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!



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.

Ganga Zumba, Mighty Chief!

Ganga Zumba, Mighty Chief!

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, Friday, February 11, 2018

Ganga Zumba was the leader of an entire country  of escaped Africans in Alagoas, Brazil known as Quilombo de Palamares.   The fight for freedom in Brazil and all throughout the Americas began as soon as Africans began arriving in Brazil.  These Freedom Fighters represented an African resistance movement.  The movement was diverse and strong  taking on many forms, free settlements known as Quilombos, attempts from groups of enslaved Africans to overthrow the government in their Brazilian town or state.


Zumba escaped bondage on a sugar plantation and proceeded to live his destiny as heir to the kingdom of Palmares and received the title Ganga Zumba. Although some Portuguese documents give him the name Ganga Zumba, and this name is still widely used today.  The most important of the documents translates the name as “Great Lord.” However, a letter written to him by the governor of Pernambuco in 1678 and now found in the Archives of the University of Coimbra, calls him “Ganazumba,” which is a better translation of “Great Lord” (in Kimbundu) and through this evidence we find this was his name.

Ganga was the son of princess Aqualtune; daughter of a King of Kongo. She led a battalion at the Battle of Mbwila. The Portuguese won the battle eventually killing 5,000 men and captured the King, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles. The entire nobility were then stolen from their kingdom, put on ships and sold in bondage in the Americas. It is highly likely that Ganga was among the nobles.  Ganga Zumba, his brother Zona and his sister Sabina (mother of Zumbi dos Palmares his nephew and successor) were enslaved at the plantation of Santa Rita.   They lived in bondage in the Portuguese Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil; a Portuguese province at that time  controlled by the Dutch, where finally from there they escaped to Palmares.

quilombo or mocambo was a refuge of runaway Africans that escaped their bondage and fled to the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed maroon settlements, called mocambos.


Gradually as many as ten separate mocambos had formed and ultimately coalesced into a confederation called the Quilombo of Palmares, or Angola Janga, under the king, Ganga Zumba or Ganazumba, who may have been elected by the leaders of the constituent mocambos. Ganga Zumba, ruled the biggest villages, Cerro dos Macacos, presided the mocambo’s chief council and was the King of Palmares. The nine other settlements were headed by brothers, sons, or nephews of Gunga Zumba. Zumbi was chief of one community and his brother, Andalaquituche, headed another.

By the 1670s, Ganga Zumba had a palace, three wives, guards, ministers, and devoted subjects at his royal compound called MacacoMacaco comes from the name of an animal (monkey) that was killed on the site. The compound consisted of 1,500 houses which housed his family, guards, and officials, all of which were considered royalty. He was given the respect of a Monarch and the honor of a Lord.(Kent)

In 1678 Zumba accepted a peace treaty offered by the Portuguese Governor of Pernambuco, which required that the Palmarinos relocate to Cucaú Valley. The treaty was challenged by Zumbi, one of Ganga Zumba’s nephews, who led a revolt against him. In the confusion that followed, Ganga Zumba was poisoned, mostly likely by one of his own relatives for entering into a treaty with the Portuguese. And many of his followers who had moved to the Cucaú Valley were re-enslaved by the Portuguese. Resistance to the Portuguese then continued under Zumbi.


The Brazilian film Ganga Zumba was made in 1963 but was not released until 1972 because there was a military coup in Brazil in 1964, and films about revolutions, even those taking place in the 17th century, were considered politically dangerous. The film is based on João Felício dos Santo’s novel, and focuses on a black slave who ends up in Palmares. The film is about black liberation and keeps a black racial perspective. (Stam)

Ganga-Zumba, the Palmares chief during the latter part of this period, attempted to negotiate an agreement with the Portuguese where the quilombo would no longer accept fugitive slaves or fight the Portuguese in exchange for permanent recognition of their land and freedom for those born in Palmares.  However, Zumbi, the settlement’s military leader, chose resistance to the Portuguese. The Portuguese never accepted Ganga-Zumbi’s proposal and continued to attack the quilombo. Finally, in 1694, Palmares was conquered and destroyed by a military force under the command of Domingos Jorge Velho. Zumbi was killed one year later in 1695.

Palmares was a multifaceted quasi-state which lasted for most of the 17th Century, resisting attack by two European powers. Challenging both Dutch and Portuguese sovereignty in Brazil, it was a symbol of resistance to colonialism and of the possibility of multicultural coexistence.

– See more at: and finally the most violent, armed insurrection.

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.

La Vida En Black… Fernando Velasco

La Vida En Black… Fernando Velasco

By MimiTVA posting from the DMV, Super Bowl Sunday February 4, 2018

Today as we watch the Super Bowl lets think the son of a Colombian man who played for the Carolina Panther’s in Super Bowl numero 50.

Fernando Velasco

Velasco’s work ethic is a lesson instilled by his grandfather. Velasco credits this work ethic to have been in the NFL. Velasco left the NFL in 2016 and recently signed as a Player Relations Coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs football team.

Velasco’s career in the NFL had him bouncing from team to team even at the beginning of the 2015 season he was playing with the Tennessee Titans.  An undrafted free agent in 2008, Velasco spent most of that year and 2009 on the practice squad. Versatility — his ability to play either guard spot and center — helped him make the team’s “swing” guy,  a backup interior lineman who is active on game days for the Titans.  He played with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Carolina Panthers before 2016 And the Titans released him in August.  And then on September 17, 2015, Velasco was signed by the Carolina Panthers to play center and be the back up to their 4-time Pro Bowl center, Ryan Kalil. After a ankle injury to Kalil, Velasco would start the week 8 contest against the Indianapolis Colts.


“The thing about that area, everybody’s just hard workers, so that’s the thing that I definitely know is the reason I’ve been in the league this long, especially being an undrafted free agent, is just that work ethic,” Velasco said. “You come to work every day ready to get better. You don’t get content about being on the practice squad. You can’t get content about being a backup. So you always want to get better. You don’t want to be content.”

“Growing up in the household with my granddaddy, he went to work every day until he was 80-plus years old,” Velasco continued, “so seeing that from him, I can’t be content with anything less than being the best I can be.”

Velasco’s grandfather would be up and out at the crack of dawn to spend the day “loading and stacking” working for a grocery warehouse. Velasco’s Granddad would work late and then get up and do the same everyday until he passed away during Fernando’s freshman year in high school, “but that’s what he did to take care of the family.”

Velasco’s father is from Colombia and immigrated to America. He met Velasco’s mother in New York but was incarcerated for most of Velasco’s childhood and is prohibited from returning to America. Velasco’s grandfather filled the void.EAC4W9

“I had my granddaddy there, so it was a good learning experience,” Velasco said. “Sometimes it was frustrating, not having a dad to throw the ball around with, but it was a blessing and the Lord does things for a reason. It made me be the man I am today.” Velasco has reestablished a relationship with his father, who lives in Sweden. They’ve communicated through social media like Facebook and Skype and talked on the phone. Velasco met his father in Canada and Jamaica during an off season.


Colombian Gold… María Isabel Urrutia Ocoró

Colombian Gold… María Isabel Urrutia Ocoró

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

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, February 4, 2018

María Isabel Urrutia Ocoró (born 25 March 1965) is a former weightlifter, athlete and politician from Colombia.  Raised in Valle del Cuaca, she was always a stellar athlete.  Starting out in shot put and the discus throw she represented Colombia in the 1988 Summer Olympics.

On the advice of her coaches, Maria Isabel switched to weightlifting  in 1989 and became an amazing champion.  Urrutia won silver at the 1989 World Championships.   She went on to win gold at the 1990, silver 1991, gold 1994, silver 1995, bronze 1996, silver 1997, and bronze at the 1998 World Weightlifting Championships.


Urrutia won a gold medal in the women’s 75 kg class in the 2000 Summer Olympics  becoming the second Colombian woman to win a medal and the first ever to win gold.  Maria Isabel Urritia is still the only gold medal winner to represent Colombia.  During these games she carried the flag of Colombia in the inaugural parade. Post her Gold medal win, she was honored through out Latin America.

Colombian flag-bearer Maria Isabel Urrutia leads her team onto the field during the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics Friday, Sept. 15, 2000, at Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)


Nowadays she is retired from sports but she also became a politician.   Urrutia held a seat in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia from 2002 to 2010 (twice elected: 2002 and 2006).  A popular elected official she was noted for her excellent legislative results and transparency in governing.