Guests walk past the 10-foot tapestry at the opening of the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum on September 21, 2023.
Guests walk past the 10-foot tapestry at the opening of the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum on September 21, 2023. Credit: Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local

Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by BVN

Breanna Reeves | Photos: Aryana Noroozi

Upon entering the newly unveiled Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum, visitors are met with a 10-foot tapestry designed and made by CSUSB student Alessandro Corsaro.

鈥淥ne in four Latin Americans has African ancestry鈥,鈥 is woven into the center of the tapestry, surrounded by the continents of North America, South America and Africa.

Corsaro used traditional quilt fabric from each continent to stitch the regions into the tapestry 鈥 a visual representation of 鈥渟titching the community together,鈥 Corsaro said.

Corsaro also helped design the entire Afr贸ntalo exhibit which presents a historical and cultural  examination of Mexico鈥檚 Afrodescendant population through art, books, food, music, dance and geography.

The exhibit also features a large and vibrant two-story mural, painted by muralist Julio 鈥淗onter鈥 Antuna Lopez, that can be seen throughout the exhibition.

Under the leadership of the Anthropology Museum Director Ariana Huhn, the exhibit is the culmination of more than two years of work inspired by the Fulbright Hays Seminar Abroad Program 2021 鈥淓xploring African Heritage in Mexico,鈥 hosted by Comisi贸n M茅xico Estados Unidos para el Intercambio Educativo y Cultural (COMEXUS). Over the last two years or so, the Anthropology Museum has hosted a variety of events in anticipation of the exhibit鈥檚 opening including a bilingual teaching symposium and a two-day celebration of Oaxaca鈥檚 Afrodescendant heritage.

A guest views the exhibit about dance at the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum on September 21, 2023.(Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

Performers descend from the museum to take the stage to perform on September 21, 2023.(Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

Guests view portraits at the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum on September 21, 2023.(Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

During the exhibit鈥檚 opening reception on Sept. 21, CSUSB President Tom谩s D. Morales congratulated Huhn and recognized the significance and importance of the exhibit.

鈥淚 was born in Puerto Rico. I鈥檓 proud to claim my Afrodescendant background. Hispanic Heritage Month is definitely one such occasion where we celebrate diversity here at Cal State San Bernardino in all of its manifestations. The exhibit is part of our programming for this year鈥檚 celebration,鈥 Morales said.

鈥淚t provides access to diversity which exists within the U.S. Hispanic heritage as well as in the global Hispanic community because AfroLatino culture, history and experience are a vibrant part of the Hispanic world, in part which is frequently overlooked.鈥

The Afr贸ntalo exhibition was curated by representatives of four Afrodescendant communities in Mexico who partnered with the Anthropology Museum 鈥 Tamiahua in Veracruz, curated by Doris Careaga-Coleman; Coyolillo in Veracruz, curated by Daniela Carreto L贸pez; the Negros Mascogos of Coahuila, curated by Karla Rivera Tellez; and the Costa Chica region of Oaxaca and Guerrero, curated by Sergio Navarrete Pellicer.

The opening reception of Afr贸ntalo celebrated the partnership between the Anthropology Museum, COMEXUS and all four partner Afrodescendant Mexican communities featured in the exhibit. A representative from the Mexican Consulate presented certificates to Huhn and lead curators in recognition of their collaborative work on the exhibit. Traditional dances by dance group Afrobalele and rap presentations were performed by members of Casa Coyolillo, a cultural center in Coyolillo, in the state of Veracruz in Mexico. 

鈥淭oday we gather to celebrate a remarkable journey into rich histories, heritage and identities of Afrodescendant communities in Mexico. This exhibition is a culmination of tireless efforts, collaboration and dedication, and I am honored to stand before you as we embark on this enlightening exploration,鈥 said Hazel Blackmore, executive director of COMEXUS.

A guest watches Dr Ariana Huhn,聽 Anthropology Museum Director, speak about the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at its opening on September 21, 2023.A representative from the Mexican Consulate presented certificates to Huhn and lead curators in recognition of their work on the exhibit. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

Dr. Ariana Huhn watches as a dancer from Casa Coyolillo, a cultural center in Coyolillo, Mexico, begins their performance.聽 (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

鈥淒ancers from Casa Coyolillo, a cultural center in the Coyolillo region of Veracruz, Mexico, perform traditional dances during the opening reception. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

鈥淭his exhibition is exceptional because of the way it was curated. Representatives from each of these communities chosen for their leadership and community development work have taken a leading role in crafting the context of this exhibition.鈥

Haeley Young, 22, recently graduated from California State University, San Bernardino as an Anthropology major. Young initially assisted with research on the Afr贸ntalo exhibit during the planning phases two years ago. Young explained how difficult it was to find information on Mexico鈥檚 Afrodescendant populations because there was limited information available or a lot of the information available was in Spanish.

The exhibit presented original portraits of 21 Afrolatine Californians who shared written accounts of their experiences and struggles growing up in a society that didn鈥檛 recognize that Afrodescendents exist across the Latin diaspora. Young explained that she is someone who doesn鈥檛 feel completely part of the Black community nor does she feel closely connected with her Spanish heritage. Young said she鈥檚 鈥渋n between both worlds.鈥

Young isn鈥檛 alone in her sentiments. Many of the individuals featured in the portraits of the Afr贸ntalo exhibit expressed similar feelings. One portrait featured an individual named Reggie, a community organizer fighting for social and economic justice in Black communities.

鈥淎s a kid I was always feeling like everyone was looking at me. Like, you鈥檙e dancing cumbia and you鈥檙e Black!? How can you be Black and speak Spanish? And I really experienced imposter syndrome and an identity crisis,鈥 read a blurb under Reggie鈥檚 portrait. Reggie gives a first-person account of his experiences as someone who identifies as AfroSalvadoran.

Afr贸ntalo is an educational and eye-opening exhibit that tells the intricate histories of Afrodescendant communities in Mexico and beyond. For the first time in 2020, Mexico鈥檚 census counted its AfroMexican population of 2.5 million. In the U.S., there were about six million AfroLatinx adults in the U.S. in 2020, and they made up about 2% of the U.S. adult population and 12% of the adult Latino population.

La Mikia and Daniel, who are married, pose with their children next to their portrait at the opening of the Afr贸ntalo exhibit at California State University, San Bernardino鈥檚 (CSUSB) Anthropology Museum on September 21, 2023. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local)

The museum is located on the third floor of the university鈥檚 College of Social and Behavioral Sciences building, in room 306. The exhibition will run the full 2023-24 academic year, and is scheduled to close on June 19, 2024.

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor鈥檚 degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master鈥檚 degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.

Black Voice News photojournalist Aryana Noroozi was born in San Diego, California and graduated with a master鈥檚 degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her love for visual storytelling led her to document immigrant and deportee communities and those struggling with addiction. She was a 2020 Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting Fellow and a GroundTruth Project Migration Fellow. She is currently a CatchLight/Report for America corps member employed by Black Voice News. You can learn more about her at aryananoroozi.com. You can email her at aryana@blackvoicenews.com.