First Black President of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

First Black President of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Today’s La Vida En Black, History Month message is about Vicente Guerrero, Mexico’s first black president, and also that nation’s version of Abraham Lincoln. In 1829 Presidente Guerrero issued Mexico’s own slavery abolition decree (which led a few years later to Texas slave holders seceding from Mexico).

vguerrero-estampitaVicente Guerrero was born in the small village of Tixla in the Mexican state of Guerrero. His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an Afro-Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, an Indian. Vicente came from humble beginnings. As a young man he took the work he could find as a mule driver on his own father’s mule run. This work set him on a journey that shaped his life and ideologies. Guerrero worked all over Mexico and began to hear the voices of the people and their collective ideas of independence.

On one of the journeys, he met the famed rebel General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. In November of 1810, Guerrero embraced the General’s ideas of revolution and joined Morelos. Morelos, unfortunately, was assassinated by the Spaniards and Guerrero became Commander-in-Chief. Guerrero then negotiated a deal with the Spaniard General Agustin de Iturbide.

Iturbide agreed to a partnership with the independence movement and supported Guerrero on a series of nationwide measures known as “El Plan de Iguala.” This plan, however, gave civil rights to Indians but not to Afro-Mexicans. Guerrero refused to sign the plan unless equal rights were also given to Afro-Mexicans and mulattos. Clause 12 was then incorporated into the plan. It read: “All inhabitants . . . without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . with full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues.”

Subsequently, Guerrero served as a part of a three-person “Junta” that governed the then-independent Mexico from 1823-24. Guerrero, head of the “People’s Party,” called for public schools, land title reforms, and many other liberal programs. Guerrero was elected the second president of Mexico in 1829. As president, Guerrero went on to champion the cause not only of the racially oppressed but also of the economically oppressed.

IMG_2934Presidente Guerrero formally abolished slavery on September 16, 1829. Shortly thereafter, betrayed by a group of reactionaries who drove him out of his house, Presidente Guerrero was lured to have dinner with a traitor on his boat, instead Vicente was captured and ultimately executed by firing squad.

Historian Jan Bazant speculates as to why Guerrero was executed rather than sent into exile, as Iturbide had been, as well as Antonio López de Santa Anna, and long-time dictator of late-nineteenth century Mexico, Porfirio Díaz. “The clue is provided by Zavala who, writing several years later, noted that Guerrero was of mixed blood and that the opposition to his presidency came from the great landowners, generals, clerics and Spaniards resident in Mexico…Guerrero’s execution was perhaps a warning to men considered as socially and ethnically inferior not to dare to dream of becoming president.”[31]


Guerrero’s political platform was based on the belief of civil rights are for all,including Afro-Mexicans. Mexicans with hearts full of pride call him the “greatest man of color.” On this President’s Day, La Vida En Black History Celebrates Presidente Vincente Guerrero!



Me Gitaron Negra! #BlackHistoryIsGlobal #MimiTVA

Me Gitaron Negra!  #BlackHistoryIsGlobal #MimiTVA

La Vida En Black History Month message today goes deep into the heart of Peruvian culture with the Heroine of Black Peru, Victoria Santa Cruz.  Victoria Eugenia Santa Cruz Gamarra was a poet, composer, choreographer, designer, and an exponent of Afro-Peruvian art.

imgresThe daughter of writer / playwright, Nicomedes Santa Cruz Aparicio and Victoria Gamarra, their family was famous for their excellence in creative pursuits including the development of Zamacueca an ancient colonial dance and music with a mixture of roots from Africa to the Andes.

Victoria was one of 10 children born into the family.  Her brothers are renown – Cesar is a musician and composer; Rafael the Bull Fighter isdeamed “untorero de gran clase” or the Wonderous Black Matador; and Nicomedes; the preeminent scholar of Afro-Peruvian culture & folklore. artworks-000077125313-5mm1bu-t500x500

Victoria received a scholarship to attend the Université du Theatre des Nations in Paris where she was educated in costuming and choreography.  She created unforgettable costumes for the play “The Altarpiece of Don Cristobal”. And made a triumphant return to Peru. In 1968 she founded the Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú, / Black Dance Theatre of Peru, inspiring a new and diverse period in Peru for the study of black culture.

Her choreography became a part of the fabric of Peruvian culture so much so  that her talented group represented the nation at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Victoria won numerous prestigious awards including Best Folklorist at the Primer Festival y Seminario Latinoamericano de Televisión en 1970.

She was a special guest of the Colombian government at the Festival de Cali  in 1971. There she notably recognized that the black roots of Cali did not come from just one country of origin but from several African nations, so much like the various slaves brought to the Americas.

Santa Cruz’s name became synonymous  with the cultural identity of Peru and in 1973 Victoria became the director of the National Folklore for the National Institute of Culture (INC) /Conjunto Nacional de Folclore del Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC).  She continued to spread her love of Afro-Peruvian culture throughout the world, teaching at Carnegie Mellon University, and in Europe at the Teatro del Sole, in Italy.

She passed away surrounded by her beautiful family, the legendary Ambassador of Peruvian culture was lain to rest at the Peruvian National Musuem.  Her poem “Me Gritaron Negra” They Screamed “Black” At Me, became a beautiful badge of honor for Afro-Latinos every where.  Performed here click the link.


Español                                             English

Tenía siete años apenas,               Maybe I was 7 years old
apenas siete años,                          Maybe 7 years
¡Qué siete años!                              What 7 years old???
¡No llegaba a cinco siquiera!        I wasn’t even five yet…
De pronto unas voces en la calle   when voices from the street
me gritaron ¡Negra!                          screamed ¡Negra! (Black Girl!)
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!

¡Negra! ¡Negra!¡Negra!                     Back! Black! Black!

¿Soy acaso negra?, me dije              I thought, Am I? Am I really Black?

¡SI!                                                        Yes!

¿Qué cosa es ser negra?                  What does it mean to be black?
¡Negra!                                                Black!
Y yo no sabía la triste verdad        And I didn’t no the sad truth

que aquello escondía.                     That black was hiding
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y me sentí negra,                             And I felt the black
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Como ellos decían                           Just like their screams
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y retrocedí                                        And I regressed
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Como ellos querían                         Just as they wanted
¡Negra!                                               Black!
Y odié mis cabellos                          And I hated my hair

y mis labios gruesos                        And my thick lips
y miré apenada mi carne tostada I was ashamed of my toasted skin
Y retrocedí                                         And I regressed
¡Negra!                                                Black!
Y retrocedí…                                       And I regressed
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Neeegra!               Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!     Black! Black! Black! Black!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!         Black! Black! Black! Black!
Y pasaba el tiempo,                           And time passed by
y siempre amargada                           And always bitter
Seguía llevando a mi espalda         I carried this heavy load
mi pesada carga                                    on my back
¡Y cómo pesaba!                                    And how heavy it was..
Me alacié el cabello,                           I straightened my hair
me polveé la cara,                           I powdered my face
y entre mis entrañas siempre          And deep down inside of me

resonaba la misma palabra                  I heard the same resounding word
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!          Black! Black! Black! Black
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Neeegra!                  Black! Black! Blaaaack!
Hasta que un día que retrocedía,         Until one day I regressed

retrocedía y qué iba a caer                  regressed until I was going to fall
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¡Negra! ¡Negra! ¡Negra!
¿Y qué?                                             So What?
¿Y qué?                                             So What?
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Sí                                                      YES!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Soy                                                      Black I AM!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra                                             Black!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra soy                                             I AM Black!
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Sí                                                      Yes
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Soy                                                      I AM
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra                                             Black
¡Negra!                                             Black!
Negra soy                                             I am Black
De hoy en adelante no quiero                   from this day forward I do not
laciar mi cabello                                        want to straighten my hair

No quiero                                                     I do not want to!

Y voy a reírme de aquellos,                         & I’m gonna laugh at those
que por evitar                                              who by avoiding

–según ellos–                                             according to them
que por evitarnos algún sin sabor              “bad taste”
Llaman a los negros                                    call black people,

gente de color                                               people of color
¡Y de qué color!                                             And what color is that?
NEGRO                                                      NEGRO!
¡Y qué lindo suena!                                      And how beautiful it sounds!
NEGRO                                                      NEGRO
¡Y qué ritmo tiene!                                        And what rhythm it has!
Al fin                                                               Finally
Al fin comprendí                                             Finally I understood
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Ya no retrocedo                                             I do not regress

AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Y avanzo segura                                             move forward with pride
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Avanzo y espero                                             move forward and wait
AL FIN                                                       FINALLY
Y bendigo al cielo                                     I thank the heavens above

porque quiso Dios                                     because is God’s will
que negro azabache                                 like a black precious stone

fuese mi color                                           it was meant to be my color
Y ya comprendí                                        and now I understand
AL FIN                                                      FINALLY
¡Ya tengo la llave!                                     I have the key!
¡Negra soy!                                                      I am Black!

Maestro Cheo Feliciano!

Maestro Cheo Feliciano!

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV…

Cheo Feliciano’s smooth distinctive voice was loved and revered by salsa fans throughout the world.  Unfortunately in 2014, Feliciano passed away in a car accident losing control of his car and hitting a light pole.  But Feliciano’s brushes with death were not uncommon and his is a story to be remembered and admired.

Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega) was born in Ponce Puerto Rico.  His childhood nickname, “Cheo” came from his family, a colloquial version of José. And the name stuck plus he was not to be confused with the other Jose Feliciano who was of no relation.  At a young age Cheo was influenced by the boleros of the Trio Los Panchos. When Cheo was just eight years old he started his own group named “El Combo Las Latas”.  Their musical instruments were made out of cans because that’s all they could afford at the time. And as a young teenager in Ponce, he went on to study percussion.

Feliciano and his family moved to Nueva York to the heart of Spanish Harlem.  Once in New York, he auditioned and got the gig as a percussionist in the “Ciro Rimac’s Review” band.  After that famed Puerto Rican crooner, Tito Rodriguez offered Feliciano a spot in his big band that played at the Palladium Ballroom.   In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba was in need of a singer for his sextet and he knew what a talented singer Cheo was; so he recommended Cuba that he try out for the position. Feliciano became a vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet one of the most popular bands at the time. Feliciano was the rare baritone of salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick humor in improvisation made him el favorito dentro del publico Latino.


On October 5, 1957, was Feliciano’s professional debut as a vocalist with the Joe Cuba Sextet, singing “Perfidia”. He sang with Joe Cuba for 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra singing for them for two years. Sadly at the same time he developed a drug habit at just 21 years old. Cheo quickly fell into a heroin addiction which threatened his life and professional career. Feliciano went back to Puerto Rico and decided to quit “cold turkey.   He eventually joined Puerto Rico’s rehabilitation center, Hoagies CREA.  Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso, the author of most of his hits and best friend, with pushing him through rehabilitation. As a result, Feliciano was a vehement anti-drug spokesperson, who volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fell prey to drug addiction.

In 1972, Feliciano came back to music with the album Cheo, his first solo recording. The album, which featured compositions by Tite Curet, broke all sales records in the Latino music market. The album was loaded with hits like “Anacaona” and “Mi Triste Problema”

During the 1970s, Feliciano recorded fifteen albums for Fania Records and had hits with “Amada Mia” and “Juan Albañil”. He also recorded one of his first albums of Boleros – La Voz Sensual de Cheo. Recorded in Argentina and directed by a famed composer Jorge Calandrelli Cheo’s star rose to new levels. And Feliciano became a part of the first salsa opera by Fania pianist “El Judio Maravilloso”, Larry Harlow, entitled Hommy.


In 1982, Feliciano began his own record label – “Coche Records”. In 1984, he was honored by artists like Ruben Blades and Joe Cuba in a concert entitled A Tribute to Cheo Feliciano. The next year, he became the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 1987, he played Roberto Clemente’s father in the musical Clemente. Feliciano also became a hit in Spain, and was a regular in the Tenerife Carnival. 

In 1990, Feliciano recorded another album of Boleros, titled Los Feelings de Cheo. He also traveled all over Europe, Japan, Africa, and South America. In Venezuela, he had a reunion with Eddie Palmieri. In 1995, Feliciano won a Platinum Record Award for La Combinación Perfecta.

In 2000, Feliciano recorded Una Voz, Mil Recuerdos as a tribute to various Puerto Rican singers. The album was listed among the 20 outstanding recordings of the year by the National Foundation of the Popular Culture of Puerto Rico. In 2002, he recorded Cheo en la Intimidad. In 2012, Feliciano and Ruben Blades released a collaboration album titled Eba Say Aja where both artists performed each other’s previously recorded songs. In June 2013, Feliciano confirmed that he was suffering from liver cancer and was already undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Doctors discovered the illness when they were treating him for a dislocated shoulder.  In 2014, Feliciano celebrated being “cancer-free”.


A memorial service in honor of Feliciano was held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan on April 20, 2014. The service was attended by thousands and several artists paid their respects to Feliciano with songs plus kept guard by Feliciano’s coffin. Artists and groups like Danny Rivera, José Nogueras, Fania All-Stars, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, Víctor Manuelle, Andy Montañez, Tito Nieves, and others were present.  The next day, his body was taken to the city of Ponce, where he was born. A public service was held at the Ponce Convention Center, led by Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez. After that, a private ceremony was held for the family and close friends inside La Piedad Cemetery. Although the public was not allowed entrance at first, the gates were opened once the family finished their memorial.  Feliciano became part of Sergio George’s group called Salsa Giants whom he was touring with when he died.  Feliciano traveled and sang across the globe until his last day.

La Vida En Black Rey Benkos Bioho

La Vida En Black Rey Benkos Bioho

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV

Aspectos del corregimiento de San Basilio de Palenque, zona rural del municipio de Mahates. Imágenes para especial de turismo cultural

Benkos Biohó (late 16th century — 1621) was a young African King when siezed from his homeland, the Bissagos Islands off the Guinea Bissau coast by a Portuguese enslaver.  When the Spanish began to enslave people from Africa to Colombia, there were those who escaped and formed free communities of Cimarrones and their enclaves were known as Palenques.

Benkos Biohó is the most famous of all Cimarrones. He arrived in Cartagena de Indias in 1599, where he was sold as a slave. Biohó made his first escape when the boat that was transporting him down the Magdalena River sank. He was recaptured, but escaped again in 1599 into the marshy lands southeast of Cartagena. He organized an army that came to dominate all of the Montes de Maria region.

The brutal mistreatment of slaves served as an impetus for rebellions.  Biohó, raised as a King in Africa used his leadership skills in Colombia with other slaves and bandeded together to rebel and flee their captors.  Bioho took his wife, three other men and three other women, plus an additional 22 slaves rebeled and fled with them. The group of 30 headed out into the swamps and camped near the village of Tolú over 50 miles away.

Bioho proceeded to organize the Palenque into a well guarded fortress, fit for a King. For years the group launched attacks on Spanish interests and were almost unstoppable. King Benkos formed an intelligence network and used the information to organize more escapes and guided the runaway slaves into their liberated territory, known as settlement. He used the title “King of Arcabuco“.

The Governor of Cartagena furiously tried to stop the Cimaronnes, but failed.  So on the 18th of July 1605, the Governor of Cartagena, offered a peace treaty to Biohó.  In this agreement the Spaniards would recognize the autonomy of the Matuna Bioho Palenque and accept his entrance into the city armed and dressed in the Spanish fashion.  The Cimarrones in turn promised to stop receiving more runaway slaves, cease their aid in escape attempts and stop addressing Biohó as “King”.  A Peace Accord was finally established in 1612.

Benkos Bioho.jpeg

Statue of Benkos Biohos


In 1713 it became the first free village in the Americas by decree from the King of Spain, when he gave up sending his troops on futile missions to attack their fortified mountain hideaway. Biohó established the maroon community of San Basilio de Palenque some time in the 16th century. Unfortunately Biohó was betrayed and hanged by the governor of Cartagena in 1619.

The treaty was violated in 1619 when they captured Biohó as he was walking unguarded and unarmed into the city. He was hanged and quartered on 16 March 1621. Governor Garcia Giron ordered the execution and argued bitterly that “it was dangerous the respect Biohó generated in the population” claiming that “his lies and enchantment would drive the nations of Guinea away from the city.”  But the Palenque survived and by the end of the seventeenth century, the area of Montes de Maria had over 600 Cimarrones living freely.  While under the command of Domingo Padilla and his wife Jane, the team successfully challenged further attempts at relinquishing sovereignty from the colonial authorities.

Los Cimarrones

Of their numerous significant contributions, palenques played an important role in the conservation of African traditions and culture in Colombia. The San Basilio Palenque, on the Atlantic coast, has survived centuries maintaining African social and cultural traditions in the Americas. Palenques and other Escaped slave communities are an important source for research of various historic, anthropologic and linguistic studies documenting the African significance and dominance in Colombian culture.

San Basilio de Palenque was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.[1] At about 50 miles east of Cartagena, on hills of strategic value were used as lookout posts, still hear the names of the runaway Neighborhood: Sincerin, Mahates, Gambote.

The Warrior Village turned Nation… Quilombo de Palmares

The Warrior Village turned Nation… Quilombo de Palmares

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai..

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, Thursday, February 8, 2018

African people’s fight for freedom throughout the Americas began the minute we were illegally captured, stolen and enslaved in the motherland.  Africans who had escaped slavery in Brazil and created their own township or a Quilombo. Quilombo is a portugese word derived  from an Angolan language “Kilombo” and it means a warrior village or settlement. The Quilombo dos Palmares was actually  a country in South America and today it is located in the coastal region known as Alagoas, Brazil.

Quilombo dos Palmares was a self-sustaining settlement that was approximately the size of modern day Portugal.  At it’s most productive, Palmares had over 30,000 residents.  Their great king Ganga Zuma would free every African seeking refuge.


In the beginning the settlement of free Africans became a thorn in the side of the Portuguese.  The residents of Palmares sometimes invaded mills to liberate enslaved people, they would confiscate food, weapons and also abducted women, who were a rare commodity in the quilombo.  Diogo Botelho,the Governor General of Brazil  sent an expedition of 40 to 60 soldiers according to historians. After they destroyed their dwellings and had taken prisoners, the Portuguese thought they had won the battle. However whenever the Portugese soldiers appeared, Palmares residents retreated into the woods, leaving destruction behind with plantations and cabins were destroyed and burned. And shortly thereafter new dwellings and plantations were raised.

This constant destruction and subsequent reconstruction was a very difficult way of life and severely stifled the growth of the Quilombo. And then a fortunate little war helped seal the fate of Quilombo dos Palmares. The Dutch landed at Pernambuco in 1630, and tried to rob the profits of sugar from the hands of the other opportunists, the Portuguese and the Spanish, who were at the time under the same king’s reign. This hostile invasion created an absolute uproar in the Northeast region of Brazil. With the Dutch initial victory in 1645, some of the second generation Brazilian Portuguese engaged them in guerrilla warfare. Subsequently these Plantation owners had to enlist their slaves to fight the Dutch, which in turn facilitated their escape. And amid the hostility and chaos, the Quilombo de Palmares grew, with thousands of new free African residents. When the Dutch were finally expelled in 1654, the township had become a powerful land formed by several populated settlements.


Rumor has it that the population of Palmares was polygamous and possibly even polyandrous – meaning that a woman could have multiple husbands. To feed the growing population, their economy was a mixture of enterprises, including, hunting, gathering and agriculture.   The Quilombo farmers planted crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes and beans.  There was trade with neighbors. “The idea that Palmares was an isolated refuge in the woods may be true for the first few years of settlement. However, after mid-century, the relationship between blacks and their neighbors certainly evolved into an intense exchange with Indians and whites,” says Flávio Gomes, researcher at the Department of History of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).  A true community was created with belonging , residents and a thriving economy.  Supposedly whites did engage in the Quilombo dos Palmares and it is known that this happened later in quilombos of other regions. Despite their alleged hostility toward whites, there is evidence that livestock farmers brought their flocks to graze in the area of Palmares and maintained trade with the quilobolas to the point of being called, disdainfully “colonists of the blacks.”

Map of Quilombo dos Palmares

The residents of the Quilombo dos Palmeres apparently did have a good relationship with the  Indians. Archaeological excavations have found Indian pottery, probably contemporary to the quilombo. “It is tempting to make this association and say that Indians were within the quilombo, but we could be dealing with some type of trade,” says American archaeologist Scott Allen, of the Federal University of Alagoas. According to Pedro Paulo Funari, historian and Unicamp archaeologist who joined the first team to take soundings at the site 15 years ago, pottery indicates that there were Indians in Palmares:  “The ceramic production was linked to the attributions of women. The presence of this material in Palmares may mean that the ex-slaves had Indian wives.” Something perfectly consistent with the lack of black women there. Anyway, mestiçagem (racial mixture) was on the tip of the tongue of Palmares inhabitants. Their language seemed to have an African base mixed with words and structures taken from the Portuguese and Tupi – the settlers needed interpreters to speak with them.  Illustrative of its complexity, Quilombo dos Palmares in 1640 was described as comprising several separate settlements which pledged their loyalty to one leader (chief).  Two of the settlements were mostly of Amerindian origin (Subupira e Tabocas); one of Portuguese colonists who joined the quilombo (Amaro), and seven Bantos, that is, settlements of fugitive slaves (Andalaquituche, Macaco, Aqualtene, Ambrabanga, Tabocas, Zumbi, Arotiene). With its capital in Macaco, Palmares possessed a complex social structure, replicating, in many instances, African political systems. – See more at:

Jaime Hurtado González; Ill Fated Afro-Ecuadorian

Jaime Hurtado GonzálezJaime Hurtado González (1937-1999) Politician, Activist, Social Justice champion,  Jaime Hurtado González was the first black man to run for president of the Republic of Ecuador.

Known as the the voice of the people González was a strong advocate of the disenfranchised groups of color within Ecuador. As an elected congressman in 1999 he was running for President with a strong chance of winning.  Sadly, Jaime Hurtado González was assassinated  near the country’s Supreme Court Building.

A member of  the organization of Popular Unity, Jaime Hurtado, was brutally gunned down with other activists, Pablo Tapia and Wellington Borja, in an act of state sanctioned terrorism by the reactionary forces led by the government presided over by Jamil Mahuad.

It was February 17th 1999, in broad daylight, a few meters away from the the Supreme Court building of  Ecuador and just a block away from the House of the Parliament;  an armed militia fired at the activists using 9mm weapons issued only to state security.

Despite the fact that the place where these men were assassinated was under constant surveillance by the police, and a few steps away stands the security service for the Supreme Court, nothing was done to capture the murderers who managed to get away through traffic.

Jaime Hurtado Gonzalez was a national Deputy and the chairman of the Parliamentary block of the DPM.  As a young man, he quickly rose up to become the leader of the struggle of the people, a relentless fighter for a new motherland ruled by working class people. He was assassinated along with his friend, Pablo Tapia, associate Deputy for the DPM and a cousin, Wellington Borja, also member of the DPM.  The crime was part of a plot on the part of the government to frighten anti-government protesters. In what seemed to be a series of crimes against the people of Ecuador, when that government took office; four peasants who claimed land in the town of Salite were assassinated; the government carried out mass arrests of student protesters; security forces broke into the headquarters of the DPM in the El Triunfo and arrested several leaders and members of that organization; plus protesting teachers are threatened to be fired.

Several community leaders of  progressive organizations and workers unions were threatened and then subsequently attacked by Government officials. The assassination was carried out at the same time when 120,000  teachers were on strike.  And not even the millions the Government spent in publicity plus their threats of massive lay-offs, were able to stop the teachers from striking.

Thousands of Ecuadorans demonstrate in front of Carondelet Palace
Thousands of Ecuadorans demonstrate in front of Carondelet Palace

The Prime Minister, Vladimiro Alvarez gave up the post of Minister of Education  unable to face the demands of the protesting teachers.  And for everybody, workers, peasants, teachers and students, housewives, rank and file christians, leftist democrats, Jaime Hurtado was an example of tireless struggle for the rights of the people.

Quoted from the organizations newspaper as part of Hurtado’s eulogy, “Our organizations are rooted in the people and our people do not get scared. They will not be able to scare us. On the contrary we raise today the banners of revolutionary change with more enthusiasm, and we are ready more than ever to face and defeat the enemies of the people. No matter how many crimes the Government commits, the ideals of Jaime, Pablo and Wellington will find support throughout the country, in the hearts of the peoples of Ecuador and flourish in the Popular Power, for which we will always struggle hand in hand with the oppressed.”

La Vida En Black History… Maestra Gloria Rolando

La Vida En Black History… Maestra Gloria Rolando

It’s empowering to know who we are, from whom & where we are formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA posting from the DMV

Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando has been an inspiration to me for quite some time.  Her films are treasures of knowledge presented in the way of a modern day Griot, proud and brilliant; they make me eager to connect to my ancestors and fill me with pride in the way my father’s booming voice did, oh so long ago.

BalconGloria Rolando’s first film; “Un Eterno Presente: Oggún” is an audiovisual homage to the Yoruba diety Oggún.  Oggún is the blacksmith deity presenting the modern world of industrialization, and works with metals and technology through the songs of the immense Yoruba vocalist, Lazarro Ros.

In the film Rolando explains how the men and women of Lázaro’s generation, are the last bridge tying us to the Africa that gave birth to its roots in the Americas. “We must recognize that it contains legends and universal values that explain the world. My personal experience with Oggún demonstrates to me that this is possible.”

Eyes of the Rainbow,” is a documentary made in 1997 about Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who took refuge in Cuba after years of struggles in the US.  The film integrates AfroCuban culture, including the Orisha Oya, to show Assata’s place in Cuba, where she has lived for the past three decades. In English.

Gloria’s latest film effort is about the Indepedientes de Color or The Independents of Color a Cuban Political party that was formed after the largely Mambi Army ousted the Spaniards from Cuba in the late 1800’s.   Recent research in Cuba has established that this army was overwhelmingly made up of Cubans of African descent (80% and perhaps as high as 90%): consequently it was thus one of the largest revolts of enslaved Africans in the hemisphere.  When the Mambis had ejected the Spaniards from Cuba, the plantocracy  / plantation owners became allies of the Americans.  These events led to the little known Massacre of 1912.

Evaristo Estenoz founded the Independents of Color in 1908 in order to secure a rightful share for Afro-Cubans in all aspects of  Cuban society, specifically the government which had successfully marginalized them. He was murdered by Cuban troops in 1912 along with more than 6,000 other AfroCubans and fellow party members, after an intense media campaign carried out by the planter class to demonize the party.  As famed sonero Arsenio Rodriguez says: “Hay que adorarlos como a Martí!”  Roots of my heart is the first treatment on film of a  history that has been largely ignored by both sides of the Florida Straights.