I have previously said, race and racism constitute a social contradiction for Chicanada (see Paulo Freire on social contradictions: Pedagogy of the Oppressed). Because of that, racism and race tend to be totalized in our consciousness so that we no longer think critically about race and racism. We become incapable of deconstructing Vasconcellos’ thought because of our totalizing attitude toward race and racism. Thus, we become incapable of salvaging what to me is a good and defensible notion: That Chicanada are constitutive of all the major racial groups on earth. When we become this incapable we no longer have the capacity to think creatively, innovatively, and proactively.”
In her article entitled “Mexico’s Third Root,” Luz Marla Martinez Montiel states, “Compounding the difficulty is the fact that the African elements in Mexico’s culture are not acknowledged as they are in other countries of the America’s. In fact, “el mestizaje,” the official ideology that defines Mexico’s culture as a blend of European and indigenous influences, completely ignores the contributions of the nation’s “third root.” Africans and their descendants, nearly invisible in the Spanish chronicles of the colonial period, continue to receive little attention in the official history of Mexico. So it is no surprise that blacks, who live primarily in the poor, rural areas where the level of education is low, lack a clear consciousness of their African heritage. (Underlining added)
In support of the above reference to the third root, Carlos Munoz, Jr. writes,
“The Mexican Government acknowledged that the third root of Mexican culture is African. This was about 15 years ago. This was a result of the emergence of the field of Black Studies in Mexico led by young Mexican scholars. There has been an annual “Afro Caribeñeo” festival held in Veracruz for about 10 years now. It combines academic panels, music, and films on the black experience in Mexico and the Caribeñeo. I have attended several of those and highly recommend it to those of you interested in the Black experience in Mexico.”
Cirenio Rodriguez (2015) states, “The term Afro Mexican or Afro Mexicano is not incorrect. I have seen it used much in Mexico and in one of the blogs where I am cited, I also use it. I have also seen Afro-Americano or Afro-Latino-Americano to refer to the black population of the Americas, Mexico included. According to Rodriguez Africans were also introduced into the many mining towns during the colonial times and many of them escaped and lived with the local natives. He further states, “Que barbaridades alguin dijo que “…there is hardly a trace of any of their cultural contributions to the Mexican society of today….” Yanga era un negro de Veracruz se rebelo contra los españoles, le dieron su libertad, fundo un pueblo libre y fue un gran ejemplo e inspiracion para los heroes de la independencia de Mexico. Dos de los heroes de la independencia eran Afro Mexicanos, (President Guerrero y Father Morelos). Hay mas pero con esto basta. La verdad siempre triunfa y la ignorancia siempre pierde.
It has been said by some that, “Some Hispanics with the last name ending in “Z” believe that they are descended from the Moors, such as Alvarez or Velasquez, etc.” But it does not stand to reason that Mesoamericans descended from persons whose surname ended in “Z” necessarily fall into the category of “Afro-Mesoamericans.” Furthermore, Rochin also points out that the spelling of surnames ending in “Z” does not correlate with Afro origins, which are very complex due to ways they were captured and handled. Another theory for the fact that many Spanish surnames end with “Z” is that it was one way for Sephardic Jews to recognize themselves from non-Sephardic Spanish persons whose last name ended with an “S.” As such, a person whose last name was “Gonzales” with an “S” was not Sephardic, whereas the person whose last name was “Gonzalez,” with a “Z,” was Sephardic. That theory, however, still needs to be confirmed by other than the oral history of persons interviewed.
Another theory for the use of the use of the “EZ” at the end of so many Spanish surnames is that “EZ” came to be the equivalent of the ending “son” after so many English names. For example, Jamison was the son of James, Johnson was the son of John, Williamson was the son of William, Thompson was the son of Thomas, etc., etc. The research question to be answered (with regard to Spanish surnames) is: Is it correct then that “ez” stood for “son of”? For example, was Rodriguez was son of Rodrigo; or was Sanchez was son Sancho; was Gonzalez was the son of Gonzalo; or was Hernandez was the son of Hernan; was Dominguez the son of Domingo; and/or was Martinez was son of Martin? But please know that the jury is still out on whether this theory is true or not.
Another theory of why some persons spell a Spanish surname (that was originally spelled with an ending in “z”), to end with the “s” instead (and not the“z,”) at the end, is due to the simple reason of the EAR of non-Spanish speaking persons. You see when a Spanish-speaking person pronounces the surname “Gonzalez,” to the non-Spanish speaking person, it sounds like the Spanish speaker ends the name “Gonzalez” with the letter “s,” and not the letter “z.” And so the non-Spanish speaking person later spells the Gonzalez surname as “Gonzales.” So it is the non-Spanish ear that is to blame for the misspelling. Nothing else. Or is there more?
Lazo (2015) has written, “México has had Black presidents. Yes, we have Spanish ancestry but the Spanish massacred our Amerindian forebears. We need to embrace our Black ancestry. Many US slaves escaped to México as well. We Mexicanos are people of color. By indicating “white” on our ethnic descriptors we are only bolstering the numbers of the powers that be. The Blacks accept us more than we accept them. I have some amigos who refer to themselves as “Blaxicans.”
So this begs the question, what can persons of Mexican descent, i.e., Chicanos and Chicanas, do to maximize or ethnic and genetic alliance with our Afro Mesoamerican brethren? There are a number of strategies, but a good overview of such strategies were listed in the previously cited paper by Rochin (Ibid.) the author recommends seven things that persons of African descent and persons of Mexican descent can do to work better together; these are:
• Acknowledge out pasts and celebrate our rich heritage;
• Educate our friends and demand an education that is culturally and historically rich and broadened;
• Build Coalitions;
• Increase economic opportunities for one another;
• Denounce the issues of being pitted against on African Americans;
• Stick up for each other;
• Enlist the support of the general public, the news media, and leadership.
Another person interviewed stated, “We had these conversations in the 60’s when we were forming the first MEChAs in California. I finally decided they can call themselves whatever they wanted, and I would continue to be called and be a Chicana. Amazing, it’s only when Hispanics are trying to unite under ‘an ethnic’ name that everyone and their mothers get involved about discrimination against any other group. The Negroes, went from Black to African Americans and no one objected to it. Unite and work towards making this a better world for all.”
You see, Chicanos and Chicanas who consider themselves as not related (if even by one drop of blood) to Afro Meso-Americans, are probably deceiving themselves. The other thing is, if anyone of La Chicanada wants to find out what percent of DNA they have in them of African descent peoples, all they have to do is consent to get a DNA test to confirm what percent. Then the next question is “what percent of one’s DNA is considered enough to be of African descent?” I would say that .01% might be enough—what do you think? Just contact www.Ancestry.com and find the link for DNA testing, and follow the directions. The test will cost you $99.00, and you will be directed to a blood lab in your geographic area.
With regard to what Chicanos and Chicanas think as to whether or not their DNA profile determines anything, keep this one thing in mind: Having the DNA profile of any particular ethnic group (or a combination of such groups) does not necessarily mean that a person has the ethnicity of that group (or groups), it just means that that person has that DNA profile. DNA profile alone does not determine ethnicity. Nor does nature equate to nurture. Nor does biology equate to ideology. And nor does being born of a particular percentage of DNA make one a Chicano or Chicana. (See my articles I-VII in the series called “In Search of Being Chicano,” in www.latinopia.com.) Also, keep this in mind: a person could be supportive of and devoted to Chicano ethnicity and ideology, but NOT have the DNA of a Chicano or Chicana. In other words, a person might not have the “right” DNA to be “Pro-Chicano,” but could nevertheless be a great asset to Chicanos. Is that not so?
But here’s the kicker: How long ago might ALL HUMANS have descended from persons out of Africa? In case some of you missed it, there was a two-hour documentary on PBS on Sept. 16, 2015, pertaining to the latest skeletal discovery called Homo naledi—the most recent archaeological discovery of the possible ancestors of Homo sapiens. It was found near Johannesburg, Africa, and appears to be a human skeleton (about two million years old). So we may all be related to “Homo naledi,” which a suspected to be a new genus of ancient human discovered by scientists. For more info this finding, just go to the following link:
If your PBS broadcast schedule allows it in your part of the country where you live, I urge all of you to see the whole two-hour program about the discovery. It is entitled “Dawn of Humanity.” It will not disappoint. More importantly, see it with those who are nearest and dearest to you, and let them learn for themselves more about their “bigger” family tree out of Africa. Wouldn’t you agree?
Believe it or not, everyone on this earth is can be called a “Heinz 57” human. You see, what a lot of people don’t realize is that we all (yes, each and everyone of us) was preceded (prior to our birth) with approximately a million to two million years of evolution, which involved lots of breeding, interbreeding, and cross-breeding with each other. So no human on this earth can actually claim that they are “purebred” in any way, form, or manner. Sorry folks, but evolution and human history just do not work that way. So we are all “Heinz 57” humans–welcome to the real world.
So one of the things that we Chicanos and Chicanas (as an identifiable ethnic group) can be proud of is that, whether or not a DNA blood profile shows that we have a percentage of African ancestry, we just say “Bring it on!” On the other hand some persons seem to think (in reference to Blacks in Mexico): “They are mainly of interest for historical and anthropological reasons only. I think we have more important things to contemplate and remedy.” What I would like to know is why one would think that historical and anthropological considerations (about Blacks in Mexico) are either not important, or not important enough, or undeserving of further attention. I, on the other hand, think we should “make a big to do” about this, and celebrate it and make it more widely known.
I think that when it comes to whether or not there is the likelihood that Chicanos and Chicanas have inherited the blood, the genes, and/or the DNA of persons of African ancestry, that the historical, genealogical, and documented record will very likely confirm a definite YES! You see, Chicanos and Chicanas who consider themselves as not related (if even by one drop of blood) to Afro Meso-Americans, are probably deceiving themselves. The other thing is, if anyone of La Chicanada wants to find out what percent of DNA they have of African descent peoples, all they have to do is consent to get a DNA test to confirm what percent. Then the next question is “what percent of one’s DNA is considered enough?” I would say that .01% might be enough—what’s your opinion?
I am therefore of the opinion that another thing that Chicanos and Chicanas (“La Chicanada”) do not have to worry about, is what color (from light to dark) our skins are, or what amount of the blood of indigenous and/or African peoples is in us, nor from where or whom those traits came from. It might even be argued that Chicanos and Chicanas also come in all levels of the ability to speak (or not speak) English or Spanish or other. For example, we have what are “English only” Chicanada, to all the way to trilingualism among some persons who not only speak, read, and write both English and Spanish very well, but also speak the language of their indigenous ancestors. On other words, Chicanos and Chicanas personify a true “mestizaje” of skin colors, language differences, and DNA identification with various indigenous and African descent peoples.
I am indebted to all of those who submitted comments on the topic of what some call the Afro Meso-American Legacy or what others call our Afro-Latino Legacy of Chicanos and Chicanas in the U.S. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart. Finally, and just in case some of you think that slaves came to the Western Hemisphere mostly after the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, think again! You guys need to tell your local Chicano Studies Programs at the colleges or universities in you geographical area to smarten up and tell you the WHOLE truth, ok? If students taking those classes are not being told what I am telling you, those colleges and universities should be ashamed of themselves!!
(All Rights Reserved)
Margarito J. Garcia III, Ph.D.
Copyright 2015 by Dr. Margarito J. Garcia III (All Rights Reserved). Artist renderings of Juan Garrido and Estebanico and Dawn of Man graphic used by “fair use” proviso of the copyright law. Street scene and Carlos Munoz photo copyrighted by Barrio Dog productions, Inc. All other photos in the public domain.