CSMS Magazine Staff WritersLast month when Dr. Isma reviewed Heaven of Drums by Argentine’s writer Ana Gloria Moya, there was in influx of emails, requesting more info about the lives of people of African ancestry living in Argentina. It was not surprising that we received all these demands. For a long time, many people thought that Argentina was country made out of Europeans and Indians only, just like they thought of Chile. This has always been the perception, but far from being the reality; and to camouflage black presence in Argentina, the Argentine government always relies on an old census dated back to 1887, the last time Blacks were included as a category. In modern-day Argentina, people of African descent who live in Argentina were always considered as foreigners. It is estimated that up to 10,000 Cape Verdeans live in Argentina. Maria Lamadrid (above in the picture), who heads the most prestigious Black Argentines organization, was detained for several hours at the Buenos Aires airport while she was about to board a plane for Panama. The authorities demanded that she presented her real passport because they thought the Argentine passport that she presented to them was a fake one. This story was reported in an article written by Ruthie Ackerman on November 27th 2005 in the Chronicle Foreign Service. Indeed the history of African presence in Argentina is well documented. During the slave trade (17th, 18th, and 19th centuries), Buenos Aires was a major port of entry. Although in 1813 newborn blacks were declared free, slavery was not abolished until 1853.Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas used the black communities in Buenos Aires to recruit young black men into his militia that he later used against his opponents. The recruitment exacerbated during his military campaign against Brazil and Uruguay, when he sent the army into black neighborhoods to conscript all black men. This has resulted into a major dwindling of the black population. Also, towards the end of his regime in 1853, many Argentine blacks emigrated to Uruguay, where the environment was less hostile and the climate was more agreeable. Even during the Triple Alliance war of 1865, tons of black men were recruited and used as cannon fodders in the frontline, resulting into more emigration toward Uruguay. Still, the black community is not dead, and Miguel Yannone, spoke person for Familia Rumba Nuestra, an afro-Argentine band, confirms that in Argentina, he is referred to as African or Black, not Argentine. And his patriotism would always go into question, ignoring completely the sacrifices that people of African descents have made for Argentina. Professor Miriam Gomes, who teaches literature at University of Buenos Aires, confirms that Argentine historians are in part to blame for this misconception. She claims that if you’re looking this vital information in the country’s history books, you won’t find it. Africa Vive is working to reinstate black as a category in the upcoming census set for 2010. The World Bank and the Argentine’s census bureau are helping out in this effort. According to the Organization of American Sates (OAS), 40% of all poor in the Americas are of African descent. Countries lake Cuba, Haiti, the Antilles, the Dominican Republic, and the United States are well known for their highly visible black populations. However, in Latin America, the visibility has substantially blurred. Apart from Brazil, where it is estimated that more than 50 million of the population can easily claim African ancestry, it is very difficult to notice at first hand the presence of people of African descent in the other countries. Colombia has over 10 million blacks in its population; up until recently, it was difficult to notice it by watching Colombian TV. Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Central America, all have sizable black populations. Panama and Venezuela and, to some extent, Colombia are working toward changing that. In Nicaragua’s east coast, mostly Blacks and Indians live there. The city of Bluefield is a great example, where 50,000 people of African descent, speaking their own dialect (a kind of broken Caribbean English) call the area their home.Also see Heaven of Drums: A book that brings to light African presence in Argentina’s history Note: For more info on this subject, check Wikipedia.org or the encyclopedia. Look for history of people of African descent in Latin America.
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