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Afro does not exist for political parties
Alberto Buitre
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No African descendant occupies public office by election and Afro has no place in public agendas.

The Afro-descendant peoples have no political representation in Mexican political parties. None of them, not even those who self describe as being from the left, offer posts, secretariats or have created specialized agencies to attend the needs of this sector that accounts for 1.2 percent of the population in Mexico, a total of 381,853 people, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI).

What generally takes place in Mexico is that the issues raised by the populations of African descent are addressed by political parties through their secretariats of indigenous affairs, says Tania Meza Escorza, Doctor of Political and Social Sciences at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) and President of TIC Ciudadana AC, a civil association dedicated to promoting and providing support in human rights, feminism, the media and cultural activities.

In reviewing the documentation, structure or statutes of the political parties registered in Mexico, cannot be found any specific official mechanisms for addressing the needs of the African descent populations. In fact, they do not have any popularly elected and officially registered representatives, either in the Senate, Congress, or in any state congress, governorship or municipality.

“This does not mean that they do not have any deputies of African descent; I am sure there are. But this is a population that is so downplayed in Mexico, that, most certainly, political parties have not noticed that there is a person of African descent among their ranks ,” says Meza Escorza to Latinamerica Press.

“Mainly, if we checked the persons who presided any mayor’s office of a municipality in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz or Quintana Roo, maybe we could find one African descendant,” she adds. “But the same thing happens: The political parties themselves have been responsible for making them invisible, fading them among the indigenous affairs, or territorial movements offices, or in the generality of organized civil society.”

The invisibility of all that is Afro
For Aldo Villegas “Bocafloja”, one of the most successful Mexican hip-hoppers today, this subject became so significant that he ventured to make a documentary film about the silencing of what is “afro,” not only in Mexico but in Latin America in general.

Bocafloja states that his film work, “Nana Dijo. Radiografía irresoluta de la conciencia negra” (“Nana Said. Irresolute Radiography of Black Consciousness”) a documentary on the African populations in Latin America premiered in 2015, warns that the Afro issues have no place in the public agendas in Mexico.

“Issues like African descent, negritude, colonialism, in the context of Mexico and Latin America are still discussions that have no place in almost all agendas, which is literally scandalous,” he says.

The assertion of “Bocafloja” finds support in the figures that are part of the National Survey on Discrimination (Enadis) of 2010, which show that 23.3 percent of the population in Mexico “would not be willing to share housing with people of another race.”

Similarly, 54.8 percent of the Mexican population stated for this survey that people receive insults because of the color of their skin. In addition, 4 out of 10 people believe that “people are treated differently depending on their skin tone.”

The issue is that racism operates openly in Mexico, “Bocafloja” says.

“Mexico is one of the clearest depictions in relation to the models of internal colonialism in the region, under which the myths of miscegenation, or the mix of races, and of inclusion has served as the perfect backdrop to perpetuate the subjugation and peripheralization, or relocation, of the oppressed. Mexican nationalism is filled with one of the most racist ideological packages that can be imagined. Therefore, in practical terms, racism operates in an open territory with virtually no boundaries to contain it, unlike in the United States, where the political gains made by the Black, Native American or Chicano movements, for example, have in some way forced the system to grant certain concessions,” he says.

Racism in public life
This is how, despite that the INEGI was created in 1983, it was not until 2015 that it included a question about African descent in its population surveys. For the first time was the Afro-Mexican population counted and came into being for official statistics.

Does that permeate into its low, if not totally non-existent, political representation? To Meza Escorza the answer is yes.

“As just recently, political parties have been forced by certain circumstances to establish specific offices on sexual diversity, in the same manner as from the 1990s when they overstaffed their secretariats with women, until just this year 2016 when they were forced to gender parity, by law, which made them give 50 percent of their nominations to women — some political parties might say that they have included women since the beginning of the century, but it was always under a machismo, welfare-related vision —, the same will happen with people of African descent. Recently, and after centuries of not being taken into account, they were included in the figures provided by the government. When the political parties realize that they represent votes, or in other words, it suits them electorally to not ignore their demands, they will begin to create offices to work on these demands, as they do now with sexual diversity or women,” she told Latinamerica Press.

However, it seems that Afro-descendant organizations in Mexico, as is the case in the rest of Latin America, face organizational problems to assert their demands.

Asked about it, the Afro-activist Claudia Quintero says that Afro-descendant organizations in Mexico and Latin America are facing a structural problem, not only due to the lack of space in political parties. It is, from her point of view, an expansion of racism into public life.

This is how, despite the grounds of the demands of the Afro populations being fair, the “white elite” continue monopolizing these spaces and curtailing under their logic the spaces for participation.

“The problem is structural, and is not the just complaints that we as Afro-descendants have made when faced with situations of exclusion. The problem is the limited or no participation of our community and the little legitimacy that the Afro participation process has. The problem is the white elite that has the people mired in poverty and humanitarian aid to save the day, or vote buying that lets one put shoes on children, whenever there are elections,” she said to Latinamerica Press.

The irony, says Meza Escorza, is that Mexico has already had a president of African descent. He was General Vicente Guerrero, born in Tixtla, in the state that currently carries his name, Guerrero, one of the cradles of the Afro-Mexican population. He ruled in 1829, nine years after the victory of the War of Independence. But the story, never told to the Afro populations, has made sure to “whitewash” him. —Latinamerica Press.


Afro-descendants demand opportunities for participation in political parties. / Alberto Buitre
Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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