African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Africans in Mexico: A blunt history

Pilsen museum opens ambitious exhibition, asking tough questions about racial identity south of the borderBy Oscar AvilaTribune staff reporterPublished February 8, 2006 Unknown even to many Mexicans, Africans helped build their country--toiling in silver mines, fighting alongside Zapata's guerrillas during the 1910 revolution and shaping cultural traditions such as Carnaval, which sprang from African roots.Africans in Mexico also have suffered some of the same brutality and bias as their kinsmen north of the border.Now, as Mexicans migrate to Chicago, some find themselves competing with African-Americans for aldermanic seats, factory jobs, even gang turf.That shared heritage and intertwined future are at the heart of a new exhibition at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, "The African Presence in Mexico," the most ambitious and potentially controversial project ever for the Pilsen institution.The exhibition asks tough questions about racial identity and politics, starting with the paintings, photographs, sculptures and videos, some of them jarring.The centerpiece of one hall is a huge tableau showing two lynchings--one an African-American being lynched by white southerners, the other an African in Mexico being hung by a Spaniard. Between them is a panel of racial caricatures of Spaniards, Africans and indigenous Mexicans.Organizers plan to convene panels of scholars to discuss antidotes to the modern-day divide. Later projects include an exchange between Mexican and African-American church members in Chicago. Full Story:,1,5740635.story?coll=chi-newslocalchicago-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true


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