On May 15, 1545, Gaspar Yanga, sometimes known as Yanga or Nyanga, was born in Gabon. He was supposed to be a direct descendant of Gabon’s royal line and a member of the Bran tribe. When he was arrested and sold into slavery, he was given the name Gaspar.
He was also known as “America’s First Liberator” or “El Primer Libertador de las Americas.”
Yanga became enslaved in the mid-1500s and was taken to New Spain, which is now Veracruz, Mexico. He was tasked with working on sugar cane plantations.
The second-largest population of African slaves is documented in Mexico. The largest of these was found in Brazil.
Yanga and a gang of enslaved Africans revolted against their Spanish masters in 1570 and settled in the hills near Veracruz, Mexico. The Maroons, as they were known, established a safe haven for themselves and other escaped enslaved Africans. They went 30 years without being harassed.
As free men they made a living by robbing passing caravans and selling the items they took.
The Battle of 1609
Pedro González de Herrera, a Spanish soldier, commanded a battle against the Maroons in 1609 with 550 soldiers of his unit. Due to Yanga’s advanced age, Francisco de la Matosa, an Angolan slave, led the Maroons. Yanga kept his position as a strategic organizer.
He attempted to negotiate with the Spaniards by bartering a captured Spanish soldier and making an offer of peaceful coexistence with the Spaniards.
The Spaniards disagreed, and combat began, with the Maroons and Spanish soldiers both losing many lives. The Spanish set fire to the Maroons’ quarters, but the Maroons prevailed and escaped. The Spaniards were unfamiliar with the distant terrain.
After a few years, the Spanish consented to a cease-fire. Both parties signed and agreed to a settlement in 1618.
The village of San Lorenzo de los Negros de Cerralvo was founded in 1630. Yanga is the new name for it.
Every year on August 10, the people of Yanga hold a carnival to commemorate the triumph of the Maroons over the Spanish. In 1970, a statue of Yanga was erected in his honor in the town of the same name.
Bona Udeze, in her book Why Africa?, recognizes Yanga’s death date as 1609.