PROJECT: Mexican-American-California Multi-Cultural Project (x H-Mexico)
Date: Sat, 1 Jul 1995 08:20:27 -0500
MEXICAN-AFRICAN-CALIFORNIA MULTI-CULTURAL PROJECT
A multi-cultural community project was initiated in 1994 in conjunction with the Compton Local Planning Council, the Compton California Unified School District, and UCLA students and faculty to address the tensions between African American and MexicanAmerican communities.
African American and Mexican American interactions are salient aspects of urban and rural communities in many parts of the United States. In the Los Angeles area, neighborhoods predominately African American now include greater number of Latinos, particularly Mexicans and Central Americans. Educators and community leaders are seeking to "build bridges" and provide positive interaction and communication between groups. This multicultural project enables multi-ethnic working together by highlighting common bonds between communities.
Relatively few people in the United States are aware of the fact that Mexico has had an African population since the colonial period and that persons of African descent have been living in parts of Mexico for centuries. Many persons know about the occupation of Mexico lead by Hernando Cortes, but not many know that a black man, Juan Cortes, was with Cortes when he landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico, on Good Friday, 1519, or that Juan Garrido, a black man, was the first person to plant wheat in Mexico, or that Estevancio, a Moor, treked from Florida to Sinaloa in the 1530's. Equally there is insufficient appreciation of the African presence within or concurrent to early Spanish speaking settlements in what is now Southwest United states.
At various times African descent persons from Mexico have been conspicuous in early California history. For example, many of the pobladores who founded the city of Los Angeles were persons of African descent. Moreover, mulatto Mexicans have been part of twentieth century Mexican migration to the United States. Moreover, a synthesis of the Indian and African is not only visible in people but also in music, language, folklore, foods and other cultural expressions.
This project is focused primarily on historical and contemporary African survival in Mexico and linkages to California society and culture. A central question is the survival of Mexico African motifs, for it is the African heritage which is a shared commonalty to some Mexicans and African Americans. In the United States, African Americans were limited in their ability to retain their African heritage, yet survivals did occur. Some of the literature suggests that to an extent this was true of Mexico.
Under the direction of Dr. Juan Gomez-Quinones, Program Coordinator, University of California at Los Angeles, a group of graduate and undergraduate students have prepared material and made presentations to high school students and community groups. A photographic exhibit, based on pictures taken by Tony Gleaton, a professional photographer, and Edgar Love, professor emeritus, El Camino College. These pictures show Afromexicans of Cuajinicuilapa, San Nicolas, Ometepec, Pinotepa Nacional and other parts of the Costa Chica region of Mexico.
The following is a typical example of a multi-media program presented to a group of Compton, California African American and Latino high school students.
AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINO STUDENTS IN DIALOGUE
Exploring the Past (How it Was)
The Shared Cultural Heritage of African American and Latinos
Afro Mexican Music in Western Mexico Alvaro Ochoa
Understanding the Present (How it Is)
A History of Mutual struggle James Jamerson Beisbol !!! Omar Farouk Contemporary Community Voices Claudio Lozano
Popular Culture as an Arena for Unity Among Blacks and Latinos
Sharing the Future (How it Will Be)
A Vision Towards Tomorrow: Conflict or Unity Noel Tapia
Similar presentation have been made to community groups in the Los Angeles area. In reporting on community reaction of one of these community groups, The L.A. Watts Times, May 26, 1995, reported:
The community was treated to an enlightening look into the lineage of Mexican culture and how it was influenced by the influx of African culture through an evening of insightful lectures at the Paul Robinson Community Center. The presentation, a refreshing and educational exploration of history and culture, traced the African slave trade in Mexico, the Negro and Mexican Baseball League and the influence of African culture on Mariachi music. Its purpose was to highlight the bonds between Mexicano and African culture. "I think it's a "feel good" kind of thing," said Mario Vazquez, an attorney who is a board member of the Paul Robeson Center and the Watts Immigration Center. "It makes people feel good to discover those bonds. My own grandfather, who was my mother's actual stepfather was from Oaxaca. I could see that he was part (African). It's like a discovery of your own self; a discovery of your own country of origin. I was born and raised in Mexico and it's very, very positive because it's the kind of thing that makes you feel glad and say, "Wow, there's more to me than I thought there was.
Funding has been donated for the project from: The ARCO Foundation, California Community Foundation, Barbar Harvey, an individual, The Southern California Gas Company, and the Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
Dr. Juan Gomez-Quinones, Project Coordinator
UCLA Department of History
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Tel - 310-825-4362
Fax - 310-206-9630
Dr. Edgar Love
23416 Berendo Avenue
Torrance, CA 90502
William Mason, Retired Curator, Museum of Natural History,
Los Angeles, California
Tony Gleaton, Photographer, Los Angeles, California
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