Known as the Primer Libertador de America or “first liberator of the Americas,” Gaspar Yanga led one of colonial Mexico’s first successful slave uprisings and would go on to establish one of the Americas earliest free black settlements. New Spain or modern day Mexico was home to some of the worst slavery in Latin America. Many scholars believe the colony had the second‑highest number of enslaved Africans after Brazil and developed the largest free Black population in the Americas after slavery was abolished.
Yanga is said to have been a royal from the Bran, people in the country that later became Gabon. Yanga was an enslaved worker in the sugarcane plantations of Veracruz, Mexico. In 1570 he, along with a group of followers, escaped, fled to the mountainous regions near Córdoba, and established a settlement of former slaves or Palenque. They remained there for nearly 40 years. Taking the role of spiritual and military leader, he structured the agricultural community in an ordered capacity, allowing its growth and occupation of various locations.
The 1609 Attack Yanga was allied with a former enslaved Black man from Angola named Francisco de la Matosa who also led a group of freed enslaved people. The two decided to work together to defend against Spanish aggression. Yanga sent peace terms to the Spanish promising to cease raids in return for autonomy. The Spanish rejected his terms and In 1609, sent a well‑armed militia to defeat Yanga and his Palenque but were defeated. Yanga’s victory over the Spanish heightened the confidence of his warriors and the frustration in Mexico City. During the battle, the Spanish managed to burn down the town but were unsuccessful in subduing the Maroons who alluded them in the surrounding areas and later continued raids and helping escaped slaves. After two years, the Spanish were forced to sit down with Yanga to negotiate peace terms. The treaty was signed on Oct 3, 1618, and the San Lorenzo de Los Negros de Cerralvo was established as an autonomous region for free Blacks. The town remained undisturbed up until modern times when it was renamed Yanga.