Gregory Rodriguez, a Los Angeles-based writer researching a book about how Mexico's past may shape the future of the United States, said Mexico was a racial hodgepodge that evolved for five centuries with many of its tensions left unaddressed.
"Mexico is not even comfortable dealing with its white and brown heritage, let alone its black heritage," Rodriguez said.
Mexico's conflicted feelings about its black heritage, Rodriguez said, can be seen in artistic depictions of one of its national heroes, Jose Maria Morelos, a leader in the Mexican War of Independence. In some paintings and sculptures, Morelos, who was partly of African descent, is shown with dark skin and kinky hair. In others, he is light-skinned and more European looking.
Sociologist Luisa Strickland said Mexican blacks -- most of whose ancestors entered the country centuries ago through the Caribbean port city of Veracruz, becoming slave laborers in sugar cane fields -- were Mexico's "forgotten, invisible people."
Veracruz and Guerrero states remain the centers of Mexico's black and mulatto population, estimated at fewer than 1 million of the nation's 105 million people. Roughly 12 million Mexicans are indigenous.