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Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

domingo, abril 23, 2006

Africana Studies Prof on Blacks & Mexican Immigration


Mexico Welcomed Fugitive Slaves and African American Job-Seekers:
New Perspectives on the Immigration Debate
Ron Wilkins
Patrice Lumumba Coalition

RW is a former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and is
presently a professor in the Department of Africana Studies
at California State University, Dominguez Hills

There are of course, many angles from which to view the escalating immigration debate. Mexican immigrants, who constitute the largest share of the undocumented, have a unique history with the African population inside the United States. As the Black community weighs-in on this very contentious issue, it becomes necessary for us (both black and brown) to review the history that we share.
However, before reviewing our history together, I need to say unequivocally that the U.S. seizure of more than half of Mexicos territory in 1848 netted Washington more than 80% of Mexicos fertile land and was a criminal act. And that if Mexico today, still included California and Texas, she would possess more oil than Saudi Arabia and have sufficient economic infrastructure to employ all of her people. When Mexican people say that the border crossed us, we did not cross the border, they speak the truth, and more black people (most of whom are not strangers to oppression, exploitation, domination and exclusion) need to appreciate that.
It has been said that for most of the 19th century, Mexican immigrants were more highly regarded by African Americans, than any other immigrant group. What may account for this, at least in part, is the enormous if not pivotal role undertaken by black fighters in the war to secure Mexican independence from Spain and abolish slavery. Unfortunately, many of us repeat the falsehoods of our adversaries and have forgotten our special relationship with Mexican and Indigenous peoples.
It is time that our memories be restored and that the naysayers and nativist negroes among us either put up or shut up. What follows is the little known history of Mexico serving as a refuge for fugitive slaves and a provider of job opportunities for blacks emigrating from the U.S. to Mexico.

Mexico as a Haven for Fugitive Slaves

From the very beginning of his Texas colonization scheme, a determined and deceitful Stephen Austin sought to have Mexican officials acquiesce to the settlement of slave-owning whites into the territory. It was generally acknowledged that the people and government of Mexico abhorred slavery and were determined to prohibit its practice within the Mexican republic. Beginning in 1822, at least 20,000 Anglos, many with their slave property, settled into Texas. Jared Groce, one of the first of Stephen Austins Texas settlers that year, arrived with 90 enslaved Africans. The Mexican Federal Law of July 13, 1824 clearly favored and promoted the emancipation of slaves. Mexico had even stipulated that it was prepared to compensate North American owners of fugitive slaves. Determined instead to have things their way, Anglos began to press for an extradition treaty which would require Mexico to return fugitive slaves.
From 1825 until the end of the Civil War in 1865, Mexican authorities continuously thwarted attempts by slave-holding Texas settlers, to conclude fugitive slave extradition treaties between the two parties. During this period of extremely tense relations between the two governments, Mexico consistently repudiated and forbade the institution of slavery in its territory, while U.S. officials and Texas slave-owners continuously sought ways to circumvent Mexican law
In 1826 the Committee of Foreign Relations of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies refused to compromise on the issue of fugitive slaves and defended the right of enslaved Africans to liberate themselves. Mexican government officials cited the inalienable right which the Author of nature has conceded to him (meaning enslaved persons). Congress member Erasmo Seguin from Texas commented that the Congress was resolved to decree the perpetual extinction in the Republic of commerce and traffic in slaves, and that their introduction into our territory should not be permitted under any pretext.
Again, in October 1828 the Mexican Senate rejected 14 articles of a newly-proposed treaty and harshly criticized article 33, stating it would be most extraordinary that in a treaty between two free republics slavery should be encouraged by obliging ours to deliver up fugitive slaves to their merciless and barbarous masters of North America.
Reporting on the growing number of Anglo settlers in Texas, Mexican General Teran reported most of them have slaves, and these slaves are beginning to learn the favorable intent of Mexican law to their unfortunate condition and are becoming restless under their yokes … General Teran went on to describe the cruelty meted out by masters to restless slaves; they extract their teeth, set on the dogs to tear them in pieces, the most lenient being he who but flogs his slaves until they are flayed.
On September 15, 1829 AfroMexican President Vicente Guerrero signed a decree banning slavery in the Mexican Republic. Yielding to appeals from panicked settlers and Mexican collaborators who saw Mexico benefiting economically from the Anglo presence, Guerrero exempted Texas from the prohibition on the introduction of slaves into the republic, on December 2nd. Several months later, the Mexican government severely restricted Anglo immigration and banned the introduction of slaves into the republic.
Undeterred, the Anglos succeeded in negotiating a new treaty with Mexico in 1831, which included article 34, which called for pursuit and reclamation of fugitive slaves. After considerable wrangling between the Mexican Chamber of Deputies and Senate, article 34 was removed from the treaty. Also, by 1831 it became apparent through debate within the Mexican Senate that the governments welcoming of fugitive slaves was not completely altruistic. Some Mexican officials, fearful of U.S. military intervention, had began to see it as wise to encourage the development of runaway slave colonies along the Northern border as a way to lessen the threat posed by the U.S. As historian Rosalie Schwartz put it, many Mexican officials reasoned, these fugitives, choosing between liberty under the Mexican government and bondage in the United States, would fight to protect their Mexican freedom more vigorously than any mercenaries. As the interests of Mexican officials and U.S. abolitionists coincided during the early 1830s, a modest number of former slaves established themselves in Texas and fared well during the period.
In 1836, after the fall of the Alamo and its slave-owning or pro-slavery leaders, such as William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, Mexican forces were defeated and an independent Texas was eventually annexed by the United States. However, before the expulsion of Mexican forces from Texas, Brigadier General Jose Urrea evicted scores of illegally-settled plantation owners,
liberated slaves, and in many instances, granted them on-the-spot titles to the land they had worked. Oddly enough, many black people call for forty acres and a mule -- a reference to Union General Shermans Special Field Order 15 and General Howards Circular 13, which made some land available to former slaves. But what one never hears are references to Mexican General Jose Urrea and the land titles that he and his men granted to former Texas slaves, following the defeat of the Alamo, a generation before the Civil War.
Even after the loss of Texas, Mexican officials refused to formally acknowledge Texas independence on the grounds that it would be equivalent to the sanction and recognition of slavery. After Texas independence the slave population mushroomed and the number of runaways across the South-TexasNorth-Mexico border, increased. In 1842 Mexicos Constitutional Congress reasserted the nations commitment to fugitive slaves. In 1847, 38,753 slaves and 102,961 whites were listed in the first official Texas census. In 1850, in a new treaty accord with the United States, Mexico again refused to provide for the return of fugitive slaves
The slave institution in Texas was continuously undermined by defiant Tejanos (Mexicans in Texas) who took great risks and invested enormous resources toward facilitating the escape of enslaved Africans. The Texas to Mexico routes to freedom constituted major unacknowledged extensions of the Underground Railroad. Tejanos were variously accused of tampering with slave property, consorting with blacks and stirring up among the slave population a spirit of insubordination.
Plantation owners in Central Texas adopted various resolutions aimed at preventing Mexicans from aiding the slave population. Whites in Guadalupe County prohibited Mexican peons from entering the county and anyone from conducting business or interacting with enslaved persons without authorization from the owners. Bexar County whites suggested that Mexican strangers entering from San Antonio register at the mayors office and give an account of themselves and their business. Delegates to a convention in Gonzales resolved that counties should organize vigilance committees to prosecute persons tampering with slaves and that all citizens and slaveholders were to endeavor to prevent Mexicans from communicating with blacks. Whites in Austin decreed that all transient Mexicans should be warned to leave within ten days, that all remaining should be forcibly expelled unless their good character and good behavior were substantiated by responsible American citizens and that Mexicans should no longer be employed and their presence in the area should be discouraged. In Matagorda County, all Mexicans were driven out under the bogus claim that they were wandering, indigent sub-humans who have no fixed domicile, but hang around the plantations, taking the likeliest negro girls for wives … they often steal horses, and these girls too, and endeavor to run them to Mexico.
By the year 1855, the estimates were that as many as 4000 to 5000 formerly enslaved Africans had escaped to Mexico. Slaveholders became so alarmed at this trend, that they requested and received, approximately 1/5th of the standing U.S army which was deployed along the Texas-Mexico border in a vain effort to stem the flow of runaways. Defiant Mexicans stood their ground, refused to return runaways, continued supporting slave uprisings and providing assistance to escaping slaves. In the words of Felix Haywood, a Texas slave, whose experience is recalled in The Slave Narratives of Texas, Sometimes someone would come along and try to get us to run up north and be free. We used to laugh at that. There was no reason to run up north. All we had to do was walk, but walk south and wed be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande.

What a Difference a Border Made

1857, was a year whose profound irony made it one of the most interesting. 1857 was the year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott, an enslaved African who had sued for his freedom, on the grounds that his owner had forfeited any claim to him, after taking him into a free state. Ironically 1857 was the same year that the Mexican Congress adopted Article 13 declaring that an enslaved person was free the moment he set foot on Mexican soil.

Mexico as a Provider of Job Opportunities for African Americans

During the 1890s, hundreds of black migrants fed-up with slave-like conditions and segregation, left Alabama for Mexico and established ten large colonies. Shortly thereafter, during the period of the Mexican Revolution, large numbers of black people migrated from New Orleans to Tampico, Mexico as the oil industry prospered. These Africans in Mexico established branches of Marcus Garveys Universal Negro Improvement Association. One of the black oil workers who came to Tampico stated, there is no race prejudice, everyone is treated according to his abilities. During the same period, black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson asserted that Mexico was willing not only to give us the privileges of Mexican citizenship, but was also willing to champion our cause.
Juan Uribe, a major Mexican official, visiting Los Angeles in 1919, was quoted as saying, My only regret is that it is not physically possible to immediately transport several million African Americans to my beloved Mexico, where the north yields her riches as nowhere else and where people are not disturbed by artificial standards of race or color. Similarly, African American immigrant Theodore Troy said, I am going to a land where freedom and opportunity beckon me as well as every other man, woman and child of dark skin. In this land there are no Jim Crow laws to fetter me; I am not denied opportunity because of the color of my skin and wonderful undeveloped resources of a country smiled upon by God beckon my genius on to their development. A black colony which included fifty families, developed fruit orchards and engaged in cattle raising. It established itself in Baja, California, in the Santa Clara and Vallecitos Valleys situated between Ensenada and Tecate, approximately thirty miles south of San Diego and lasted into the 1960s.
Not to be overlooked is the enormous success of the Negro Baseball Leagues in Mexico during the 1930s and 1940s. Black ball players together with 4-500 family members seeking relief from racism in the U.S. and segregated institutions, were hosted in Mexico by generally respectful competitors and admiring fans. One competitor in particular, Ray Dandridge played for 18 years in Mexico, before Jackie Robinson gained admission into U.S. major league baseball. Also, from the 1930s to the 1960s, major Mexican muralists, such as Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco invited prominent African American artists such as Hale Woodruff, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White to the Mexican Art School where they developed an art style which helped them to connect images, more effectively, to ethnic and class struggle.
Of course there are many more historical intersections where Mexican and African people cooperated with each other. A few examples were the solidarity between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)/Black Panther Party and Brown Berets; SNCC and the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres and El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan (MEChA) and the Black Student Union (BSU). Mack Lyons, a black member of the United Farmworkers Unions National Executive, negotiated its contract with Coca Cola, which owns Minutemaid and sizeable Florida orange groves. In Los Angeles, during the 90s, black and brown students recognizing common history and mutual interests, formed African and Latino Youth Summit (ALYS).
Admittedly, Vicente Fox is no Vicente Guerrero. The Mexico of today is profoundly different from the refuge that once welcomed fugitive slaves, or land of opportunity that embraced African American job-seekers; yet, its beautiful history of support, for African Americans, in need of allies, cannot be erased. It might prove useful to see the relationship between black and brown people as similar to the bond between a man and woman. It is beautiful most of the time, but there are moments when it is tested and may become strained. When this happens one or both must give more and work to increase or renew trust.
Pass this material on to others. The black or brown reader of this piece should now know, that the best of our history together, as black and brown people, speaks to the necessity of collaborating during the worst of times. A wise people are a grateful people, and never content themselves with recalling and celebrating their legendary alliance with an important neighbor. Instead, they press forward, fully aware that mutually-supportive relationships are still possible and necessary.

Special acknowledgement is extended to historians Rosalie Schwartz, Gerald Horne, Rodolfo Acuna and Omar Farouk, whose earlier investigative efforts in the field of African-Mexican collaboration, contributed to making this work possible.


Peta-de-Aztlan dijo...

This is a great article that should be read, studied and shared with many others. Imagine if Black People or African-Americans were to unite together in support of immigrant rights for all peoples along with Brown People of La Raza Cosmica!

To do so we will have to shed any remnants of racism amongst ourselves towards any single race of people. We must come to see our common survival interests as human beings upon Mother Earth! ~Peta

Anónimo dijo...

This is very interesting and informative infomation that both Black and Brown people need to be made aware of. The struggles that exist between the two communities need to stop! Knowledge is the only way that this can happen.

Anónimo dijo...

Being honest about the African American and Latin American immigrant relationship

Dear friends, the above article is an important contribution to the current U.S. debate on immigration.

As an Afro-Native-American activist with a 25 year history of advocacy in the Latin-American immigrant community in Washington, DC, I can say that this history is true and needs to be shared within both the African-American and Latino communities.

On the other side of the coin, there are issues that divide the two communities.

We can start with the mainstream Mexican-owned media in the U.S. Afro-Latino activists have complained for years that almost NO Afro-Latino and certainly NO Indigenous men, women or children are ever represented on the two major TV networks, Univision and NBC subsidiary Telemundo. Telemundo has changed ...a little... because a U.S. company like NBC is required to follow U.S. laws with strong anti-discrimination policies.

The pro-Aztlan movement based in Los Angeles and the Southwest also has a vision of re-taking the region, and kicking out all Anglos AND African-Americans. They say: "para la Raza, todo, para los demas, nada" (for our race, everything, for everyone else, nothing).

As a Native American, I can certainly say that a Native American claim exists for the Southwest that pre-dates the Mexican claim. Any re-taking of the Southwest by the racially white and racist elites in Mexico would be... unacceptable.

Within Latin American, and Latino immigrant culture, there are strong strains of solidarity with the African-American community. There is also a grotesque kissing-up to White American society that says: "let me take the job from the lazy Black man." African Americans are not lazy, but more than a few Latino immigrants are willing to exploit White racism to provide themselves as an alternative to the discomfort that many White Americans feel in giving jobs to African Americans and having to work with us on a daily basis.

As a computer professional for over 22 years, I see this in the consulting market too, but it is the Indian immigrant who offers the White manager to happily replace the Black Man in the work place.

In 1950, Latin America's population was 166 million. Now in 2006, its population is 530 million. In 2050, its population is predicted to grow to 800 million. In the next 45 years, more people will be added to the Latino population than all of the persons alive today in the U.S. - 300 million.

Everyone cannot come to the U.S. The United Fruit Company and other corporations that raided and exploited Latin America for over a century were not owned by African Americans. As the Latin American population settles those accounts by migrating to the U.S. (the place that their lost wealth migrated to), African Americans should not be the ones to pay the price (through displacement in society and a loss of jobs and services). We did not own United Fruit Company.

I have heard many dozens of racist and hateful comments from Latino immigrants in regard to African Americans. Asian immigrants often have the same ideas. Some of that attitude is driven by kissing-up to their perceptions that going-along with racism in U.S. society will ingratiate them with White Americans. Certainly most Latin American societies have a strong, anti-Black racist streak (one TV show in Colombia was censured by an international human rights organization because it was so overtly and hatefully anti-Black, for example).

Being married to a South American Latina for 22 years, I have also seen these racist attitudes within my own family. Other Latina friends married to African American friends married or in relationships with African American men have faced the same realities.

At the same time, it can be said that in some communities, African Americans have received new immigrants with hostility and violence. Certainly a former girlfriend, who’s Honduran family bought a row house in a lower working class community in Washington, DC, had every member of their household (about 8 adults) robbed and/or beaten by local thugs. As a worker in the local Latin American Youth Center in the same city, I used to see, 27 years ago, African American middle school boys openly throw empty glass bottles across a street at Latina high school girls after the local schools let out. I was once playing Afro-Cuban drumming (rumba) on the Latino community’s main drag in DC, and saw a older Black teen walk by a Central American immigrant at about 8 PM on a busy street, and punch him in the face for no reason, knocking him out cold.
In another incident, my own Latina step-daughter was chased around at 2 AM in a well-off suburban community by a car-load of young Black men bent on doing no-good. A young Salvadoran woman I worked with witnessed the kidnapping from a bus stop (at night) of another young Latina, by three Black men. She was later found raped and murdered. A Salvadoran man I know was shot four times by a young African-American man, although his wounds were slight from the .22 caliper handgun. Before that incident I used to hear his father talk about carrying around a handgun while he lived in that neighborhood. I no longer consider his to be a racist for doing so.

Crime in the Latin American immigrant community is also severe. Gang violence and sexist impunity have created tens if not hundreds of thousands of cases or rape, child rape and sexual demands for poor Latina and other women in the modern U.S. workplace. Latino immigrant communities also drive much of the demand for women and children kidnapped in Latin America and forced to be prostitutes in every city, town and migrant labor camp in the U.S. My web site,, is devoted to documenting that harsh but very real issue.

It is my sense that the anti-African American racism that many immigrants, especially elite immigrants, bring with them into the U.S. is separate from the racism that comes from the very small percentage of Latin American immigrants who are victims of African American crime. The fact that racial exclusion still exists on the major Spanish language networks is one clear sign that the elites in the Latino community have a powerful and negative influence in regard to issues of race in the U.S.

If Latino immigration from countries with these sentiments grows to 66 or 100 million people during the next 20 years, as analysts have predicted under the new U.S. Senate Immigration Bill, African-American people will be subjected to forms of racism and impunity that are commonplace in Latin America. Women's rights, which are extensively trampled with impunity (millions of women and children are forced to work in prostitution, and many are enslaved), the bar for women's equal rights will also be lowered.

Before massive-immigration is approved and allowed to happen, society will have to discover mechanisms to control the 'racism and sexism with impunity' that currently dominates Latin America. The immigration if fine, the racism and sexism is not.

U.S. citizens, Black, White, Latino and Asian, have no obligation to lower the bar on human rights, and allow an expansion of the blatant and open racism and sexism that racially exclusive Latino media, and cultural practices, are allowing to take hold in the U.S. today.

The extensive debates taking place today have included little consideration of the powerful impact that massive immigration has in the African-American community.

This commentary encourages all parties to open up that honest dialog.

The issue is being further explored by the Crispus Attucks Brigade of the Minutemen. Founded in the Spring of 2006 by African American homeless advocate and activist Ted Hayes in Los Angeles, California, the group presents one path towards discussion of these as-of-yet hidden racial dynamics in the U.S. The losses of jobs, and the social conflict in schools and other social settings caused by massive immigrant into Los Angles has had a very real and negative impact on the African-American community that all parties must acknowledge.

It is not morally right that some immigrants offer to replace Black people because some in the dominant society are willing collaborate to exploit existing racial divides between White and Black. African Americans and other Ethnicities are NOT replaceable components in U.S. society, to be switched out of a new one, like so many old car batteries.

It is up to each and every one of us to take this dialog in a direction that acknowledges the needs of the immigrant community AND the African American Community.

In the interests of building an honest dialog that includes African American's and women's human rights issues in the heart of the immigration debate...

Chuck Goolsby
Founder and Coordinator

The web's largest source of
factual information on women
and children's human rights in
Latin America and its Diaspora.
Since March, 2001

Chuck Goolsby dijo...
Este blog ha sido eliminado por un administrador de blog.
Chuck Goolsby dijo...
Este blog ha sido eliminado por un administrador de blog.

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