Mexico Black Village, Poverty, Tecoyame

Mexico’s Oldest Black Village Faces Poverty, Harsh Climate

Afro-Mexicans in the village of Tecoyame and surrounding towns fear closures due to severe droughts that have left the land parched.

Tecoyame, regarded as Mexico’s oldest Black village, is grappling with poverty and the existential threat posed by extreme climate changes.

Situated in the city of Oaxaca, the village is part of a region of the Costa Chica, a 250-mile stretch along the Pacific Ocean that is home to many Afro-Mexicans. According to Al Jazeera, recent years have witnessed longer and more intense dry seasons, resulting in severe droughts that have left the land and neighboring towns parched and cracked. The hardened soil is unable to absorb the rainfall during Mexico’s rainy season, causing the water to run off the concrete-like surface, eroding the foundations of village homes.

“Our home is the last of its kind here,” resident Don Amado said, who was raised in the village at his mother, Mama “Cointa” Chavez Velazco’s iconic “El Redondo house. “But it may not be around next year. There is no support to help us, no money to maintain it as the climate becomes more extreme and threatens us more.”

This predicament extends beyond Tecoyame. In Cuajinicuilapa, a town north of Tecoyame with a 75% Afro-Mexican population, a first-of its-kind Afro-Mexican history museum has been unable to pay its staff for 15 years and now faces closure. Abad Campos Rodriguez, a leading dance and music teacher, fears the Danza de los Diablos, a cultural tradition, “won’t continue to the next generation” of children.

With each rainless day, the vegetable and fruit harvest that sustains four generations of families is imperiled as climatic conditions worsen, exacerbating the need for financial aid. Institutions that once offered protection from Spanish slave traders are also on the brink of collapse.

The crisis stems from within the community’s social and economic marginalization. In 2015, the government census allowed Blacks to self-identify as Afro-Mexicans, and four years later, a constitutional amendment added Afro-Mexicans to the list of 69 distinct cultural identities. Natives now pin their hopes on the June presidential elections, with Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum as the frontrunner, to provide long-awaited relief.

Last September, The Yarbros lifestyle YouTube channel explored the Black community in Mexico, from Cuajinicuilapa to the Danza de Diablos, delving deep into the culture.