Afro-Mexicans Out of the Shadows in the 2020 Mexican Census

Afro-Mexicans Census 2020 BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Quartz.

For the first time in history, the Mexican census has counted all of its residents, including the indigenous and Afro communities that have been erased for centuries.

The 2020 Mexican Census reported 2.5 million people who identify themselves as Afro-Mexicans, who, by answering a simple question, finally emerged from the oblivion to which they were confined by a history inherited from the bloodiest colonialism.

“By your customs and traditions, do you consider yourself Afro-Mexican, Black, or Afro-descendant?” read the question on the Census. 

The decision to count each and every one of its residents comes after decades of exclusionary practices, where, according to the New York Times, Mexican residents were classified according to race or ethnicity solely based on their command of an indigenous language.

However, the great diversity of races, ethnicities, and colors that make up the Mexican social fabric went unnoticed —if not erased— by the endemic racism that tries at all costs to distance itself from the indigenous or Afro and remain as close as possible to the white stereotype of Hernán Cortéz.

The new census has helped the Afro-Mexican community realize they account for at least 2.5 million citizens. This equates to about 2 percent of the population. 

Additionally, the average age of an Afro-Mexican living in Mexico is 32, and 7.4 percent speak at least one indigenous language. Most Afro-Mexicans counted were from Guerrero, Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Mexico City. However, they might be even more, considering the Census efforts hardly ever reach all rural areas.

The only other study of the sort made in Mexico was in 2015, and it was informal. In the survey, at least 1.4 million people identified as Afro-Mexicans — 1.2% of the population at the time.

Afro-Mexicans and activists have been calling for the government to recognize them for decades, echoing the devastating effects of 16th-century slavery and the perpetual erasure these communities have been victims of.

But with a small step, the once-dominant civilization of the continent starts to grasp the actual dimension of its cultural power.