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Los Mascogos

11 October 2015

If there is a “typical” Mexican, perhaps a Mascogo fits the bill… after all, what’s more Mexican than being of African-indigenous-mestizo-gringo-refugee heritage?

Descended from the “black Seminoles” … a tribe descended from slaves who had fled the English colonies into Spanish Florida and intermarried, the “Black Seminoles” — while ostensibly “Indians” had maintained numerous African customs and folkways.  With Florida’s annexation by the United States, and the loss of their homelands in the Seminole Wars (1816-1842), the Black Seminoles were deported to Oklahoma.

Juan Caballo

Juan Caballo

While supposedly under the protection of the United States government, and supposedly classified as “Indians” and not “Negroes”, authorities tended to look the other way when Black Seminoles were kidnapped and sold off as slaves.  John Horse … known to the Mascogos as Juan Caballo… a war leader captured near the end of the last Seminole War… led his people across the border into Mexico in 1849.  Still recovering from the United States invasion of 1846-48, the Mexican government was unable to provide adequate security in the north, and granted the “Black Seminoles”… now know as Mascogos (a possible hispanization of “Muscogee”… the Seminole language) land in Muzquiz, Coahuila, in return for serving as a frontier military outpost, and their warriors’ services as scouts and irregular soldiers in the Mexican Army.

FOTO_MASCOGOS_1The arrival of Kickapoos (originally from northern Indiana, although… like the Seminoles… exiled to Oklahoma) who also fled to Mexico in 1864 (and were granted land by Emperor Maxmilano) brought to the attention of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs… and the U.S. Army (then focusing on its renewed “Indian Wars”) that “free Indians” in Mexico (where indigenous people were considered citizens, and not wards of the state, when they were not enemy combatants)  might give aid and comfort to their brethren north of the border, and there was the slightly embarrassing fact that the U.S. Army was having trouble finding those “free Indians” in their own country that they were bend on rounding up or eliminating.

Arguing that slavery had ended, the U.S. Army began recruiting Moscogos to work as scouts in return for promises of land in either Florida (their homeland) or Texas.  While most Moscogos returned to the United States, the promises were never kept, and with the end of the Indian Wars in the 1890s, they were simply left to their own devises.  Many simply assimilated into the Mexican-American or African-American communities north of the border, while others… at least having land in Coahuila, returned.

The customs and folkways of the Mascogo reflect both their indigenous and African-American experiences.  Although their Kickapoo neighbors are also migrants, with the Mexican Constitution recognizing the rights of indigenous communities based on having a linguistic history going back in the Americas before 1524.  Kickapoo folkways are at least constitutionally protected, and Kickapoos receive some government support for cultural affairs.  The Moscogo, as a culture, date back only to the 18th century, and their language is “more or less English”.   Preserving their culture is up to themselves… something made all the more difficult by drought and the general collapse of the rural economy, forcing more and more Moscogos to move to the cities or to the United States, and likely to lead to the extinction of what is, arguably, an archetypal Mexican culture.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. buddenbooks permalink
    11 October 2015 9:03 am

    Nice column. I didn’t know this.

  2. may ernst permalink
    22 October 2015 8:58 am

    amazing, it’s the first time that I hear of the mascogos, there is a lot of unknow history of my country for me.

  3. Phillip Gordon permalink
    8 February 2016 11:37 pm

    I grew up part time in Nacimiento de los Negros. This is my tribal history. I am Mascogo, USMC vet, and a lot more.

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