- Interview with Florentino Flores Castro / Una Entrevista con Florentino Flores Castro
- Interview with Florentino Flores Castro
This interview took place on February 19, 2007, in Mata Clara, Veracruz, Mexico.
ROWELL: What is your name?
CASTRO: Florentino Flores Castro. I was born on May 12, 1956.
JONES: And where are you from?
CASTRO: I was born and raised in this community of Mata Clara, which belongs to the Cuitlahuac municipality.
ROWELL: I'm especially happy to meet you, an historian.
CASTRO: Thank you very much.
ROWELL: I'm very much interested in knowing when the Africans were first brought to Yanga.
CASTRO: It's generally accepted by scholars that the first trip was in 1535. That journey ends directly in Veracruz. But the reason for it wasn't to bring the slaves to do typical field work. They arrived here first but were to be transferred to Zacatecas to work in the gold, silver and other metal mines. The Spaniards were supposed to come to work the mines and take their contents back with them.
JONES: What was the town of Yanga called previously?
CASTRO: First it was called San Lorenzo de los Negros. Later it became officially recognized by the state and the federal government with the name of "Villa Yanga." Then it was updated as a consequence of the revolutionary movements, and certain names-such as San Lorenzo de los Negros-which were given by the Catholic Church were rejected. During the 1930s, laws were reformed and town names were modified. Before, it was San Lorenzo de los Negros, later San Lorenzo de Serrano, and then they changed it to Villa de Yanga. It received the name of "villa" when it began to form or to declare itself a [End Page 104] free municipality. Currently, it's just Yanga. It has removed the "villa." But they did that because the church had imposed its laws. We have to keep in mind that the church very much manipulated the state and it governed the church and the state. Around that time, Benito Juarez came on the scene. He started all those political movements. It wasn't until 1936 that a decree was issued by the federal government and the saints' names were removed from town names. Then they started to use the names of key figures who joined the Mexican Revolution, contemporary heroes of the Mexican Revolution. That's why they never removed Yanga's name, because he was a leader, a liberator. The events surrounding Benito Juarez are very recent, but we have to recognize that Yanga was founded in 1609. That's the most solid fact we have surrounding its founding, without taking into consideration that Cuitlahuac was founded significantly earlier than Yanga. Cuitlahuac was founded in 1580, 1590. That's why people are quite pleased and why the majority of the black population settled in Cuitlahuac. We have to keep in mind that, due to very small weather differences, blacks tended to migrate toward lower altitudes. If you'll notice, in Yanga we're at a different altitude. And we have to remember, and you know this well, that the cold aggravated blacks. That's why they came this way. Yanga would never have made mention of this because he didn't know it. At that time, many people who were with Yanga died because of the cold. They were in the midst of a difficult climate that they weren't used to, so it was natural that so many blacks would die.
ROWELL: Then why are there black people here rather than in Yanga now? What happened to cause black people to move to Mata Clara, as opposed to remaining in the site that was Yanga?
CASTRO: That's a very good question and a difficult one to answer. The reason why people live over here is because, in the 1900s, during the time of Emiliano Zapata, there was a lot of redistribution of land. Right now, we are in the central area of the state. When the redistribution of land became a political issue and they took land away from landowners and all...