Sunday, June 9, 2013

African Americans and Mexicans Are Cousins

Many African Americans and Mexicans are distant cousins, indeed. There’s no doubt about that. I have known for quite awhile that many Mexicans have African ancestors.  Transatlantic slave trade statistics show that at least 200,000 enslaved Africans were imported into Mexico from West Africa. They arrived in the Mexican territory during the three hundred years of the colonial period (1521–1821). Sadly, the indigenous and European heritages are what most Mexicans embrace; the African legacy is overlooked. When actor and comedian George Lopez took an admixture DNA test, his tests results revealed that he’s 55% European, 32% Native American, 9% East Asian, and 4% Sub-Saharan African.  See this video clip of his DNA results announcement. Much can be read about Africa’s silent legacy in Mexico on the Internet. Here’s a link to one of many interesting articles on the subject.

The link between Africa and Mexico became more evident to me when a Mexican guy, Kamel Perez, appeared in my Relative Finder database on 23andme. What was quite surprising to me is that our connection is not very distant, in my opinion.  He wasn’t my eighth, ninth, or tenth cousin.  Because of the amount of DNA we share, 23andme predicted that we are fifth cousins. See image:
 

Although I have little hope of ever figuring out exactly how we are related, I want to give a visual perspective to how our common ancestor was likely born during the last quarter of the 18th century (late 1700’s). Kamel and I share 0.10% (8 cM) of DNA across 1 chromosome segment. As mentioned before, our predicted relationship is fifth cousins. Geneticists have calculated that fifth cousins share an average of 0.049% of DNA.  We share twice that amount. The definition of fifth cousins is people who share the same 4th-great-grandparents. 4th-great-grandparents are just six generations back, and I have estimated that many/most of my enslaved 4th-great-grandparents were likely born during the last quarter of the 18th century.  Here’s an example to show the relationship of fifth cousins.   


Based on a number of sources, I ascertained that by the last quarter of the 18th century, there were very few imports of African slaves into the main Mexican port of Veracruz, if any at all.  One source notes that the transatlantic slave trade to Mexico reached its peak between 1580 and 1640, “when imports from Africa averaged better than 1,000 slaves a year and two out of every three slaves bound for Spanish America were destined for Mexico” (Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Africana, p. 1294).  Other sources note that in the latter 18th century, mill slaves in Mexico were phased out and replaced by indigenous labor. Slaves were nearly non-existent in the late colonial census of 1792.  Therefore, if Kamel and I share common ancestry, probably having the same 4th-great-grandparents, what scenarios could have occurred that caused us to be this closely related? Here are several possibilities that I thought of:

Scenario 1:  Kamel had an African ancestor who was indeed a “late import” into Mexico from West Africa and/or the Caribbean and may have been a sibling to one of my third or fourth-great-grandparents, who was transported to the United States. If that’s the case, then one of my third or fourth-great-grandparents was directly from West Africa or the Caribbean.

Scenario 2:  The connection might be on my maternal grandmother’s father’s side. Interestingly, I bear a strong resemblance to my great-grandfather, John Hector Davis (1870-1935). His father, my great-great-grandfather, was named Hector Davis, who was born in 1842 in the Saluda area of Abbeville District, South Carolina.  Grandpa Hector’s parents were Jack & Flora Davis, my great-great-great-grandparents, who were both born around 1815 in South Carolina, according to the censuses. They were all enslaved by John Burnett, who brought them to Panola County, Mississippi in 1861, shortly before the Civil War started.  Hector and Flora are names of Spanish origins. What if Flora wasn’t really born in South Carolina?  Or perhaps one or both of Flora’s parents had been born and enslaved in the Caribbean or Mexico and somehow was later sold and shipped to South Carolina, leaving children behind, and perhaps one of those separated children was Kamel’s third-great-grandparent who settled in Mexico.  Interestingly, I also share DNA with a Jamaican, and 23andMe noted the following:


Scenario 3:  Not much is said about it, but Mexico was a sanctuary to many enslaved African Americans during the 19th century.  During the summer of 1850, the Mascogos, composed of runaway slaves and free African Americans from Florida, along with the Seminoles and Kikapus, fled south to the Mexican border state of Coahuila. The three groups eventually settled the Mexican town of El Nacimiento, Coahuila, and a number of descendants are in Mexico today.  Perhaps, one of my third or fourth great-grandparents or a sibling was sold away to Florida, was with that group out of Florida who escaped to Mexico, and that was Kamel’s third or fourth-great-grandparent.  Kamel hasn’t accepted my invitation on 23andme to communicate. However, if he does, and if I learn that part of his family is from Coahuila, then this possible scenario becomes more of a reality.

Scenario 4:  Perhaps, the connection is through my Mom’s paternal lineage?  As part of our family reunion project in 2004, my uncle John “Sonny” Reed, Sr. took African Ancestry’s PatriClan test to reveal the paternal African lineage of my Mom’s paternal grandfather, William “Bill” Reed (1846–1937), and his father, Pleasant “Pleas” Barr (1814–1889), my great-great-grandfather.  Uncle Sonny was a perfect match to the Mbundu people of Angola. Sources note that approximately two-thirds of the Africans who were shipped to Mexico were from the Angola/Congo region of West-Central Africa. Indeed, the majority of Angola/Congo captives were transported to Central and South America, particularly Brazil. My mom's direct paternal line has been traced to my third-great-grandfather, Lewis Barr (father of Pleas), who was born around 1780. Generational lengths on this side of my family are longer due to my forefathers having children at a later age, hence why Lewis is only my third-great-grandfather. He was enslaved on Rev. William H. Barr’s farm in Abbeville County, So. Carolina, where he died in September, 1846. I don’t have any documentation about where exactly Lewis was born – likely in S.C. or maybe in Africa?  Perhaps, his name was really “Luis”, the Spanish form, but was later Americanized to be and sound like “Lewis”?  If indeed Kamel and I share a fourth-great-grandparent(s) who were born during the later part of the 18th century, perhaps Lewis’ father or paternal grandfather was from Angola, shipped to Mexico where he fathered several children, and was later shipped to South Carolina? 

13 comments:

  1. Very noteworthy post. I would like to see a comparison of Mexico in relation to the United States. I reside in California and only think of the Mexican Border as being CA, AZ, NM & TExas.

    I am of Black & Mexican and Native American Heritage, however mine is more current than distant....However, my birth mother stated that she believes that she has African ancestry in her line.

    I have seen with a newly discovered cousin through 23andme, that she became totally surprised to find that she had Mexican & Indian in her DNA from the areas of NM, Mexico, AZ.

    She, herself is from the south. This may be a good subject for me to discuss in a later post.

    I do hope you find your connection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Out of curiosity, what are your percentages?

      Delete
    2. 39.1% European
      37% Sub-Saharan African
      19.7% East Asian & Native American
      4.2% Unassigned

      Delete
    3. 39.1% European
      37% Sub-Saharan African
      19.7% East Asian & Native American
      4.2% Unassigned

      Yvette

      Sorry...forgot to sign my son-in-law out of google

      Delete
  2. There's a lot of information here. Great post and thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved all the scenarios which could possibly be true! Great Work! Names do have meanings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I have always wondered why my great-great-grandfather was named HECTOR. Maybe there's a meaning behind concerning the family origins!

      Delete
  4. This is awesome work and very inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have some matches in Jamaica. None in Mexico though. I despair of ever finding the actual connection but love the scenarios you came up with.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As usual you are the master researcher! Was reading parts of your book on your relatives in Abbeville. I was disappointed in their marriage records which began in 1911. The clerk told me before that time there was no requirement or law. ?? Where did you research the inventories and appraisement (in Columbia or Abbeville) or they accessible on line.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Kamel Perez is revealed as a cousin to me.
    Male, b. 1982
    3rd to Distant Cousin
    0.25% shared, 1 segment
    United StatesMexicoMexico City, Miami FLPerez LedesmaPerez MonMon5 moreB2R1b1b2a1a2
    Public Match
    Send a Message

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Melvin! I find your article very interesting! I just found out through DNA that my Native ancestry is somehow connected to Mexico and South America. I haven't been able to figure out how since my family's deep roots goes back generations in Savannah, Ga. and Beaufort, S.C. and that surrounding area. This article is the closest thing I've found to any way of me figuring out how my DNA has some connection to Mexico.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting and commenting on Roots Revealed!