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  • The First Liberator of the Americas: The Editor's Notes / "El Primer Libertador de las Americas": Notas del editor
  • Charles Henry Rowell
  • "El Primer Libertador de las Americas"/The First Liberator of the AmericasThe Editor's Notes
  • Charles Henry Rowell

. . . during the peak years of Mexicans slavery, from 1521 to 1639, the colony ranked high among the leading New World importers, receiving roughly half of all slaves entering the Indies. Total slave imports for the period amounted to over 110,525 persons. Of course the demographic impact was far more profound than the numbers suggest.

-Ben Vinson III

In 1640, the year the Portuguese slave trade to Spanish America ended, the Kingdom of New Spain (colonial Mexico) contained the second-largest population of enslaved Africans and the greatest number of free blacks in the Americas . . . . A 1646 census enumerated 35,089 Africans and 116,529 persons of African descent in New Spain. With cessation of the slave trade, the enslaved population of New Spain steadily declined. The free black population, however, experienced continual growth and by 1810 numbered approximately 624,000, or 10 percent of the total population. New Spain's seventeenth-century demographic distinctiveness-home to the second-largest slave and the largest free black populations-may come as a revelation to those unaccustomed to thinking of Mexico as a prominent site of the African presence.

-Herman L. Bennett

. . . New Spain was, by the end of the regular slave trade in 1640, home to the second largest slave population in the New World, surpassed only by Brazil.

-Frank "Trey" Proctor III

This bilingual issue of Callaloo directs us toward the conclusion of our Mexican field research, which is devoted to the contemporary African presence in the State of Veracruz, once the colonial Spanish gateway to New Spain, as Mexico was called, and the rest of so called "Latin America." Perhaps one or two more numbers of Callaloo focusing on the city of Veracruz and on a few coastal villages north of the municipality will bring to a close our statewide project. Our work will, we hope, ultimately signal to the general reader, as well as to the specialist, the importance of the presence of descendants of Africans in Mexico as a nation. In other words, we would like our research to demonstrate that, while gatherings of Mexicans of African ancestry obviously predominate in certain rural and small town sites in the State of Veracruz, African Mexicans-rendered invisible by centuries of "racial mixing" and nefarious national political and religious agendas-are scattered throughout the country, in large cities and in the hinterlands.

When we began this fieldwork in 2002, we did not expect our research to develop into the evolving serial project it has become. Rather we thought we would complete [End Page 1] our study in two or three trips to the State of Veracruz; however, each time we visited the State, the more our project expanded, the more discoveries we made at the various sites we visited, and the more different groups and communities commanded research. It was with the 2003 Autumn Issue of Callaloo (Vol. 26.4), a bilingual number devoted to the contemporary literature and culture of the State of Veracruz, that we began the publication of our research on Mexico, which, in content and scope, suggested a series. We continued the series with the publication of two subsequent issues, one of which was devoted to the Afro-Mexican pueblo Coyolillo (Vol. 27. ; Winter, 2004); and the other, to African derived populations in villages south of the city of Veracruz (Vol. 29.2; Spring 2006). The current special issue, the fourth in the series, focuses on black people in Yanga, Mata Clara, and nearby villages.

Even as the conclusion of our research on the State of Veracruz approaches, we acknowledge that our work is merely the beginning of very important studies that need to be done on contemporary Mexico's African derived populations, especially in Veracruz, in such nearby States as Puebla, Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas, and the Federal District (Mexico City), as well as Oaxaca, Guerrero, and certain states to the North (e.g., Durango and Tamaulipas, where blacks from the United States settled...


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