Caribbean Project: Review: A Hidden Race

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. investigates the disappearance of black people in Mexico and Peru

Mexico and Peru

In this episode of Black in Latin America, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels to Mexico and Peru to discover how black people were absorbed into the mestizo population to become George Zimmerman:

Cliff Notes:

(1) More slaves were brought to Mexico and Peru than the United States.

(2) Mestizos in Mexico hide the black grandmother in the closet.

(3) La Bamba is a type of African dance music.

(4) In 1653, the number of blacks and mulattoes in Veracruz was roughly equal to the number of Whites living there.

(5) Mexicans are often to shocked to find out their ancestors were black.

(6) There was miscegenation in the English colonies and the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and North America.

In the English colonies though, there were anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited black male/white female miscegenation, and the offspring of white male/black female miscegenation did not inherit the legal status of the White fathers. Mulattoes were treated as blacks.

In the Spanish colonies, mulattoes and mestizos were not regarded as blacks. They did not always inherit the legal status of their slave mothers. This failure to treat all mulattoes as black is why they were absorbed into the White population in Mexico.

(7) In Mexico, the slaves worked as domestics, as mine workers, and sometimes in sugar cane fields.

(8) By the end of the seventeenth century, interracial relationships were common. The Catholic Church permitted miscegenation. Free negroes were allowed to intermarry with Indians. White men increasingly impregnated black women.

(9) Black generals played a prominent role in the Mexican struggle for independence.

(10) The blackest part of Mexico is the Costa region or Costa Chica on the Pacific Coast in Southern Mexico. It is extremely poor.

(11) 100,000 black slaves were imported to Peru to work in the mines and on sugar plantations. Lima used to be around 40 percent black.

(12) Blacks still pick cotton in Peru.

(13) Only 27 percent of Afro-Peruvians finish high school and 2 percent get a college education.

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  1. As far as not treating mulattoes as black, I think they were simply being technical. It is technically correct to call mulattoes and quadroons just that. That is likely what happened.

  2. “why were your White people more willing to sleep with black people then my White people?”

    “because the culture of the Spanish church and the Spanish people were more open to mixing the culture”

    fairly damning dialogue

    mexico’s second president was a negro and they still haven’t recovered from it. Seems to me, some one wrote a book about how wonderful race mixing has worked in mexico. If the race mixers are looking for a mixed race success story, mexico isn’t it

    negro music, even in peru, is horrible noise

  3. The Spanish do have a fairly well developed sense of their own ethne. Mexico City (Tenochtitlamb?) was very populous. Nowhere near that number of Indians in New England or Virginia.

    The Conquistadors also relied on the local disgruntled Indians to overthrow the Aztecs as an imperial class.
    So they probably intermarried very early.

    When the English came it was to exterminate and displace.

  4. They were much less included to intermarry in other colonial circumstances. Especially with North African Muslims.

  5. The history of white people in the United States did not begin in 1776, nor in 1787.

    The original colonists arrived long before the foundation of the United States. They encountered existing populations of numerous Indian tribes and confederacies.

    The relationships that developed varied from hostility to political alliances to marriages.

    Benjamin Franklin observed: “When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our lan-guage and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. [But] when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ran-somed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to pre-vail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”
    Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, May 9, I753, in Leonard W. Labaree et al., eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, IV (New Haven, Conn., i96i), 481-482.

    As Hector de Crevecoeur put it, “thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice become Europeans!” J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (London, I9I2 [orig. publ. I782]), 2I5.

    What I have read so far indicates that a racial or racist hostility to intermarriage with Indians was not common prior to the 1830s.


    It is true that the majority opinion of the early colonists was that a primary goal was the conversion of the aborigines to the religions and customs of the colonists. The colonists thought of themselves as Christians, not whites.

    It is generally admitted by scholars “Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Thomas Paine were well aware of the inner workings of many tribal governments such as the Iroquois Confederacy, the Cherokee, and the Shawnee. In fact, an Iroquois chief suggested to Franklin in 1744 that the 13 colonies should form a union such as the six tribes had formed in the Iroquois Confederacy. Commentators state that Franklin’s 1754 Albany Plan for a colonial union was based on the Iroquois League.”

    Point Two

    The United States of America as constituted in 1787 was already multi-racial, multi-cultural, and diverse; and the Founding Fathers made no effort to ethnically-cleanse the territories of the United States of aboriginal tribes and nations, of black freedmen and slaves, nor of Jews.

    Moreover, the concept of “Manifest Destiny” does not appear in any English books until after the ratification of the United States constitution. Therefore, Covington’s assertion that the Founding Fathers intended the United States to be “a national expression … [of}] the Manifest Destiny of the white race” is ahistorical nonsense.

  6. The English also made the only serious effort to get european women to the colonies, the lack thereof being the single biggest reason why miscegenation occurred.

  7. The spanish caste system on face value should have promoted white births, first spaniards, then those born to spaniards, then the various other groups.

  8. I agree that the English who came were not self consciously ‘white’, but they were there to have large families, seize land, to control and to colonize and displace. The Spanish patterns of conquest were very different from colonial mindsets. The French were intermediate.

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