- Interview with Andres Maceda / Una Entrevista con Andres Maceda Martinez
- Interview with Andres Maceda Martinez
This interview was conducted on February 22, 2007, in Yanga, Veracruz, Mexico.
ROWELL: What can you tell us about Gaspar Yanga and the community that bears his name?
MARTINEZ: I have a bit of knowledge about the history of our community. But even historians don't know the whole truth, in terms of whether there are descendents of Yanga, where he died, where he procreated, where he settled properly, etc. There are many different versions, but nothing reliable. Although there are records in the national archives and studies from Professor Aguirre Beltrán and many other people, nothing is reliable.
ROWELL: When was this community established, and what were the circumstances of establishing it as a free place for people of African descent?
MARTINEZ: The town was officially founded in 1609, but Aguirre Beltrán mentions that it might have been in 1608, according to information he got from the national archives. When Yanga arrived at the town, it was because he previously had a battle with the Spaniards who had sent a petition letter to the viceroy in hopes of liberating their troops, who had been captured by Yanga. The viceroy complied with their petitions and gave land to Yanga so that he could found this town for his people. In that petition, he asked that there be no whites within their town. The only whites allowed would be the priest and the vendors who would arrive to sell their goods one day a week. They would be allowed, but only for the one day when they were making sales, and then they would leave. The priest was the only one who could remain. That's why there were blacks only for so long. When the town was founded, it was called San Lorenzo de los Negros, because it was founded by blacks only.
JONES: Free blacks?
MARTINEZ: Free blacks.
ROWELL: Is this the exact site of the original town? [End Page 12]
MARTINEZ: The first land they gave them was between Cuitlahuac and Palmillas, a place we call Los Mangos. The land that they first gave them is around there, but it was an inhospitable place. So they again requested that they be moved, because the land they had given them was inhospitable. And that's when they gave them this land, where we now live.
ROWELL: How is it that this group of blacks was given free land?
MARTINEZ: It just so happens that our region's crops are almost 100% sugar cane. The growing of sugar cane needed the black workers' labor. So that's why, in this region, the population was more black than Spanish. They would sometimes escape, and when they escaped they were called black "cimarrones." It's not an ethnic group, but rather that when they escaped, they were called that: "cimarrones." The group of cimarrones was so large that the carriages that were coming from the port of Veracruz toward the capital of Mexico that traveled through this area were inevitably robbed. Sometimes, the cimarrones would kill the people in the carriages.
JONES: They would kill the Spaniards?
MARTINEZ: Obviously. When the carriages held slaves, they were liberated and joined the group. So that's why the population was so large. They staged a revolt. They captured a Spaniard and, through him, they sent a petition to the viceroy. They told him that they would give up their arms. They promised the Spaniards peace in exchange for land. Do you know the city of Cordoba? The city of Cordoba is considered a fort specifically for defending the carriages. It's a midway point used for guarding the region.
JONES: And had the cimarrones had owners?
MARTINEZ: They must've had owners, because they ran away from the haciendas. Here in the municipality we have nine former haciendas that are now in ruins.
ROWELL: What does the name Yanga mean?
MARTINEZ: Some historians say it means "prince," but I honestly don't know.
ROWELL: And how much do we know about Yanga himself? How much...