A church in Abiquiu, a community in northern New Mexico that was established by Genízaros, or former Indian and mixed-race Indian slaves. Photo: Mary Madigan

Descendants of former slaves in Southwest embrace Indian heritage

The descendants of the Genízaros, who were held as slaves during the colonial era, are discovering and asserting their Indian identity, The New York Times reports.

The Genízaros were Indian and mixed-race Indian and Spanish slaves who were held between the 16th to 19th centuries. Their descendants live in communities, primarily in northern New Mexico, that today retain some connections to their Indian ancestors.

“We’re discovering things that complicate the hell out of our history, demanding that we reject the myths we’ve been taught,” Gregorio Gonzáles, who calls himself Genízaro, told reporter Simon Romero.

According to The Times and National Public Radio, people from the Pueblo, Comanche, Ute, Kiowa, Apache and Navajo tribes were often taken as slaves during the colonial era. Some mixed with Spanish settlers and collectively became known as Genízaro.

In a 2014 column, scholar and historian Marc Simmons wrote that the Spanish word Genízaro, which has Turkish origins, came to mean "A person begotten by parents of different nations." Some descendants are in fact claiming indigenous nationhood.

“We know who we are, and what we want is sovereignty and our land back,” David Atekpatzin Young, who serves as chairman of a group called Genízaro Affiliated Nations, told The Times.

Read More on the Story:
Indian Slavery Once Thrived in New Mexico. Latinos Are Finding Family Ties to It. (The New York Times January 28, 2018)