Black History: Africans in Mexico

By Diana Meso.
As part of the month-long black history celebrations, Prof. Chege Githiora, Senior Lecturer of Swahili and Applied Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - University of London, delivered a guest lecture on the “African Diaspora in Mexico” at the auditorium on Monday, February 11.

In his lecture, Prof. Githiora described how most Africans went to Mexico as slaves during the 16th century to work in the silver mines in north and central regions, on sugar plantations in the south; in the textile factories in the west coast and in Mexico City; and in households everywhere.

Through their networks created during their slavery period, Africans were able to flourish in major mining centers and the sugar plantations all around Mexico, contributing immensely to colonial Mexico and leaving their cultural and genetic imprint everywhere they lived, though in fact, they were never more than two percent of the total population.

Prof. Githiora bemoaned the fact that the end of slavery and their status as a minority in Mexico contributed to their difficulty in maintaining their African traditions in a constantly changing society. This has, according to him, led to an erosion in their identity as members of African ethnic groups.

Additionally, little research has been done about Africans in Mexico hence there is scarce information about their background and way of life.

Arguably, said Prof. Githiora, there is hope of obtaining more information about Africans in Mexico since researchers have started showing interest in studying the way of life of Africans in Mexico and their contributions to Mexican society.

He lauded USIU-Africa for observing the Black History Month, saying that it is in such platforms that the achievements and history of Africans in various parts of the world can be discussed and Illuminated.

Prof. Githiora also launched his book titled “SHENG; Rise of a Kenyan Swahili Vernacular” which highlights the emergence of Sheng, its linguistic structure, social functions and possible future directions.

According to the book, Sheng is an urban variety of Kenyan Swahili which has morphed from a “youth language” into a vernacular of wider use, making it a unique phenomenon in the study of linguistic change and innovation in an African context. Sheng has also become a reflection of the ethnolinguistic diversity of Kenya and language asymmetry created by socio-economic disparities.

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