Here in America even we black folks take things for granted. We have had our civil rights movement behind us for decades and though the struggle continues, we can pretty much get what we want in this country with education and hard work. But there is an invisible group I would like to focus on today. That group would be our Afro-Latina sisters. I don’t mean the racially ambiguous Afro Latina who can easily deny her African roots by claiming that she has Indian ancestry. I mean the Afro Latina who identifies as black and is undeniably of African descent. These women proudly proclaim their heritage, but they are marginalized.
The United Nations dedicated 2011 the International Year for the people of African Descent. I didn’t know a thing about it. I could be wrong, but I take their goal to “Right Past Wrongs” noble but naïve. To black Americans, this could mean reparations among other things, but the USA is certainly not about to give an inch on that argument — even with Barack Obama as president. Then again, that could be the reason one may argue that we need no reparations if someone of color can rise from relative obscurity to the presidency; that the effects of slavery have long disappeared. Excuse the digression, as that is a different discussion for a different time. At any rate, black folks from around the world knew of the UN initiative. They knew in South America, specifically Uruguay.
Afrodescendientes, or those of African descent are alive, but one may argue not well. You can find communities of black people or Afro-Latinos from Mexico on down to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Thanks to the Internet and modern technology, Afro Latinos in these countries have been able to catapult their civil rights movements to forefront and their respective governments have taken notice. A few precious years ago, various civil rights’ movements had not really reached to where black Americans were in the 50s and 60s. How hard is it to fight for rights and recognition when your own government and citizens deny your very existence?
I remember talking to an Argentinian college roommate about “El Negro Falucho” (Antonio Ruiz) a black fallen soldier of whom is a gigantic monument in the middle of Buenos Aires. She had no clue of who Ruiz was, or of his or other blacks’ contributions to Argentinian independence. This woman who was 27, had never even seen black people living in Buenos Aires. I found other Argentinos were astoundingly ignorant about their Afro Argentino communities. I also recall speaking with my Bolivian dental hygienist about the “nonexistent” blacks there. I have Afro Bolivian friends and this girl was trying to tell me that Bolivia had no blacks. I guess she did not hear first indigenous Bolivian President Evo Morales campaigning to help the plight of Afro Bolivianos were he to be elected. I hope he kept his promise to them. This was repeated with the Chilean nurse at my doctor’s office about Chile. Mexico doesn’t even classify its black citizens as Afro-Mexicans. So there is no real count of how many exist. But we know they are there.
Times are a changin’!
Change is slow in coming, yet coming none the less. Many welcome the strides they have made. But the struggle continues. The struggle continues here at homes, so by all means it continues in Central and South America for Afro-Latinos.
In honor of the UN recognizing 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent, a group of black women in Salto, Uruguay has been profiled in a video by el Mundo Afro Salto, the region’s black culture group. They are proclaiming their black heritage and declaring that house work is not only woman’s work. The women are making themselves visible and making their voices heard. The elderly, 92 year old Evangelina speaks the loudest with her silence.
Up further north, I came across a conscientious Rap/R&B group called Chocquibtown. They sing about the perils of black folks in their town and in Colombia. There are gold and silver mines all around them, yet the people can’t receive any of the spoils due to private corporations and government interference. The roads are atrocious making access in and out of the town impossible. From what I understand Chocquibtown’s mega hit “De Donde Vengo Yo” examines their poor village and though everyone wants to leave, they can’t so they make due, they can be just as happy as those who have cars, and other modern conveniences. The young women are still able to have their hair done (with extensions if they want), wear gold jewelry and know they are hot. The underlying theme is the Afro Colombiano’s invisibility not only in Colombia, but all over the world. Enjoy this tune that makes you want to get up and dance; while cheering on our Colombian brothers and sisters.
What does all of this mean for black Americans and black women? No doubt most will think nothing really as we are generally oblivious to the plight of other blacks around the world. But we share ancestry. Same trip different ship as they say. This may prompt some to wonder what could they possibly do to help? There are Many go to Paraguay and other countries with the Peace Corp. Maybe you can make a contribution by volunteering to assist in their civil rights efforts. Maybe you can teach English, or a skill to some of these women who are overwhelmingly the domestic “help” for middle and upper class citizens of these countries. I suggest that we all do something even if it is only spreading the word. Our former fight is the present fight of our sisters and black communities at large south of our borders. Recognize and know that for every right we take for granted, someone is struggling to realize that same right for themselves. And our Afro Latina sisters have it just that much worse. But, times are a changin’.
Afro Panamanian Beauty
The Afro-Paraguayan Community of Cambacuá
El Negro Falucho (Antonio Ruiz)
Standing Commission on Afro-Argentines Studies
Bolivian Chapter on Human Rights, Democracy and Development
Shows in Honor of Black Consciousness Day
Afro Costa Rican Women’s (Development) Center
Introduction to Collective Rights Afro ecuadorians
Afro Salvadorans, Identity Denied (Afrosalvadoreños, identidad negada)
I had to search high and low for this video. El Salvador is the only Central American country with no known Afro-Salvadoran community, but there are descendants and some physical attributes are evident. This presenters are ard breaking it down and speaking truth about the blacks of El Salvador. Sorry folks in Spanish. I don’t have a way to translate or add subtitles.
Black People in El Salvador (by a FB friend W. Bill Smith)
A movement in Nicaragua (I provided some of the research for this article)
Panama: Current reality and key concerns of the Afro-Panamanian population
Legacy of Afro Peruvian Culture
Afro Latinos United- Venezuela