Black Women’s History: You’ve Got Something to Celebrate on “Cinco de Mayo”

Written by Stan Solomillo (yes…the Stan…;-)

”Maria Gonzalez and Soldaderas.” “The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection.”  Courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin.    Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.05.05 PM

Black Women, Bandoliers and Bullets

In the late 1990s an old photograph was traded among historians in South Texas of three young women that was taken sometime during the Mexican Revolution.  The best dressed among them appeared to be a young Afro-Mexican woman who was attired in a colored cotton dress, a sombrero, and a holster with a six-shooter.  Proudly clasping a staff with the tri-color of Mexico, she was flanked on either side by two “Soldaderas,” women soldiers of “La Revolucion Mexicana” (1910-20).  The woman has since been identified by University of Texas researchers as Maria Gonzales, a member of La Cruz Blanca, a Laredo-based organization that provided medical relief to the army of General Venustiano Carranza. (The most famous of Afro-Mexican soldaderas was a highly decorated officer and member of the army of Emiliano Zapata who also happened to be Afro-Mexican, named Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles.  Her stunning portrait and story has been embroiled in a plagiarism dispute between two internet sites, so, although her picture is not featured here, you can see her on-line at the source cited below).

Africans in Mexico and Afro-Mexicans were no strangers to revolution.  An independent colony of former slaves was established at San Lorenzo de los Negros (known today as Yanga) following a rebellion in 1537 in Veracruz.  They were led by a Gabon native named Gaspar Yanga (Nyanga) and successfully staved off Spanish attempts to re-enslave the population for some forty years.  The autonomy of the enclave was ultimately recognized in 1608, making San Lorenzo de los Negros (Yanga) the first community of free blacks in the Americas.

Mexico finally outlawed slavery in 1829 (1830 in Texas) and was the destination for African American slaves seeking refuge from the United States for decades. Inter-marriage trends between African American women and Mexican men (both European and Indigenous) as well as their roles in multiple conflicts to free the country from foreign domination in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, provide more than a few reasons for you to explore your multi-racial roots south of the Rio Grande and join in celebrations commemorating two events associated with the country’s independence (May 5 and September 16).


Onda Latina: The Mexican American Experience.  “Identity; Robert Runyon, “Maria Gonzalez and Soldaderas,” The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection.”  https://www.laits.utexas.edu/onda_latina/photo_credits  Accessed 06 February 2015.

”Maria Gonzalez and Soldaderas.” “The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection.”

https://runyon.lib.utexas.edu/r/RUN00000/RUN00100/RUN00149.JPG  Accessed 06 February 2015.

Otero, Anthony. “Plagiarized [Carmen Amelia Robles].”  February 15, 2013.  https://latinegro.wordpress.com/tag/carmen-amelia-robles/  Accessed 06 February 2015.

“Afro-Mexicans (Mexicanos Negros): Brave African Descendants in Latin America Whose Ancestors Died…for Independence and the Rest [have been] Absorbed into the Gene Pool of the Mexican Mestizo.”  “Trip Down Memory Lane,” August 11, 2014.   https://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2014/08/afro-mexicans-mexicanos-negros-brave.html  Accessed 06 February 2015


Amelia Robles Ávila

Coronel Amelia Robles Ávila fue una militar mexicana que participó en laRevolución mexicana. Nació con el nombre de Carmen Amelia Robles Ávila el 3 de noviembre de 1889 en Xochipala, Guerrero, siendo sus padres Casimiro Robles y Josefa Ávila. Su padre fue un rancheroacomodado, propietario de 42 hectáreas y una pequeña fábrica de mezcal además de ser durante algún tiempo ayudante del comisario del lugar. Tuvo dos hermanos mayores Teódulo y Prisca. A la muerte de su padrecuando ella tenía 3 años, su madre se casó con Jesús Martínez, quien era un trabajador que se dedicaba al ganado, de este matrimonio nacieron Luis, Concepción y Jesús Martínez Ávila. Amelia fue.


(2010, 07). Dos mujeres guerrerenses de la independencia de mexico. BuenasTareas.com. Recuperado 07, 2010, de https://www.buenastareas.com/ensayos/Dos-Mujeres-Guerrerenses-De-La-Independencia/499766.html

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