An increasing number of Black Americans are searching for refuge outside the United States, and Mexico has become a popular destination.
Demetria Brown quit her law enforcement job and moved to Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast in 2020 after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd.
“Watching that video — my heart broke and sank all at the same time,” Brown told CNN. “That video served as my final confirmation that I was doing the best thing for my life by departing the United States of America permanently.”
Michelle Wedderburn-Waters, her husband Darryl, and son, Micha, made the move two years prior in 2018 to San Miguel de Allende after researching and traveling to several places.
She also founded three businesses in her adopted hometown.
“My husband and I considered other countries like Costa Rica, Italy and Panama, but in the end, Mexico made the most sense in terms of economics and how amazing life is here,” Wedderburn-Waters told Travel Noire. “We knew San Miguel has been an expat hub for decades, so after we finished our research trips to several places in 2017, it wasn’t difficult to decide what would be best for our family.”
Jay and Ashley Roberts also moved to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2020 so they could give their two kids a better quality of life.
“It’s a giant confirmation that we got out at the right time,” Ashley told Travel Noire in reference to George Floyd’s murder. “My Black skin here is not a death sentence,” Jay added.
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David Jones made Mexico his home when Donald Trump was elected president. “Ultimately, I moved to Baja, sight unseen,” Jones said on the Port Of Entry podcast. “And I’ve been here ever since.”
They are just three of many Black Americans that have moved to Mexico to find a reprieve from racism in America.
Those who’ve transitioned to Mexico said it offers a better quality of life and less exposure to racism.
“Afro Expats was birthed out of a need to share a realistic picture of what life is like in Mexico, through our lens,” Wedderburn-Waters said of one of her businesses that helps people travel and relocate to Mexico. “I wanted others who looked like me to know that Mexico receives and accepts Black people. I had always enjoyed my visits and extended stays in Mexico in the past, but I also knew that other people – who had only visited briefly, or had never been at all – held a lot of misconceptions about Mexico.”
“They value me as a person. My complexion feels like added value to me here and I am not afraid of the police. Can you imagine saying that?” Brown echoed. “I walk by police with guns in Puerto Vallarta, they smile and wave. No fear.”
That hasn’t been all Black Americans’ experience, however.
In an April op-ed published in The Week, Nicole Phillip said she realized racism was still alive and well across the border.
“I realized that ‘refuge’ is probably far too strong a word,” Philip said of the words used to describe places like Mexico City where she spent time. “From stares to unwanted touching, unsolicited photos, side comments and racial profiling in several popular central-Mexican destinations, I realized racism is just as present, no matter the culture.”
Philip said she, her mother and best friend experienced everything from rude stares and pointing to unsolicited photos and people touching their hair without permission.
Brown maintains it’s one of the best decisions she ever made.
“My soul is happy. My spirit is singing. My eyes are bright and I’m excited about living,” Brown said. “My transition into adapting to Mexico and its culture has been completely transformative in a positive way. I feel the love and respect for me here.”