The San Antonio River was the Border Line of Segregation

October 18, 2017

The Eastside of San Antonio has historically been an African American community.  It has been this way in modern times as the result of the migration of ex-slaves moving on to land set-aside for a Baptist Settlement in the Victoria Commons area.  But there is a deeper history. The Eastside of San Antonio was historically more than African American, it was also home to black Christianized Moors, and the San Antonio River was the first physical barrier that was used to racially segregate people.


The Canary Islanders, who were some of the first mostly white Spanish inhabitants in San Antonio, were also black Canary Islanders that came to San Antonio in the 1700s.  These black Canary Islanders were Christianized Moors from the African Canary Islands, which Spain had illegally seized.  When the Canary Islanders arrived they came to San Antonio at a time when the Spanish Casta System was in effect.  This racist system was a rigid racial structure that sought to remove blacks from the genetic pool.  This history was ignored, or not known, in a recent channel 12 documentary on the Canary Islanders.


The Spanish racial system came up with the terms “mulatto, lobo, coyote,” and other racist terms for describing mixed-race Mexicans and Africans. The term “mulatto,” which means donkey was used because donkeys have “big lips.” The mulatto term itself is racist. The Spanish tried to develop a racial structure that put the light-skinned Spaniards at the top of the social pyramid in San Antonio.  This is the reason why, upon arrival to San Antonio, black Moors were forced to live on the eastern side of the San Antonio River.  This means that there are some blacks in San Antonio that are related to the African Moorish Canary Islanders.  Some folks do not want us to know this and have hidden this fact over the years.  But there is primary source documentation to prove it. African Americans in San Antonio should try to develop a “Black Moor Canary Islander Festival” to bring awareness to this little know fact.  An “Afro-Mexican festival” should also be organized. But why did the white Canary Islanders send them to the eastern side of the San Antonio River to begin with?


In the 1700s there was no North Side of the city, there was only East and West sides of the San Antonio River. On the western side of the city lived the “whites,” while the eastern side of the city was the place for the dark skinned Native Americans and the black Moors that came with the Canary Islanders. The San Antonio River was the first line of segregation and racism. In Mexico there was a large black African slave population in the 1500s.  These slaves often ran away or revolted.  Some came to the Northern frontier of Mexico, which would now be the San Antonio area, as slaves of the Spanish.  


In the Mexican City of Vera Cruz there was one such slave uprising by an African slave from Angola named “Yanga.”  Yanga led a slave revolt against Spain and was successful.  He was able to take his band of slaves into the mountains and eventually marry into the Native American


population of Mexico.  These mixed-raced Afro-Mexicans would have spread out over many parts of Mexico, including the northern frontier of Mexico which is now Texas.  We know that there was already an Afro-Mexican population in San Antonio as far back as the 1500s on the eastern side of the San Antonio River that may have developed as a result of Spanish slavery and the arrival of black conquistadores and black slave Esteban who came with the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca.        


Thus, San Antonio’s historic eastside became black because of the black Moorish heritage. Before the Texas settlers came to the area it is apparent that blacks lived here in larger numbers than is evident today. These numbers far exceeded the 8-9% black population that we see today.  There is evidence that the African and African-Mexican population may have been as high as 28% at one time in San Antonio’s past. This would have been true in the late 1700s.   


The fact that San Antonio had a large mixed-race population is a little known secret. When the Canary Islanders have their celebrations on the founding of San Antonio each year they never talk about the Afro-Mexicans or the black Canary Islanders.  Someone out there might want to take me up on a proposal to develop an Afro-Mexican Black Moor Festival.  Let’s get something going because some folks have racial amnesia and have tried to hide the African input that helped to develop San Antonio.When we see domed roofs on the top of the Spanish missions, or on the top of Catholic churches, this is the culture of black Moorish architectural designs in your face without you even knowing it.



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