“By 1790 Afro-Latinos made up nearly 20 percent of California’s population. That means that one out of every five residents in California was known to be of African background!” (1)
Unlike the laws of British colonies, slaves in Spain’s Mexico could earn freedom and more easily be given or win freedom by slave owners or through court lawsuits. The result is that Mexico in time contained many Afro-Latinos who were free and had risen to be land owners, hold political positions, become soldiers, and skilled business owners. “Thus, long before the first successful English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, Afro-Latinos had not only explored but resided in what is now the United States of America.” (1)
Afro-Latinos were a significant number among the settlers who came with the Anza expedition to settle California, including the father and grandparents of the future Mexican Governor of California, Pío Pico. (1) Five of the fourteen original families (San José founded by fourteen families plus one single man) who founded San José in 1777 were black or of black ancestry. (3)
Today, approximately 8% of the California population and 3% of San José’s population is black. (2, 4)
1) Discovering early California Afro-Latino presence, book by Damany M. Fisher, 2010, pages 3, 6, 9, 13.
2) https://blackdemographics.com/states/california/, 2020.
3) https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2019/02/22/book-sheds-light-on-santa-clara-countys-black-pioneers, 2020.
4) https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/sanjosecitycalifornia/PST045218, 2020.