Did you know there’s an Afro-Mexican community that has celebrated Juneteenth for over 150 years?
Just south of the Texas border is a village known as “Birth of the Blacks” which became a safe haven for the Negros Mascogos. They were known to be descendants of Black Seminoles who reportedly escaped the brutality of the antebellum South, eventually settling in Mexico.
Very few Black people remain in Nacimiento de los Negros in the state of Coahuila, but the region in northern Mexico was once home to thousands who escaped slavery in the United States. Mexico outlawed slavery in 1829 and for many Black people, freedom was just across the Rio Grande.
Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 slaves, a majority who fled from Texas, followed what is known as the “Southern Underground Railroad” to Mexico for freedom.
Black Seminole History
When Black Seminoles escaped plantations in Georgia, North Carolina, and Spanish Florida in the 1700s, many of them joined forces with the Native Americans against the U.S. in the Seminole Wars. The U.S. forced the Black Seminoles and Native Americans to Indian Territory after claiming victory in a place now known as Oklahoma.
When those who were “freed” caught wind that they could go back to slavery, a man named John Horse, with Black and American Indian lineage led a group of Black Seminoles and Native Americans from Oklahoma to Mexico and many of them never looked back.
“People in el Nacimiento had already been enjoying freedom for many years, since their arrival in Mexico in 1850,” says Hammack. “[But] Juneteenth celebration in Coahuila, Mexico began as a means to show solidarity with their brethren in the U.S., ”María Esther Hammack, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin told the National Geographic.
In a country of approximately 130 million people, where 1.3 million identify as Afro-descendants, there are only a few hundred Mascogos.
Today, the community celebrates Juneteenth or “Dia de Los Negros” by music, dance, and through The cabalgata, or a parade of horseback riders. They begin their 20-mile journey from the neighboring town of Múzquiz and the elders lead the community in clap-accompanied spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Later, the community will join and eat traditional Afro-Seminole and Mexican dishes, such as corn on the cob, tetapún (sweet potato bread), pumpkin empanadas, pan de mortero (mortar bread), soske (corn-based atole), and asado (slowly cooked pork in hot peppers).