Truth panel could help Mexico with slavery’s legacy, says Martin Luther King III By Reuters

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© Reuters. The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, USA, on January 21, 2019. REUTERS / Allison Shelley

By Frank Jack Daniel MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A truth and reconciliation commission could help Mexico come to terms with the legacy of African slavery, civil rights activist Martin Luther King III said during a visit to the Latin American country. King, the eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is visiting Mexico to join a government commemoration of the Afro-Mexican liberation hero Vicente Guerrero, who as the nation’s second president abolished most of slavery in 1829, before the practice ended in Great Britain and the United States. Guerrero died 190 years ago on Sunday. Mexico has long overlooked the legacy of slavery and its impact on the country’s black population, which is largely concentrated in poor coastal villages on the Pacific and Gulf coasts. King, 63, said both Mexico and the United States could consider South African-style reconciliation processes to fully acknowledge the past. “Before you can address a problem, you have to acknowledge that it exists,” King said in an interview Saturday. “A truth and reconciliation commission gives people the opportunity to come and apologize for their past conduct, so that they have a new list.” He said discussions about reparations for slavery should also emerge from such a process. Talks about “reparations in my judgment are certainly in order in places around the world, particularly where people have been enslaved,” he said. “I think the talks need to take place.” Few truth commissions around the world have directly addressed the legacy of slavery and colonialism. However, a 2011 report from the Mauritius Truth and Justice Commission documented abuses suffered during slavery and contract labor and recommended some land repairs. African slavery in Mexico reached its peak in the late 16th and early 17th centuries after Spain prohibited enslaving the indigenous population, with around 200,000 Africans brought to Mexico. Growing awareness has led more people to identify themselves as Afro-Mexican in recent years, with the 2020 census counting 2.5 million people, or 2% of the population, who self-identified as Afro-descendant, an increase significant five years earlier. “Black Mexican communities … must be included and must have a voice,” King said. “The goal is to make sure no one is invisible.”

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