Admittedly, the past does influence the present. But when it comes to the work of the historian, who must selectively choose his facts so as to write his account of history, the present, that is his choices, his passions, his worries, and his strengths and weaknesses, will have far-reaching consequences on any view he may hold and assert regarding the past.
These are the structural realities which must be accepted when attempting to assess and interpret the meaning of the role and experience of African slaves in the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica, or as it is known today, Mexico. As Americans, our tendency is to look to our southern neighbors as speakers of Spanish, who have themselves experienced historical experiences similar to our own. We began as colonies of the English crown, just as Mexicans once lived under the rule of the king of Spain. They, like us, broke off from the mother country and became an independent nation. They speak the tongue of the European country with which they once had a political allegiance. To that we can add our widespread perception of Mexicans as having a mixture of Spanish and Mesoamerican blood. These perceptions largely reflect our current beliefs and prejudices: i.e. we are an “Anglo-Saxon” country and the Mexicans are a “Latin” country. These simplistic terms, aside from perpetuating misconceptions, stem from our present needs and wants. In reality, the history of Mexico, from the time of the arrival of the first Europeans at the end of the fifteenth century to the present, is one which is far richer than any one historical account could demonstrate. Even more germane to the purposes here, that historical experience is one to which peoples and individuals from Africa made a most significant contribution. So much so that it can be said that not only were Africans central to the Spanish crown’s conquest and colonization of