USING BODY LANGUAGE AS AN ART TO CONNECT WITH OUR HISTORY
Amazing how a group of young African (Afro-Mexican) women living in Oaxaca came up with an initiative to preserve our rich and diverse culture through song and dance ( which is known to be a universal symbol of unity; in that whether or not you understand the lyrics or origin of a song, half the time you still sing along, right?
Afro-Mexicans are Mexicans who have a heritage from Sub-Saharan Africa. They are an ethnic group made up of recent immigrants of African descent to Mexico and the descendants of slaves, such as in the communities of the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero, Veracruz and in some cities in northern Mexico. The history of blacks in Mexico has been lesser known for a number of reasons: their relatively small numbers, regular intermarriage with other ethnic groups, and Mexico’s tradition of defining itself as a “mestizaje” or mixing culture.
“Dance really lives in our bodies and the thing that I’ve come to learn, embrace and lift up is that we have history in our bodies that’s living and breathing,” Brown (choreographer & dancer shared. “We have our own individual history but we also have our heritage. Each one of us has our movement language and it’s about tapping into that and pulling that out.”
For many years in Mexico, until 2015, Blacks lived in Mexico for centuries without recognition until 2015, which saw a shift. For the first time in Mexico’s history, its census bureau recognized the country’s Black population in a national survey that put the number of afro Mexicans at approximately, 1.4 million citizens (1.2% of the population) who self-identify as “Afro-Mexican” or “Afro-descendant.”
“All the dances are from Africa’s northeastern region, we chose this area because after researching on the internet, we realized that that’s where the slaves that came from our town came from. Our dance troupe did the research and we learned those dances,” Anai Herrera, one of the lead dancers, said.
“In school, they teach our children about Europeans and indigenous natives, but the history books practically don’t recognize our history.”
What the Obatala dancers have done is to simply raise awareness about the knowledge of afro-Mexicans, and for they in themselves to be a part of the African culture and take deep pride in it; because to be an integral part of something and still not be recognized or talked about is disheartening to say the least, it is subtly saying you don’t exist; imagine being a member of your family but still have to spend years proving and raising awareness of your rights to the family name and other privileged benefits just because your siblings feel you aren’t good enough or sideline you because of hidden leadership and revered skills.