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!



Yanga’s Successful Mexican Revolt… La Vida En Black History Month

Yanga’s Successful Mexican Revolt… La Vida En Black History Month

La Vida En Black History Month… #BlackHistoryIsGlobal

During the Spanish colonial period in Mexico the indigenous people enslaved by the Colonists was greatly diminished by disease. In order to replace their labor shortage, the Spanish brought in African slaves to Mexico to toil the sugar fields and work the underground mines. Worth much more than the indigenous slaves, the Africans were highly sought after because they were known for their strength and stamina in the hot sun. yanga479x363  Historians It speculate that 200,000 Africans were brought over to be enslaved in Mexico but many say the number was far higher, more like 500,000 African slaves.  And as with most stories of slavery throughout the America’s there was resistance and rebellion in every century and every country.

In Mexico, The Primer Libertador of the Americas was an African slave named Gaspar Yanga. Yanga was the master mind behind the most successful slave rebellion in Mexican history having taken place around the year 1570.  Believed to be a member of the royal house of Gabon, Africa, this hero was responsible for leading the slaves in a successful revolt. Under Yanga’s reign, the slaves were able to escape to safety in the highlands of Veracruz.  There they built a small maroon colony surviving for over three decades by ambushing caravans bringing goods to Veracruz.  Finally in 1609 the Spanish decided they were going to fight for control of the territory.

About 550 Spanish troops set out from Puebla in January of 1609. But the maroons were a scrappy force of 100 men using some type of firearm, and 400 more armed with primitive weapons – stones, machetes, bows and arrows, and more. The maroon army was led by Francisco de la Matosa, an Angolan.  Yanga—who was now quite old— employed his army’s innate intelligence of the terrain to hold off the Spaniards and did manage to cause them enough distress to bring them to the negotiating table. The Maroons fought long and hard for months.

When the Spanish troops finally approached the maroons; Yanga sent terms of peace via a captured Spaniard. Yanga asked for a treaty akin to those that had settled hostilities between Indians and Spaniards: an area of self-rule, in return for tribute and promises to support the Spanish if they were attacked. In addition, he suggested that this proposed district would return any slaves which might flee to it. That last concession was needed to assuage the slave owners of Vera Cruz.  And Unbelievably, after 30 years in the mountains, Yanga negotiated a treaty with the Spanish. The treaty was hard fought and well earned. In the end, Yanga received his desired goal of free community. Today, the town of Yanga in Veracruz is a living testimony to this incredible achievement. Now That’s La Vida En Black History from Mexico…