Torn from his West African homeland by 16th century Spanish enslavers, Gaspar Yanga was taken to the area now known as Mexico. Although he was thrusted into a remarkably cruel system of oppression, Yanga—reportedly a direct descendant of African royalty–refused to accept subjugation. In 1570 he led a successful rebellion and established a self-emancipated city on Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico. Over time, the maroon settlement attracted some five hundred African and indigenous people who became known as “Yanguicos.”
Yanguicos lived freely for almost 30 years by routinely out-smarting and out-fighting those who sought to re-enslave them. Over time, the Yanguicos became so strong and self-sufficient that Spanish authorities feared they would soon try to take over neighboring areas that Spain controlled. In response to the threat of Yanguicos expansion, Spanish authorities eventually agreed to a 1618 treaty that afforded the Yanguicos a more peaceful existence.
Click here to learn more about Yanga, the African freedom-fighter who founded a Mexican city and proud community of Afro-Mexicans more than 400 years ago. Become familiar with the “Festival of Negritude,” a public celebration held since 1976 to honor Afro-Mexican heritage.