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The 'First Free African Town' in the Americas? — It's In Mexico

Statue of Gaspar Yanga.  Photo by Erasmo Vasquez Lendechy via Wikipedia.
Statue of Gaspar Yanga.
Photo by Erasmo Vasquez Lendechy via Wikipedia.
By Lupita Peimbert
It is called Yanga. In the middle of intense vegetation in southeastern Veracruz, a state along the Mexican Gulf, the town of Yanga is evidence to the presence and settlement of Africans in Mexico.

On our way to the Port of Veracruz, we stopped at Yanga and saw the agricultural fields full of caña and corn surrounding the area, also rich in coffee plantations; the tropical weather invites you to be outside, under the sun's open arms.

Yanga claims to have been the first free African town in the Americas, proclaimed on October 3, 1631. Afro-Mexicans proudly share the story of “El Yanga,” apparently an enslaved prince from the Yang-Bara tribe from Gabon, who helped slaves to be free from the Spanish around 1570.

One of the town’s plazas shows his statue, presenting El Yanga as a defiant, proud man.

The main plaza, the portales, and the main church are as typical as in many other Mexican towns inviting serene strolls. Yanga is peaceful and emanates longevity. Many centuries and people have lived and died there, perhaps oblivious to history, yet making history themselves.

Reprinted with permission from Global Voices.

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