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Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico

African Mexicans Scholars generally agree that the first person of African descent to come to the Americas arrived with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. He was free. Yet African slave labor, which already was established in a limited way in Spain, quickly spread to the Americas, where indigenous peoples, many also enslaved by Spanish colonists, were being decimated by the mistreatment and diseases brought by Spaniards. As these people were felled and the pressure for labor from settlers grew, so did the demand for enslaved Africans. Between 1501, when the Atlantic slave trade to the Americas began, and 1518, the year prior to Fernando (Hernán) Cortés’s arrival off the coast of Veracruz, the Spanish Crown permitted Africans who had been “Hispanicized” in Spain to be brought as slaves to the first Spanish colonies. By 1518, however, pressure from the colonies had forced the Crown to begin permitting direct importations from Africa of enslaved Africans.