“Black Mexicans practically don’t exist,” I remember a Mexican woman defensively telling me once after I had pulled up the stats proving the opposite. Her argument was completely shut down in 2016 when Mexico finally recognized it’s black citizens. Discrimination against indigenous communities in Mexico is huge but even worst for the country’s Afro-Mexican culture who are pretty much treated like invisible people. But the same way Afro-Latinos are finally gaining visibility in the states and across Latin America, they are also finally being seen in Mexico and this new film directed by Jorge Pérez Solano called La Negrada proves that. It’s literally the first Mexican fiction film that actually recognizes their black community.
The film is the first Mexican picture to include an all black Mexican cast and was shot in towns throughout Oaxaca. In fact, according to Remezcla, the film intentionally hired local non-professor actors to play the two characters Juana and Magdalena. The trailer alone is telling of how black Mexicans tend to be treated in their own country.
The trailer begins with a Mexican immigration official confronting a black Mexican woman on a bus and asking her: “You’re not Mexican right? Where are you from negra?”he says aggressively. Text appears across the screen and reads: “There are Mexicans that nobody sees,” followed by footage following the film’s Afro-Mexican characters.
While it’s awesome to see a film that highlights a community that’s been alienated from Mexican society for centuries, the movie doesn’t come without faults. Remezcla points out that numerous Afro-Mexican organizations have complained about the director’s use of the word “savage” in the film and also feel that it draws a lot on stereotypes associated with black Latinos versus portraying them in a positive way. That’s certainly a fair argument.
#LaNegrada El cineasta Jorge Pérez Solano, director y guionista del filme “La Negrada”, llama salvajes a las personas negras @LaJornada @CONAPRED @CinetecaMexico @revistaproceso pic.twitter.com/0VBa2txAi2
— Afrodescendencias (@afrodes_mx) August 12, 2018
I’m curious to see how the director addresses those valid concerns, While it is very important to create films that acknowledge Afro-Mexicans and that also gives opportunities to Afro-Mexican actors, it’s equally important to make sure they aren’t being portrayed in stereotypical ways that can cause further harm towards them. This film might be the beginning but let’s push more Afro-Latino visibility in films across the board.