Jun 19, 2021 2 mins, 0 secs
Gordon Granger declared slaves had been freed is “not our celebration really, because our people freed themselves,” she said, referring to her Black Seminole ancestors, known as Negros Mascogos in Mexico.

In her Mexican hometown, June 19 is El Baile de los Negros (The Dance of the Blacks) or El Día del Negro (The Day of the Black), she said.

Like Torralba and her extended family, many Americans and Mexicans trace their heritage to enslaved Blacks, whose quest to be free forced them to journey to what is now Florida, where they lived among Seminole Native Americans and sometimes intermarried, later going to Oklahoma and finally to Mexico.

"Growing up in school, I've never heard Juneteenth, or, you know the history of the Black Seminoles in Florida," she said.

Generations later, she and her relatives journeyed to the past, unearthing their connection to the Black Seminole history that spans centuries, crosses borders, combines cultures and is the story of a people’s aching for survival and freedom.

She said she never learned about the Black Seminole of Mexico in any of her history textbooks, but knowing her ancestors were freed slaves connects her to the present.

The social justice movement that followed the murder of George Floyd by a then-police officer is also about her and other Black Seminole descendants, Rodriguez said.

She and her brother traveled in 2015 to Brackettville, Texas — where other descendants of Black Seminoles live, celebrate Juneteenth and hold Seminole Days — to visit their maternal grandfather’s grave in the Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery, where they learned more about her family's history.

Still facing the threat of being returned to slavery, John Horse, who had Black and American Indian lineage, led a group of Black Seminoles and Native Americans on another treacherous journey from Oklahoma to Mexico, where slavery had been largely abolished since 1829.

Several Black Seminoles and Native people settled and rebuilt their lives in Nacimiento de los Negros.

When they were forced out of Fort Clark after the wars, Black Seminoles either returned to Mexico or stayed in Brackettville.

Dina Rodriguez, Torralba’s cousin, discovered about a decade ago that her great-great-great-grandfather was Pompey Factor, one of four Black Seminole Indian Scouts awarded the Medal of Honor.

In Nacimiento, Torralba, Rodriguez and others are refurbishing a room to use as a classroom, where they can teach the history and songs they have learned to children in Mexico

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