The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present

Location:  Chicago, IL
Project Description: 

In February 2006, the National Museum of Mexican Art opened the groundbreaking exhibition The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present. The exhibition was accompanied by two sister exhibitions – Who Are We Now? Roots, Resistance, and Recognition, and Common Goals, Common Struggles, Common Ground – as well as an eight-unit curriculum for middle and high school students and a bilingual catalogue. The exhibitions enjoyed a five-year international tour of the United States and Mexico with related civic dialogue and other public programs. In most major cities in the United States, Mexicans and African Americans are either the largest or two of the largest culturally specific groups. If these two groups came together, they could create major social change. Yet, because of the pervasive perception that there is little commonality or shared history, there is very little dialogue between these two communities. The exhibition, together with the community programming and publications, directly addressed this lack of dialogue. The long and complex, yet little known, history that Mexicans and Africans share in both Mexico and the United States is brought to light through paintings, photographs, lithographs, and sculpture. The primary exhibition, The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present, tells the little-known story of Afro-descendants in Mexico during the past 500 years. Co-curated by Professor Sagrario Cruz-Carretero of the University of Veracruz and the National Museum of Mexican Art’s Visual Arts Director Cesáreo Moreno, the exhibition uses art to explore the arrival of Africans in the Americas, the gradual “disappearance” of the Afro-Mexican population and the reasons behind it, the reappearance of the Afro-Mexican population, and the prevalence of the African presence throughout all elements of Mexican culture. Who Are We Now? Roots, Resistance, and Recognition, curated by Elena Gonzales, charts the course of collaboration between Mexicans and African Americans in the United States since 1783. Common Goals, Common Struggles, and Common Ground is an interactive exhibition that addresses the unfortunate divides between the Mexican and African American communities that deny both groups the solidarity of standing united against oppression. Organizations associated with this project include: National Museum of Mexican Art; Museo de Historia; National Hispanic Cultural Center; Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura; Museo de Arte del Estado de Veracruz; Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura; Recinto Cultural Ex-Convento Betlemita; California African-American Museum; The African American Museum in Philadelphia; Museo Alameda; Oakland Museum of California; Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Community Museum; and the DuSable African American Museum.