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El Mes de la Herencia Africana en Estados Unidos
|African Heritage Month in the United States
By David Peñaflor, Mexican Folklorist
The ''Black History Month'' was declared an official celebration in 1976 as part of the celebrations of the Bicentennial of the United States. During the month of school and public activities, cultural and artistic contributions are praised as are the struggles and the civil rights achievements of the African ethnic group in this country.
It was Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, the one who initiated the celebration in 1926, choosing the first 2 weeks in February to honor the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Woodson was born in Virginia in 1876. He excelled through his studies and graduated from Harvard. As a young man, he took it upon himself to compile all the publications that related to matters of the Afro-Americans, and in 1915 he founded the newspaper “Journal of Negro History,” which later became the “Journal of African American History.”
In solidarity to this month of the African Heritage, we want to add to these festivities with some contributions about the African people in Latin America.
Fuerte Mosé, the first place of liberty for the black slaves in this continent. ''The Black Fortress of Freedom''
In 1738, in what is now the State of Florida, the fort ''Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé'', was created, it was located 2 miles north of St. Agustin and a battalion of blacks who came fleeing from the English colonies of Carolina and Georgia, was established. These slaves were granted their liberty when they embraced the government of the Spanish Crown and the Catholic religion. The antecedent of this founding was the decree of the Cédula Real of 1693, signed by Carlos ll, King of Spain, who ordered: ...”that all the slaves, men and women fleeing who reached Florida, should be free.”
The ex-slave “Mandinga,” who chose the Spanish name Francisco Menéndez, was born free in Africa and became a distinguished soldier and defender of the City of St. Agustin, becoming the Captain of Fuerte Mosé.
In 1763, when Florida became a part of England, the battalion was dissolved and evacuated to Cuba. When arriving to the island the freed blacks founded together with the Hispanic emigrants the town of San Agustin de la Nueva Florida.
To close this contribution I will say that at the beginning of the Guerra de Independencia de México on December 6, 1810, the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla decreed the abolition of slaves of the black race and the abolition of castes because of racial origin.
In México, officially, the distinctions of races, are non existent, however, in fairness to the cultural contributions received by the Afro-Mexicans we proudly consider them “Nuestra Tercera Raiz”…“Our Third Root.”