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Full Episode: Mexico & Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closet

In Mexico and Peru Professor Gates explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people—the two countries together received far more slaves than did the United States —brought to these countries as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific, and in and around Lima, Peru. Watch full episode.

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  • Meru

    It makes me happy to read that a teacher in the inner city of Chicago began showing the series to his latino and black students, for the young people (and some adults) need to know the truth about our history and how are roots are the same. It is unfortunate that the PBS station in Los Angeles, CA did not air the series, for if any area needed it, this is one.

  • Meru

    There is a problem I have watching this program as well as the others…the constant reference Dr. Gates makes to African people as ‘slaves’ rather than ‘enslaved Africans’. Now, some may think this is a minor issue, but I’ve raised this issue in classrooms at Harvard and will continue to. African people are people and European people enslaved them. That is it. They were not some thing called slaves like pigs, goats, horses, mules, etc. As a scholar, it is important that Dr. Gates be aware of this difference and refer to African people as they were and are, human beings. Also, it is rather interesting that he is reporting that the Black presence and influence in Mexico is only connected to slavery. The giant Olmec statues have never been explained, and counter evidence to the scholarship being put forth these days – that Africans were not present there prior to slavery – must be considered. Read Dr. Yosef ben Jochanan, Dr. Cheihk Anta Diop,Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, and Dr. John Henry Clarke’s work for a start. To omit their findings in any discussion or report about the history of peoples of this world is not scholarship, in my opinion.

    Meru Kheop

  • Zahraa

    Hi my name is Zahraa Lopez im 13 years old and watching this has opened my eyes to many things. My Father is half black half Mexican with Cherokee and Salibou Indian blood. My mother is Black with Cherokee and Mohwak Indian blood. I thought i was the only Black-Mexican on earth but im proud to say that there is alot of people that share the same mix with me. I love my people they are beautiful! Thank you ! :)

    Love, Zahraa Lopez
    Bronx , NY

  • levrolan

    People of African origin first arrived in the Americas with the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. Pedro Alonso Niño, traditionally considered the first of many New World explorers of African descent [8] was a navigator in the 1492 Columbus expedition. Those who were directly from Africa mostly arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as agricultural, domestic, and menial laborers and as mineworkers. They were also employed in mapping and exploration (for example, Estevanico) and were even involved in conquest (for example, Juan Valiente). They were mostly brought from West Africa and Central Africa in what are now the nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Angola, and Congo, There are six major groups: the Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Oromo, Akan, and the Bantu . Most of the slaves were sent to Brazil, and the Caribbean, but lesser numbers went to Colombia and Venezuela. Countries with significant black, mulatto, or zambo populations today include Brazil (86 million), Colombia (11 million), Haiti (897 million), Dominican Republic (up to 9.1 million), Cuba (up to 5 million), and Puerto Rico (40%–66%). Recent genetic research in UPR Mayaguez has brought to light that 46.4% of Puerto Ricans have African heritage on the X chromosome and 50% on the Y chromosome, thus between 30%–56% of the Puerto Rican population has African heritage

  • lrolan

    The only way to understand Latin America- Mexico is understand Afro- hispanic or afro latino influenc of Language and music.. understandin the lingusitics aspects you can go direct origins of any peoplle.. Another key is So called racial caste system ..which is the concept of casta was initially adopted in medieval Spain to describe a person’s quality of origin or lineage, social status, and religious identity. Initially this concept recognized five major classes, namely Spanish, Moor, Jew, infidel, and villain. During the early colonization period the concept of casta was used interchangeably with the concept of race. It follows that the Leyes de Casta sought to regulate the interactions between individuals ascribed membership in different castas or races.
    were also used as the basis for the development of laws that afforded privileges and entitlements to members of the Spanish race while providing special punishments for Native Americans, mestizos or mulattoes, and blacks. In some cases the law enabled the formal segregation of non-Spanish subjects to the outskirts of towns. More importantly a person’s race or casta often was a precondition for social, economic, and political mobility. Ultimately, however, the anxieties generated over the mixture of races led to the creation of legal color categories that afforded its members distinct entitlements and to particular forms of discrimination contingent on the individual’s racial membership.
    were also used as the basis for the development of laws that afforded privileges and entitlements to members of the Spanish race while providing special punishments for Native Americans, mestizos or mulattoes, and blacks. In some cases the law enabled the formal segregation of non-Spanish subjects to the outskirts of towns. More importantly a person’s race or casta often was a precondition for social, economic, and political mobility. Ultimately, however, the anxieties generated over the mixture of races led to the creation of legal color categories that afforded its members distinct entitlements and to particular forms of discrimination contingent on the individual’s racial membership. please look at this below to fully understand
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casta
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/jml34/newbozal.pdf
    http://www.personal.psu.edu/jml34/afmorph.pdf

  • lrolando

    ww.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol2no3/MiscegenationandRacism.pdf
    The former Dr. Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran. Pioneer of Afromexican Studies and founder of the first Afromexican
    Historical Archives on this subject.. key like I said is understanding the The caste system and languages
    and DNA and Music and customs of the people

  • Eric Rodriguez

    @ Krista Rudd and all the other people on here that keep pointing out the fact there are other racial/ethnic groups throughout Latin America as well as complaining about how the indigenous people are not mentioned enough… stop it! No one is denying the fact that most of the current Latin American populations are still predominantly indigenous peoples. No one is denying that there are Chinese, Japanese, Indian(people from India), Arabic, and European(recent immigrants not colonial descendants) populations all across Latin America. The series focuses on the history of the African descendants in Latin America because they are the subject of the series which you should have realized once you read the title: BLACK in Latin America.

    @Dr. Gates and the PBS staff, thank you for making this documentary. I personally appreciate someone telling my family’s story. My mother is a Black American with Cherokee blood further down the family tree, but my father is a mixed race Puerto Rican; my grandfather is a White Puerto Rican and my grandmother is a Black/Taino Puerto Rican. Whenever I mention the Black side of my father’s family people actually argue with me like there is no way that there are Black African descendants in Puerto Rico. I guess they never heard of Felix Trinidad or Tego Calderon.

    P.S. Can you guys do an episode on Puerto Rico? I’m just saying…

  • Bro

    El oh el he said “Oh my God” in a church. Beautifully rich program though

  • John

    It is ostensibly clear that Dr. Gates and the mostly African American audience is filled with an insatiable craving to “hear” or “see” that the people of Spanish America are mixed with people of African descent. It is really sad to see Gates asked an Indian girl if she is black, as if the girls in Harlem or Africa have straight hair and indigenous features. Black people and Dr. Gates need to take pride in their “kinky” hair that no other people on earth has. Dr. Gates continually reference the millions more enslaved Africans that were taken to Latin America-in contrast to the U.S.-as if this is evidence that if African features are not physically present on the Hispanic population, then, it can be traced in their blood. Interestingly, the thought that the African slaves-mostly males-that were transported to Latin America were worked to death never occurs to Dr. Gates nor does he inquire about it. He discusses the mixing of the African slaves with Whites and Indians as if the Africans came to the Americas to hang out on the beach and drink margaritas. The undeniable truth is that in Spanish America-excluding the Caribbean-the black population was worked to death, and the white women had relations with white men and the Spanish made sure that the natives and the blacks had the least amount of contact in order to avoid a coalition between those two groups against them. However, the Spanish did have sex and married the Indian women and this is quite evident in the faces of the people of Spanish America. One has only to consider that by the U.S. Civil war there were almost 4 million slaves in the U.S. and only 1.5 million in Brazil; And Brazil-not Spanish America, imported the majority of all the slaves that came to this continent. See The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture

  • Selvin

    Meru, the documentary series wasn’t about the native populations of these countries, it was about the black people. There are documentaries that cover those native populations, but this is the first that has taken notice of the black presence in these countries. Also enslaved Africans / slaves, you’re just splitting hairs. The average person with basic sense knew exactly what he was talking about when the word slave was used.

  • kalli

    This was just wonderful. Thank you PBS and Mr. Gates for bringing us awareness of africans across Latin America.

  • vera

    Dr, Gates, it is so evident how much you love your people,,,,bless you,,,Please do research on the negroes of america, the hipanics and the native american indians being the TRUE LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL,,this truth has been covered up which explains the conspiracy to keep egypt light,,,,hidden in their identity is the truth of the true biblical descendants of israel,,,bless you Mr. Gates

  • eirc broadnax

    im so glad this was brought to attention i knew it was something but i couldnt put my finger on it and this made it clear. This can bring about world change once we know who and what we are we can start to come together, to put it plan we are not African we are not Latin we are not Indian but we are descendents of them and this created a whole new race. we are spread all over the world. but we can learn from one another as the lost children, but we are lost nomore it time that we be reconise by the world.

  • Ariel

    Great Job!. Would like to point out Mofongo (PR), FU FU (Cuba), Mogo Mogo ( “Africa”), Mangu (DR), are different recipes althought made from green plantains.

  • roro

    Prof. Gates you did it again…
    You make me feel proud!!!
    what ever people think about Chris Columbus and the race struggles of the new world. I am proud of my mixture.

  • Jorge

    I loved the series, but when I saw the Mexico/Peru episode I noticed that most people on camera looked more indigenous. I am sure they have black history in their families, but I was saddened that even though they were obviously indigenous the episode ID’d them as black only. Overall though, it was a great show!

  • Marv Quinones

    Krista Rudd, I think your view is a bit skewed. If there is something that is more over-looked than the indigenous peoples, it’s probably blacks in Latin America. My family identifies as Taino. I also have African in my blood. I also have Spaniard and god knows what else. So I hold no bias. And if you look at me, I could pass for almost any of those. It is now borderline trendy to learn about indigenous people. Bands are using them for album concepts, they are part of tourist attractions, and try to find a college around the world that doesn’t have a class that focuses on indigenous people. No try to do the same with Africans in Latin America….Go ahead, I’ll wait. This HAD to be done, and I’m glad that it was. Both indigenous and Africans experienced atrocities, both deserve to be explored. Both are human. There is plenty of stuff on indigenous cultures. Kristen you seem cool, but you should appreciate this just as much.

  • Greg

    Hey Henry,

    Thanks!!

    Thanks for teaching and promoting the history of Black people not only in America, but their incredible history throughout this planet we all live on.

    Thanks.

  • Barr Clay

    Exposure Well Needed… Classic Institutional Racism Alive and Well… Reparation sounds good!

  • Charmel Moore

    Dr. Gates, this is a wonderful eye opening educational series. Please continue to educate all of us about the connectivity of all of our cultures. It is saddening to see how racism has divided and weakened black and latin nations. As an educator myself, I aspire to reach my students with the same depthness that you do with your audience.

    Thank you for this series!

  • Arlene

    Dr. Gates, Thank You for the series on Black in Latin America. I am of Mexican Descent and I know have I have a lot of indigenous ancestry along with European ancestry, but I have always suspected that my family also had African ancestry. I would think during slavery in the US that a lot of the those Slaves escaped into Mexico because Mexico banned Slavery. I would think that the slaves Mixed in with the indigenous people in Northern Mexico which is where my family is from.

  • Cervantes

    After reading some of the comments I came away dispirited by the ignorance and self-hatred demonstrated by some of the Afro-American commentators. Indeed, the charlatan, Lanceindc, has the temerity to reference Van Sertima-whose work has been discredited the world over as pseudo-science in the fields of history, anthropology, and archeology-in order to argue that the brilliance of the native people (Mayas, Aztecs, Olmecs, etc.,) is owed to Africans who came to the western hemisphere before Columbus. One need not be an epidemiologist to know that it is impossible for the native people of this hemisphere to have interacted with any group of people from the old world in any significant way upon understanding that the natives of this continent were unable to sustain the diseases of Europe and Africa. Indeed, it bespeaks to the isolation of these peoples.

    Other commentators appear to be elated by the desire to falsely convince themselves that Hispanic people- at least 93% of whom are either indian, white, or metizo-have black admixture or are in some mysterious way Afro-descendant. So, they dream that this will lead to their ability to claim Latino heritage (or a non-black identity) and to intermarry with hispanics. The former expresses the eternal longing of African Americans of being able to obscure their blackness. They think this is possible because of the erroneous belief that Afro-Latinos (e.g., Sammy Sosa, Saldana) are not perceived as blacks and that they do not self-identify as such. Of course, this is only sensible if one assumes that the vast majority of Hispanics are not black and so Afro-latinos can be made invisible as a result. However, therein lies the paradox and ultimate failure of this thought process. Hispanics are overwhelmingly non-black but it is virtually impossible for a black person in this continent to not be reminded that he/she is black and “other”. The latter provides the only opportunity whereby one can affirm blackness while seeking to destroy it. For while It is shocking for the viewer to see Prof. Gates tell a native american girl that she is a “beautiful Negra” (black), or even ask Professor Cruz, who has not one ostensible african feature, about her feelings on finding out that she was “black”-when we are well aware that “black” in this continent has only to do with physical appearance-it makes perfect sense from the vantage point that it may allow for the destruction of “black” as a concept and concomitantly to the physical obliteration of “black” in reality. In short, the ultimate desire is to be like Prof. Cruz, to have light skin, straight hair, non-african features, but be able to say: “I am black and I am proud”.

  • KevinTheodore

    John your quote,”Black people and Dr. Gates need to take pride in their “kinky” hair that no other people on earth has.”is quickly disproven when you look at indigenous populations in Polynesia,Micronesia,Melanesia,Australia, The Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia. All Dr. Gates is stating is that “The African Genetic Diaspora” , whether it is examined through ancestry or modern culture , is undeniably global, it is just more prominent in some areas of the world, than others. Dr. Gates’ examination of the African influence in Latin America is undeniably part of that diasopora. Also ,undeniably, the African Genetic Diaspora is in Spain. So any attempts to quickly dismiss the genetic impact of the Africa Genome in Latin American by saying “And Brazil-not Spanish America, imported the majority of all the slaves that came to this continent. “denies the African influence from both sides of the ocean as it relates toSpain and Latin America.

    Thank you Dr. Gates for broadening the perspective on the ever touchy subject of Ancestry.

  • Cervantes

    After reading some of the comments I came away dispirited by the ignorance and self-hatred demonstrated by some of the Afro-American commentators. Indeed, the charlatan, Lanceindc, has the temerity to reference Van Sertima–whose work has been discredited the world over as pseudo-science in the fields of history, anthropology, and archeology–in order to argue that the brilliance of the native people (Mayas, Aztecs, Olmecs, etc.,) is owed to Africans who came to the western hemisphere before Columbus. One need not be an epidemiologist to know that it is impossible for the native people of this hemisphere to have interacted with any group of people from the old world in any significant way upon understanding that the natives of this continent were unable to sustain the diseases of Europe and Africa. Indeed, it bespeaks to the isolation of these peoples.

    Other commentators appear to be elated by the desire to falsely convince themselves that Hispanic people–at least 93% of whom are either Indian, White, or Metizo–have black admixture or are in some mysterious way Afro-descendant. So, they dream that this will lead to their ability to claim Latino heritage (or a non-black identity) and to intermarry with hispanics. The former (claiming a non-black identity) expresses the eternal longing of African Americans to be able to obscure their blackness. They think this is possible due to the erroneous belief that Afro-Latinos (e.g., Sammy Sosa, Saldana) are not perceived as blacks and that they do not self-identify as such. Of course, this is only sensible if one assumes that the vast majority of Hispanics are not black and so Afro-latinos can be made invisible as a result. However, therein lies the paradox and ultimate failure of this thought process. Hispanics are overwhelmingly non-black but it is virtually impossible for a black person in this continent to not be reminded that he/she is black and “other”, regardless of the community or group one chooses to identify with. The latter (intermarriage) provides the only opportunity whereby one can affirm blackness while seeking to destroy it. For while It is shocking for the viewer to see Prof. Gates tell a native american girl that she is a “beautiful Negra” (black), or even ask Professor Cruz, who has not one ostensible african feature, about her feelings on finding out that she was “black”–when we are well aware that “black” in this continent has only to do with physical appearance–it makes perfect sense from the vantage point that it may allow for the destruction of “black” as a concept and concomitantly to the physical obliteration of “black” in reality. In short, Dr. Gates and many of the African American commentators ultimate desire is to be like Prof. Cruz, to have light skin, straight hair, non-african features, but be able to say: “I am black and I am proud”.

  • John

    In response to Kevin Theodore

    I am quite befuddled by your decision to heed a part of my comment that is incontrovertible (Black people are the only people that have “kinky” hair). Asians–whether they are Filipino, Polynesian, or whatever– do not have “kinky” hair; unless Africans, as in the case of the Philippines under Spanish rule were transported as slaves. (Please note that those other islands have a handful of people.)

    In this vein, i thought it was highly disrespectful for Prof. Gates to ask a few poor Afro-Brazilians why they straighten their hair. For I think that going after poor people who are trying to survive in this harsh world is craven. Rather, asking Oprah Winfrey why she continues to submit to a grueling and dangerous process of straightening her hair–since she is wealthy, famous, and independent–would provide a better sense of the issue and how to address it. But, of course, keeping good relations with wealthy people is much more important than uncovering the truth or pushing a role model to black women to consider wearing her hair naturally is fraught with too much risk for prof. Gates.

    In any event, the point of my comment was Prof. Gates continual reference to the numbers of enslaved Africans that were shipped to the Caribbean and Latin America as opposed to the U.S.; which I believed served his distorted agenda (that there are many Blacks in “Spanish America”) by obfuscating or directly eschewing the concrete reality of the enslaved people in the Americas. At no point does he addresses in detail the male/female ratio, life expectancy, work conditions, health, disease, slave replacement/slave reproduction, etc. For if one accepts his ad nauseam refrain that only a fraction of the 11 million slaves came to the U.S., then, one will necessarily assume that the rest went to mexico, peru, bolivia, Chile, Argentina, uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, etc., where the black population in these countries is virtually nonexistent or a very small percentage of the pop. To put this in perspective, consider that the tiny island of Barbados by the early 1800’s had 385,000 slaves. This little island probably imported over 500,000 slaves alone. What’s more, Brazil, which is not a Hispanic country, imported close to 5 million of the 11million. As I previously indicated, by the U.S. Civil war the U.S. had 4 million slaves and Brazil had 1.5 million. Indeed, these Mid 19th century numbers can serve to contextualize the practice of slavery in these respective countries in relation to the adumbrated issues. Hence, Prof. Gates constant reference to these numbers without contextualizing them in specificity only served to justify his insatiable desire to say (to the producers of the program and to his audience) that there are lots of black people in Mexico and Peru (and by extension all of Spanish America) where the black population hovers around 1 to 3 percent. These resources would have been better spent going to jamaica, barbados, etc. Once you add Haiti, Cuba, U.S., Jamaica, lesser antiles etc., a clearer picture of slavery in America begins to emerge. More importantly, you can actually go to this places and find lots of African people; and there will be no need to see a host trying to manipulate a native American girl to concede, against her instincts and the mirror she has to salute every single day, that she is black.

  • Carlos Alfredo Rossas

    This has been a great series and I hope people take time to learn from it. However I also hope that Dr. Gates, in his travels has learned that it’s not that Hispanics deny that there is a third root but that Mestizaje refers to the fact that we are a mix. Therefore we are just as Spanish as we are Amerindian as we are African as we are Moorish. It would be impossible to open a spot on the Mexican census for “Black” because Mestizo already includes that root. Nobody in México is purely African as nobody truly considers themselves purely European. I think that what does need to happen is that people (everyone) in México and Peru be educated on the topic of the third root. Iberian America isn’t like the U.S. where there is American history then separately, there is African American History in the Iberian world they’re the same history but we cannot forget the components, in this case our African heritage just as we cannot forget our Moorish heritage from which we got such important elements such as mariachi and the first step towards mestizaje itself.

  • TJ

    –@ DeWayne; Thanks for pulling out the thesaurus to form your comment, but you should have started with a grade school grammar manual instead. No prepositions in front dude. In your attempt to discredit Dr. Gates’ work with your SAT words you fail to grasp the point. The documentary exposes the fact that there are people of African heritage living and striving in Central and Latin America. These people tend to remain disenfranchised at higher rates than their counterparts of European heritage who live in the same country.

    Gates is giving a voice to those folks who we may not have known existed. He gives a glimpse into their lives and culture & the discrimination they face as well as the love they have for their individual Latin culture. He is speaking of persons of African descent; if you feel the need to extol the accomplishments of the Indigenous culture than do so!! Gates is not a native Spanish speaker so his enunciation may be lacking but does that minute aspect take away from what he is saying, and is “disrespectful” the appropriate term or are you just grasping at straws?

    Lastly, you are disrespectful for denigrating Sub-Saharan African contributions to world society in an attempt to validate Indigenous contributions. Both societies made valid useful timeless contributuions;both hold weight both are invaluable. To know your future you must acknowledge your past. Marinate on it DeWayne.

  • Aruna Parajuli

    Great episode. This episode was really interesting and knowledgeable, i did not know that there were so many African Mexican and African Peruvian in Mexico and Peru respectively. It is really true that one cannot judge a book by it’s content, he/she has to read the book to know the content.

  • Ed

    While in Tlacotalpan, Henry mention that the commodities were by produced by slaves, Indians, and Mestizos. I’m sure he meant blacks, Indians, and Mestizos, since Indians also endured slavery. The Spanish document this well, and it needs no further expounding.

  • Ricardo Avila

    Thanks to PBS and Professor Gates for that fantastic series, and in particular for the Mexico & Peru episode.

    By looking at old pictures I found that my grandfather had very distinctive black facial features.
    I had never tought about that, because obviously it was taboo in my mexican family.
    So it is true: my black grandpa was in the closet!

    It is sad to observe that racism is alive and well, and that a vast majority of the American population know nothing about history and don’t want or care to know, because unbiased knowledge would lead them to accept some inconvenient truths. Again, thank you very much!

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