Tuesday, April 29, 2008


For years now a favorite obsession has been my contemplation of the giant stone Olmec heads found in the southern Gulf Coast region of Mexico. To gaze upon these brother and sister heads (and who's to say they are not also women?) has given me the great pleasure of reflecting on the ancient and magnificent cultural bridge between the people of the Americas and the people of Africa, a coming and going between the two from the beginning of time.

Recently an artist friend told me that the larger than life sculpted African heads signify wisdom. Undeniably then, these heads honor knowledge and the Indian-African holders of knowledge who first inhabited the ancient Mexican Olmec cradle.

In his book, They Came Before Columbus, author/scholar/poet Ivan Van Sertima offers us a lifetime of research pointing to the early presence of Africans in the Americas, specifically in Mexico. There is no written history of the voyages that took place between these people, between these continents, voyages alighted on the swift ocean currents. Why? Because both Africa and the Americas suffered from the systematic destruction of our books, the burning of our sacred archives by colonial powers. The word was lost. The history of that truth burned at the stake.

But while there is no archival proof that Africans were in the Americas, or for that matter that indigenous Americans traveled to Africa before Columbus, through the tenacity of thinkers like Van Sertima the truth still lives. We have found our ancient links and are again connected like a double helix.

It is typical of conquerors to arrive in a so called 'New World', possess the land, and destroy the previous histories of the conquered people. This is what happened in Africa and in the Americas. This is what happens today. To hear the current news media spin about the downfall of Black and Latino relations, you would think we had nothing at all in common beyond the dehumanizing constrictions of prison life, drug wars and inevitable turf animosities. Anything to make a buck by selling negative news. Who profits from throwing gasoline on the fire, rather than make the fire dance in memory of who we have been to each other, of who we still are: kin, lovers, neighbors, friends, family, choir, song, bones, water and earth.
© María Elena Gaitán, 2008 All Rights Reserved

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