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Dallas exhibit aims to educate, create a dialogue on the African experience in the Americas

The African American Museum of Dallas hosts “Yanga: Journeys to Freedom exhibit.”
Credit: Lourdes Vazquez

DALLAS — The African American Museum of Dallas in collaboration with the Latino Arts Project is bringing his story to life through art. 

The exhibit, "Yanga: Journeys to Freedom" is an educational experience demonstrating through folk art, interactive displays, music and videos the African diaspora in Mexico.

Yanga is known as the first liberator of the Americas. In 1570, he was taken from Africa and enslaved in Veracruz, Mexico.

“He was a Prince,” said Jorge Baldor co-curator with the Latino Arts Project. “He was able to take those leadership skills and his experiences to create a free community.”

Yanga was able to help men and women escape to create the community of Yanga in Veracruz. His community thrived on agriculture and raided the supply ships arriving in Mexico from Spain.

“Spain was frustrated, and the Vice Royal sent 35 troops to stop his action,” Baldor explained. “They were captured by Yanga and his men and one of them was sent back with a message: ‘give us our free territory, our free community, we’ll leave you alone’.”

Unrelenting to Yanga, Spain sent 550 troops. Yanga and his men captured them, and subsequently, the Spanish then agreed to leave the community alone.

In 1609, Yanga won their freedom forming the first liberated town in the Americas. It was only in 2017 that The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the city of Yanga as a world heritage site in memory of slavery and Afro-descendants.

“Even in Mexico many aren’t aware of the story,” Baldor said.

The Yanga: Journeys to Freedom exhibit is one-way organizers hope to change the lack of awareness about Yanga and the African experience in Mexico.

“As we talk about diversity, inclusion, and equity, it's important for us to understand what that path [has been], how it affected some of the experiences that we're having today,” Baldor explained. “If we don't know the history behind it, then those conversations aren't always directed in the most effective way.”

The exhibit also explores the story of the Mascogos, who took the Southern route of the unofficial Underground Railroad to escape slavery in the United States to create the town Nacimiento de los Negros in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

“Through this exhibit showing experiences and different cultural exchanges, I think it's a great opportunity to find the commonality that we have,” Baldor said.

The exhibit opens on April 9 and will run through the State Fair of Texas. Organizers plan to host panel discussions as well. Admission to the museum is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.