In an effort to recognize people of African descent, Mexico included “Afro-Mexican” as a category for the first time in the country’s 2015 population survey.
The results of the census, released on December 8, showed that 1.38 million people identified themselves with the “Afro” category, which is nearly 1.2 percent of the population.
The addition of the category is a pivotal step in a long battle for recognition.
The ideas and histories of race in Latin American countries cannot be reduced to how it is conceived in the United States. As Remezcla notes, after officials created the category “mestizaje” in the wake of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, a democratic national ideal was constructed in Mexico celebrating the mixture of indigenous and European ancestry.
This was referred to as a racial democracy, but one that erased blackness. African ancestry was counterposed to Mexicanness, and as a result, people who are descended from Africans who arrived in the country between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries through slavery have experienced not only symbolic but institutional discrimination and neglect.
Including the category “Afro-Mexican” on the census will not solve the problems of the group’s invisibility, but it is a start.
Earlier this year, Mexico’s Human Rights Commission organized a forum to create policies that address the discrimination that Afro-Mexicans face.