Gaspar Yanga and Blacks in Mexico: 1570 African Slave Revolt in Veracruz

Photo: Image of Statue of Gaspar Yanga, located in Veracruz, Mexico
The heritage of Africans in Mexico after Christopher Columbus is a rarely explored topic in the history books of the Americas. Gaspar Yanga is one of the neglected figures within African history in the Americas. He was the founder of the town Yanga, located in the Veracruz region of Mexico, between the Port of Veracruz and Córdoba. It is among the first free African settlements in the Americas after the start of the European slave trade.

While the available official reports regarding the history of Gaspar Yanga is sorely lacking, local lore reports that Yanga escaped slavery from the region of the Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion plantation in 1570. Regional lore also provides that Yanga was a prince stolen from a royal family of Gabon, Africa. The word "Yanga" has origins in many regions of West and Central Africa, including the Yoruba regions in Nigeria where the word means "pride".

Between 1570 and 1609, Yanga led his followers into the mountains located in the vicinity of Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl, or "star mountain", the highest mountain in Mexico), the Cofre de Perote, Zongolica and Olmec regions. The Olmec controlled this region during its empire over the region (1200 BC to 400 BC), which included the jurisdiction of the current nation of Mexico.

By 1600, it is reported that the Yanga maroon settlement, or palenques, was joined by Francisco de la Matosa and his group of African maroons. All of this occurred before the independence of Mexico from the Spanish crown. 

Map of Yanga, Veracruz region along the eastern coast of Mexico

Yanga's early palenques would turn into decades-long resistance against colonial Spain. In 1609, Spain's viceroy of New Spain (the colonial name of Mexico) was Luis de Velasco, Marquis of Salinas. That year, Velasco sent Captain Pedro González on a military expedition against the Yanga palenques. The battle came to a head at the Rio Blanco and resulted in major losses on both sides. 

By 1631, viceroy of New Spain Rodrigo Pacheco began negotiations with the Gaspar Yanga resistance. Yanga struck an agreement with the colonial leader respecting Spain's recognition of an autonomous region for the African community. The first official name was San Lorenzo de los Negros (aka San Lorenzo de Cerralvo), near Córdova. Since 1932, the Mexican town has bore the name of its liberator Gaspar Yanga. 

''Yanga is important to the people of Mexico and America," said Gordillo Jaime Trujullo, who along with his wife Maria Dolores Flores promotes the town's history. "It is a great deal and has not been taken into account. This town is the birthplace of freedom. The most important legacy of black Yanga is freedom. Freedom is what we appreciate most in this community."

Like his birth, no definitive records are available regarding Yanga's date of death. There is said to be a great deal of information in the national archives of Mexico and the archives of Spain, according to historian and anthropologist Antonio García de León. The first information about Yanga arose in the second half of the nineteenth century by the historian and military-man Vicente Riva Palacio, grandson of Mexico's first black president, Vicente Guerrero

Today, the town reportedly hosts the "Carnival of Negritude" every August 10th in honor of Gaspar Yanga. The town reports approximately 20,000 citizens that is now primarily considered mestizo, Spanish for "mixed heritage". 
Photo: El Yanga and Negro Yanga

The inscription under Gaspar Yanga's statue reads: "Negro Africano precusor de la libertao de los negros esclavos fundo este pueblo de san lorenzo de cerralvo (hoy yanga) por acordado del virrey de nueva espana Don Rodrigo Osorio Marzuez de cerralvo el dia tres de octubre del ano de 1631 por mandato del virrey trazo el pueblo el Capitan Hernando de Castro Espinosa H. Ayuntamento Constl. 1973-1976". English translation: African Black liberator and precursor of the black slaves who founded the town of San Lorenzo de Cerralvo (now Yanga) by agreement of the viceroy of New Spain, Rodrigo Pacheco, on the third day of October 1631 by order of the viceroy's pen.Village Captain Hernando of Castro Espinosa H. Ayuntamento Constl. 1973-1976."

Video footage of an African American exploratory group's trip to Yanga, Veracruz, Mexico

Reference: Blacks in Colonial Veracruz: Race, Ethnicity, and Regional Development, by Patrick J. Carroll (2001)


  1. Excellent! These people also defeated the French in what is known today as Cinco de Mayo.

    T. West

    1. I would like to know more. Any links or websites?

  2. Greetings,
    I'm happy to stumble upon your blog. I have somewhat a similar blog focusing specifically on Afro-Latinos. I enjoyed your information on Gaspar Yanga.

    Bill Smith
    African American-Latino World

  3. Thank you Bill and AfriSynergy for visiting and commenting. Bill, you also have a great blog with a wealth of information about Africans in Spanish-speaking countries. Continue sharing this wealth of information. We are all one from the same root.

  4. I have enjoyed my recent studies and findings of great African exploits in our world history, we have great military leaders such as 'Hannibal Barca of late BC to to the great strategist of Queen Lamina of Nigeria. We must as a people began to tell our children that before we were SLAVES.

  5. I really enjoyed this blog. Didn't know that there were blacks who look like me in Mexico which I am African American. Very Informative! This should be part of Black History here in America.

    1. They built the huge port & fort along the coast of Veracruz.

  6. I found the information about Yanga to be very interesting. I am Mexican-American. My great-grandfather was black and he was born in Veracruz. I also have black relatives in the village of Mandinga which is in the same region. I recently had a DNA test done and I am 12% African. I had heard stories about Yanga, but the information you provided was much more informative. Thank you for your blog!

  7. Nice to know this about my heritage!!! My son is black and mexican/native American Indian, his father would tell me about everything but sometimes as important as this he never mentioned.. (what a shame) to have pride and also to have a child and you can't share all points of Mexico.. But love the information!! Thanks again, and Yes this should be in History books

  8. Wow!!! There is so much history that remains hidden on purpose . if we were to realise our connections and unite it would be a very different world

  9. The greatist cover up in history is starting to unravel before our eyes. We are all connected. Divide and conquer is more then a phrase of war, its what happened to us centuries ago. We dont know who we really are. Its global.

    1. Indeed. We are all connected!
      In México we all know that our first black President was Vicente Guerrero who was born in a small town near Acapulco(todayʻs state of Guerrero...named in his honor). Vicente Guerrero is one of our most beloved heroes in Mexicoʻs History ;)
      Guerrero championed the causes of the racially and economically oppressed. As he became President,he ordered an immediate abolition of slavery on September 16 of 1829. In central Mexico, there were few black slaves brought by the spaniards, so that gesture was largely symbolic, but in the Mexican state of Texas, where Anglo-American slave-holding southerners were colonizing, the decree went against their economic interests, so later, Mexico lost Texas because they wanted to keep ʻslaveryʻ alive and well, and not the story of The Alamo hahahaha....that is not the true story for us... it was Slavery! As you said, there are many stories kept hidden , others totally erased....

  10. Great blog and truly informative, I just learnt something new-that Mexico once had a black president and that he was a great man indeed. I love the story Gaspar Yanga, but I was searching for something about Juan Garridor in his relationship to San Lorenzo de los negro. Anything about him?

  11. I want to cry but Thank God for your website, because I am quite sure that MOST people don't know that this website even exists. When I see how Afro Latinos ARE STILL being treated, ESPECIALLY on television (hardly any black actors/actresses and they seem fine with this even now). This is Twenty Eighteen and Afro Are 'still' few and far between, and Telemundo IS by far the worst.
    Please post more articles like this one? Thank you.


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