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Afro-Mexicans are focus of new exhibit

A new exhibit at the Afro-American Cultural Center seeks to address tensions between African Americans and Mexican immigrants by illustrating they have more in common than they might realize.

Unknown to many, some of the surging Mexican population in the Carolinas is of African descent.

“I'm a Blaxican,” Magdaleno Salinas, a native of Guerrero now in Winston Salem, proudly states on an exhibit video.

African descendants have lived in Mexico since Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Mexico was also the destination for thousands of escaped slaves who traveled on the lesser known route of the underground railroad south past the Rio Grande.

In Charlotte, and around the country, tensions have existed between African Americans and Hispanics at public schools, over jobs, and in historically black neighborhoods where Hispanics are increasingly moving in.

The exhibition includes historical and contemporary photos documenting Mexicans of African descent and a video on African-Mexican migration to the U.S.

“This shows how close we are,” said Lucila Ruvalcaba, coordinator of cultural events at the Latin American Coalition. She first contacted the Alhondiga Museum in Guanajuato, Mexico about holding an exhibition in Charlotte.

The Latin American Coalition and the Afro-American Cultural Center sought to expose Mexico's African connection in hopes to better relations between the minorities.

“The ultimate objective is to cause African Americans to see that we're not that much different than Afro-Mexicans,” said John Moore, executive director of the Maiz to Linen documentary. “By that contrast we're not that different from Mexicans.”

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