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Afro-Latin America: Historical and Contemporary Figures

Guide for Afro-Latin America class - Oakland Campus: AFRCNA 0628 / HIST 0502. This LibGuide includes information and resources for the study of the history of people of African descent in Spanish America and Brazil from 1500 to the present.


Gaspar Yanga (c.1545-?)

Gaspar Yanga—often simply Yanga or Nyanga was an African leader of a maroon colony of fugitive slaves in the highlands near Veracruz, Mexico during the early period of Spanish colonial rule. 



Vicente Guerrero (1783-1831)

Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña was one of the leading revolutionary generals of the Mexican War of Independence. He fought against Spain for independence in the early 19th century, and later served as President of Mexico, coming to power in a coup.



Juan Roque (Zape Confraternity)
Brought to New Spain as a slave before 1600 he died in 1623

Juan Roque was an African living in colonial Mexico City. He died in 1623, leaving behind one of very few wills and testaments of African residents of Colonial Latin America. His daughter Ana María, and the confraternity to which he belonged in the hospital of the Limpia Concepción, also left behind documents describing a court battle which detail the final requests made by Juan Roque concerning a house “in the neighborhood of San Hipólito in the lane next to the College of San Juan where it meets the open air market of San Hipólito, bordering the houses of the marshals and those of Don Ángel de Villasaña

Mexico and Honduras 20th Century

Benigno Gallardo

Benigno Gallardo is an Afro-Mexican activist based in the southern state of Guerrero.

Paula Maximiana Laredo Herrera

Paula Maximiana Laredo Herrera is the Head of the Oaxacan-based Organization Network of Afro-Mexican Women.

Celeo Álvarez Casildo (1959 - 2016)

The Garifuna leader, Celeo Álvarez Casildo, became known for his leadership role in the Central American Black Organization (CABO), based in his home country, Honduras, as well as his founding role in the Organization for Ethnic Community Development (ODECO), which helped to establish CABO in the 1990s.  


Zumbi dos Pal (1655 – 1695)

Zumbi, also known as Zumbi dos Pal was the last of the kings of the Quilombo dos Pas, a fugitive settlement in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.




Chica da Silva 1732 - 1796

Francisca da Silva de Oliveira, or simply Chica da Silva or Xica da Silva (Serro, cerca 1732 – February 15, 1796), was a slave, later freed, who lived in the Arraial do Tijuco, in present day Diamantina, (state of) Minas Gerais, during the second half of the eighteenth century. 

Brazil 20th Century

Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio  (Born in 1943)

Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio is a Brazilian politician. During her life she faced prejudice for her humble origin, but overcoming this, became the first female and Afro-Brazilian governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro and, later, Minister of the said Secretary of State as well in the Government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.



Abdias do Nascimento (1914 –2011)

Brazilian civil rights leader, actor, painter and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. An activist since the 1930s, Nascimento founded the Experimental Theater of the Negro (TEN) in 1944 and created the Institute for Research and Studies Afro Brazilian (Ipeafro) in 1981 to continue his fight for the rights of black people, especially in the areas of education and the culture. Nascimento was also a congressman, senator and secretary of defense and promotion of Afro-Brazilian populations of the state of Rio de Janeiro, 1991-1994.




Antonio Maceo (1848 – 1896)​

General Antonio Maceo Grajales was second-in-command of the Cuban army of independence. Commonly known as "the Titan of Bronze," Maceo was one of the outstanding guerrilla leaders in nineteenth century Latin America. 



Mariana Grajales Coello (1808 –1893)

Mariana Grajales is a Cuban icon of the women's struggle and the fight for an independent Cuba free from slavery.



Juan Francisco Manzano (1797–1854)

Juan Francisco Manzano was born a slave in the Matanzas Province of Cuba. He wrote two works and started his autobiography while still enslaved. He obtained his freedom in 1836 and later wrote a book of poems and a play.



Diego Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés (1809 – 1844)

His mother (who gave him up to an orphanage) was a Spanish dancer. His father (who adopted him back) was a “quadroon” barber. Valdes, aka Placido grew up as a free mixed-race youth in a slave society. This situated him in the privileged (relative to plantation slaves) but precarious position of the petty bourgeoisie, menaced not only by the prospect of economic reversal but by the vicissitudes of Spanish policy towards his caste — whose growth many colonial officials fretted warily. 



Cuba 20th Century

Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer (1854 –1933)

Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer was an Afro-Cuban revolutionary leader in the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He was an activist for independence and a journalist who worked on and later founded several pivotal anti-royalist and pro-racial equality newspapers. He authored numerous works on liberty and racial justice in Latin America as well.




Víctor Emilio Dreke Cruz (Born in 1937)

Víctor Emilio Dreke Cruz is a Cuban Communist Party leader of notable African descent, and a former commander in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.