Old ties between Africa, Mexico

A new exhibit at the Afro-American Cultural Center in Charlotte 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 living in Winston-Salem, proudly states on an exhibit documentary.

African descendants have lived in Mexico since Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Mexico also was 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 flared between African Americans and Hispanics at public schools, over jobs, and in historically black neighborhoods where Hispanics increasingly are moving in.

John Moore calls any rifts caused by those tensions misguided.

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

The exhibit includes historic and contemporary photos documenting Mexicans of African descent and a video on African-Mexican migration to the United States.

“This shows how close we are,” said Lucila Ruvalcaba, coordinator of cultural events at Charlotte's Latin American Coalition.

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.