Afro-Latinos in Early California

February 22, 2018 Posted by: Naomi L. Torres, Superintendent
The month of February has been identified as the month to observe African-American History in both the United States and Canada.  This annual observance provides an opportunity to remember important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. 

So what does the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail have in connection with African-American History month?  Members of the Anza Expedition were of mixed heritage - they were a mix of African, Indigenous, Europeon descent.  At least 30% of the members of the historic Anza Expedition of 1775-1776 were Afro-Latinos, identified by their casta in Anza's diaries and his report to the Viceroy.   The Spanish enslaved indigenous peoples when they colonized the Americas, and when the indigenous population declined, Spanish colonizers turned to African slaves to satisfy their labor needs. 

When Anza sought volunteer recruits for the expedition, he recruited in towns such as Culiacan, Villa Sinaloa, Altar and Horcasitas.  These places were populated with a high percentage of people identified in the records as mulato, indio and mestizo.  By 1790, Afro-Latinos made up nearly 20 percent of California’s population.

This African heritage of early California is often overlooked, but perhaps a growing interest and understanding of modern day Afro-Mexicans and Afro-Latinos will help raise awareness of the presence of these multiracial and multiethnic identities in early California.

We take the opportunity in February to highlight this little known aspect of the Anza Expedition and use this as a reminder that our history is intersectional.  It reminds us to look at history with a multifaceted lens.

For more information, visit our page about Early California’s Afro-Latino presence.

Local to the Bay Area? Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is hosting Carlos Solomon, Professor at CSU East Bay for a talk on Pio Pico, Black, Native And Spanish: The Last Governor of Mexican California. Find out more on Peralta Hacienda's facebook.

African-American heritage, afro-latino, afrolatino, anza trail, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, California, early california, history, Trails50, JUBA, NTS

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Last updated: April 9, 2018

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