Why This Mexican Village Celebrates Juneteenth

Descendants of the Negro Mascogo people of northern Mexico gather to celebrate Juneteenth in the village of Nacimiento de los Negros. Photograph by Wes Ferguson

Descendants of the Negro Mascogo people of northern Mexico gather to celebrate Juneteenth in the village of Nacimiento de los Negros. Photograph by Wes Ferguson

he morning before Juneteenth, Corina Harrington and her sister Miriam Torralba left San Antonio shortly after sunrise and headed south to Mexico, retracing a portion of the same route their African American ancestors followed in 1850 when they escaped slavery in the United States and fled to freedom south of the border.

The sisters arrived around midday at their father’s house in the ranching village of Nacimiento de los Negros in Coahuila, about three hours south of Eagle Pass. As afternoon drifted toward evening, the blue silhouettes of the Sierra Madres were all but obscured by clouds, as siblings, cousins, extended family members, and childhood friends kept arriving in twos, threes, or fours. They strolled over to the cool and swift Río Sabinas to swim in water as clear as any Hill Country stream. They politely tasted the dried and shredded meat of a mountain lion that one of their cousins shot on their dad’s nearby goat ranch, and they laughed and reminisced and readied for one of the most important days of the year in a village whose name literally means “Birth of the Blacks.”

“We never knew it was called Juneteenth,” Harrington, 45, said of the holiday commemorating the emancipation of Texas slaves in 1865. In Nacimiento, where Harrington was born and raised until she was seven and where she has returned nearly every summer since, the June 19 festival and reunion is known as el Día de los Negros, the Day of the Blacks.

Read more by Wes Ferguson at Texas Monthly