Afro-Mexicans in the Mexican War of Independence


Slavery, a socio-economic practice that has dominated economic systems in various countries for hundreds of years began in Latin America in the mid 1400’s when European sailors went abroad to see what was across the ocean. Just as with other nations, slavery contributed greatly to the advancement of Latin America. Without slavery the business revolving around cash crops, which were crops such as cotton and sugar, cultivated primarily for export would not have been possible.


In Mexico,Indians became the population subjected to slavery. However through the spread of European disease and genocidal wars, the population of Indians in Mexico diminished greatly. Dropping in size from about nine million to three million; Europeans were forced to find a new source of labor. These European traders looked across the seas to Africa as a source. By the year 1810 almost 500,000 Africans were imported into Mexico. At this time, in Mexico Indians as well as Africans were considered the lowest on the social scale.

Conversely slavery was not just an economic venture. Based on color, there had been this discrimination and segregation forced upon blacks and mulattos by Spain’s racial caste system. These restrictions on where a person was allowed to fit in society became the catalyst for those who were subject to slavery, to fight for their freedom. Nevertheless, in the beginning there was most definitely a lack of racial consciousness for Afro-Mexicans. With the assimilation of Africans into European and Indian cultures, people had less of a desire to unite together in order fight for a common cause.

Mexican War of Independence

Afro Mexicans ultimately contributed greatly to the Mexican War of Independence of 1810 in that they felt stripped of their identity. They felt that it was up to them to bring independence to this nation. The War of Independence which took place from 1810-1821, was a struggle for independence from Spain. The end of this war for independence resulted in freedom from three hundred years of Spanish rule. For the most part Afro- Mexican people seemed to have much more to celebrate, more so than native Mexicans. Slave labor in Mexico was just as economically beneficial as it was in a number of Latin American countries. In addition to plantation work slaves worked in a number of occupations ranging from mining to occupations in urban settings such as maids and factory jobs. Slaves were valuable to Mexico in that, just as in the United States at that time, much of the money being made was made from cash cropping, these crops grown primarily for money. Without the crops, the countries economy would not have flourished.

The Need for the Mexican War of Independence

Despite Mexico’s need for slaves, the Afro-Mexican populations in Mexico were not going to idly work under the rule any longer. Nevertheless there were minor set backs in the fight for independence. Afro-Mexicans were unable to organize a “black rights” defense of their own against the injustices of the caste system because of its geographical restrictions. There were not enough isolated purely African villages and or social organizations.It would be much more difficult for those that wanted freedom to join together being that geographically these Africans were spread far apart. With the lack of racial consciousness as well as this geographic barrier, slaves did not feel as if there was any chance for them to succeed in the fight for freedom.

Nevertheless with the help of rebel leader, Miguel Hidalgo, who formally denounced the observance of the caste system in 1810; people of color were able to see that putting up a fight for their independence was worth it. However, Hidalgo was prematurely defeated. Upon his execution Jose Maria Morelos who was in fact of mixed African-Indian decent took over the leadership of the fight for independence. Morelos was dedicated. He diligently recruited and trained an army consisting of free black peasants from various regions within the country. However, in 1815 he was also defeated and put to death.

Vicente Guerrero

Upon his death the army declined and the future was not looking very promising. Guerrilla warfare seemed to be the main line of attack.The army was now under the command of Vicente Guerrero who was also of mixed Indian and African decent.This war did not seem to be looking good for those fighting for independence.

There were many heroes associated with the war for independence. Vicente Guerrero was one of them. Being of African decent he was able to appreciate the struggle which allowed him to work twice as hard to achieve independence. He was able to succeed in gaining leadership due to his oratory skills and ability to speak different languages. Although he only acquired very small amounts of education he possessed other skills that helped him as a military leader. Although his four year command was mostly a holding action and the military was almost always on the brink of collapse, he was considered one of the greatest Mexican war heroes. In 1821 when he finally decided to take over all the army he was offered a settlement by the Spanish. The settlement ruled out the abolition of slavery as well as the land reform proposed by Morelos nonetheless the caste system of Spain would cease to exist. Guerrero agreed,the caste laws were revoked and independence and peace were soon to come. Guerrero went on to become the first president of Mixed decent in Mexico in 1829. Upon his death in 1831, all of his alliance moved their all allegiance to populist Juan Alvarez.


1. Vincent, Ted. The Blacks Who Freed Mexico. The Journal of Negro History. Vol. 79, No.3. 257,258
2. Andrews, George. Afro Latin America 1800-2000. Oxford University press 2004. New York, New York
3. Vincent, Theodore. The Legacy of Vicente Guerrero, Mexico’s First Black Indian President. University Press of Florida. 2001 pg 21

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