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This Is Gaspar Yanga, The Slave From Gabon Who Dared To Revolt In Mexico And Won


Gaspar Yanga, also known simply as “Yanga” or “Nyanga,” was born around 1545. He was reported to be of primarily descent and a member of the YangBara people of modern-day Gabon. He was seized during a battle and sold into slavery, later being forced to work against his will in New Spain, now known as Mexico.

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He was given the name Gaspar during this time. Outside of Brazil, Mexico and New Spain had the largest African population in the Americas. It also had the most free blacks, who frequently intermarried with Europeans or indigenous peoples.

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Yanga led a group of slaves who revolted and rebelled outside of modern-day Veracruz, fleeing to the mountains near this city around 1570. In these hills, freed slaves established a free colony for themselves that lasted more than 30 years and was sustained by expropriating passing caravans filled with commodities traveling between Mexico City and Veracruz.


550 Spanish troops, adventurers, and militiamen led by Pedro González de Herrera set out from Puebla in 1609 to re-enslave Yanga and his people. The free troops, led by an Angolan named Francisco de la Matosa, employed superior topographical knowledge and guerilla tactics honed over centuries of African combat to outwit and disproportionately injure the invading Spaniards. This occurred after Yanga presented the Spaniards with terms of peace that included the right to self-rule, the guarantee of the return of slaves who fled to the area controlled by Yanga’s forces, and promises to support the Spanish if they were attacked, which were denied and resulted in a battle.


After a long impasse, the Spaniards came to the bargaining table after the maroon settlement was torched, forcing them to escape even deeper into the highlands. In 1618, they finally agreed to Yanga’s requirements and signed a treaty.

San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo, the community formed after this conflict, is currently known as Yanga in honor of the city’s principal commander and founder. After the discovery of records of his battle and subsequent narrative by Mexican historian Vicente Riva Palacio, Yanga was designated a Mexican National Hero as the First Liberator of the Americas (El Primer Libertador de las Americas) in 1871.


Written by How Africa News

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