Black Latin America

 This page focuses on the people of African descent in Latin America. There is confusion as to who should be considered Black or what country should be a Latin American nation. Latinos or Latin Americans includes people from the nations in the western hemisphere whose number one language is the Latin derived Spanish. Brazil, a Portugese speaking country is included because of the similar history with Spanish-speaking nations. English-speaking Belize, although technically not a Latin American country, will be included as well because of its ties to the Central American Garifuna culture. Blackness is not an American thing, its a global thing...

Carmelo Anthony Denver Nuggets (2003 - Present)*Puerto Rico*
Oscar Torres Houston Rockets (2001 - 2002) Golden State Warriors (2002 - 2003) *Venezuela*
Felipe Lopez Vancouver Grizzlies (1998 - 2000) Washington Wizards (2000 - 2001) Minnesota Timberwolves (2001 - 2002)
Dallas Mavericks (2004) *Dominican Republic*
Luis Flores Golden State Warriors (2004) Denver Nuggets (2004-2005) *Dominican Republic*
Carlos Boozer Cleveland Cavaliers (2002 - 2004) Utah Jazz (2004 - Present) *Dominican Republic*
Nene Hilario  Denver Nuggets (2002 - Present) *Brazil*
Leandro Barbosa  Phoenix Suns (2003 - Present) *Brazil*
Milt Palacio  Vancouver Grizzlies (1999 - 2000) Boston Celtics (2000 - 2002) PPhoenix Suns (2002) Cleveland Cavaliers (2002 - 2003)
Toronto Raptors (2003 - Present) *Belize*
Peter Ramos Washington Wizards (2004 - Present) *Puerto Rico*
Dominican Republic
Ezequiel Astacio, Houston Astros (Hato Mayor); Pedro Astacio, SD Padres (Hato Mayor); Armando Benitez, SF Giants (Ramon Santana); Ramon ORtiz, Cincinnati Reds (Cotui); David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Santo Domingo); Julio Franco, FREE AGENT (S.P. De Macoris)
Luis Castillo, Florida Marlins (San Pedro de Macoris); Juan Encarnacion, Florida Marlins (Las Matas de Farafan); Octavio Dotel, Oakland A`s (Santo Domingo); Carlos Febles, Kansas City Royals (El Seibo); Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners (Santo Domingo); Cristian Guzman, Washington Nationals (Santo Domingo); David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Santo Domingo); Vladimir Guerrero, LA Angels (Nizao Bani); Alfonso Soriano, Texas Rangers (San Pedro de Macoris),Raul Mondesi, Atlanta Braves (San Cristobal); Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles (Bani); Felix Rodriguez, NY Yankees (Montecristi); Moises Alou, SF Giants (Born in Atlanta, GA, USA); Antonio Alfonseca, Florida Marlins (La Romana); Jose Mesa, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Azua); Odalis Perez, LA Dodgers (Las Matas de Farfan); Miguel Ascencio, SD Padres (Villa Mella); Bartolo Colon, LA Angels (Altamira),Miguel Batitsta, Arizona Diamondbacks (Santo Domingo); Victor Diaz, NY Mets (Santo Domingo); Jesus Colome, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (San Pedro de Macoris); Francisco Cordero, Texas Rangers (Santo Domingo); Deivi Cruz, SF Giants (Nizao Bani); Jose Guillen, Washington Nationals (San Cristobal); Felix Heredia, NY Mets (Barahona); Josias Manzanillo, Boston Red Sox (San Pedro de Macoris); Julio Lugo, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Barahona),Guillermo Mota, Florida Marlins (San Pedro de Macoris); Neifi Perez, Chicago Cubs (Villa Mella); Juan Cruz, Oakland A`s (Bonao); Solomon Torres, Pittsburgh Pirates (San Pedro de Macoris); Timo Perez, Chicago White Sox(Bani); Angel Berroa, Kansas City Royals (Santo Domingo); Jose Vizcaino, Houston Astros (San Cristobal); Denny Bautista, KC Royals (Sanchez); Franklyn German, Detroit Tigers (San Cristobal),Luis Vizcaino, Chicago White Sox (Bani); Antonio Perez, LA Dodgers (Bani); Jose Lima, LA Dodgers (Santiago), Jose Reyes, New York Mets (Villa Gonzalez); Jose Uribe, Chicago White Sox (Bani); Esteban Yan, LA Angels (Campesina Del Seibo); Ruben Mateo, KC Royals (San Cristobal); Rafael Soriano, Seattle Mariners (San Jose); Wily Mo Pena, Cincinnati Reds (Laguna Salada),Jorge Sosa, Atlanta Braves (Santo Domingo); Amaury Telemaco, Philadelphia Phillies (Higuey); Miguel Olivo, Seattle Mariners (Villa Vasquez); Yhency Brazoban, LA Dodgers (Santo Domingo); Jose Offerman, Ny Mets (San Pedro De Macoris); Damaso Marte, Chicago White Sox (Santo Domingo); Ronnie Belliard, Cleveland Indians (Born in Bronx, NY); Hector Luna, St. Louis Cardinals (Montecristi); Wilton Guerrero, St. Louis Cardinals (Don Gregorio)
Venezuela
Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia Phillies (Aragua); Roger Cedeno, St. Louis Cardinals(Valencia); Endy Chavez, Philadelphia Phillies (Valencia); Kelvim Escobar, LA Angels (La Guaria); Richard Hidalgo, Texas Rangers (Caracas); Melvin Mora, Baltimore Orioles (Agua Negra); Jorge Julio, Baltimore Orioles (Caracas)
Cuba
Jose Contreras, Chicago White Sox (Havana); Livan Hernandez, Washington Nationals (Villa Clara); Orlando Hernandez, NY Yankees (Havana); Alex Sanchez, SF Giants (Havana); Eduardo Perez, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Born in Cincinnati, OH, USA); Ricky Guttierez, Seattle Mariners (Born in Miami, FL, USA)
Puerto Rico
Ruben Gotay, KC Royals (Rio Piedras); Sandy Alomar, Jr., Texas Rangers (Salinas); Carlos Delgado, Florida Marlins (Aguadilla); Roberto Hernandez, NY Mets (Santurce); Ruben Sierra, NY Yankees (Rio Piedras); Bernie Williams, NY Yankees (San Juan); Benito Santiago, Pittsburgh Pirates (Ponce)
Colombia
Orlando Cabrera, LA Angels (Cartagena); Edgar Renteria, Boston Red (Barranquilla)
Panama
Carlos Lee, Chicago White Sox (Aguadulce); Jose Macias, Montreal Expos (Panama City); Mariano Rivera, NY Yankees (Panama City)

The 2003 MLB Rookies of the Year were both of African descent. Angel Berroa (Afro-Dominican), of the Kansas City Royals wins for the American League while Dontrell Willis (Afro-American), of the Florida Marlins takes the honor of the National League`s top rookie.
      Rolando Blackman (Panama)    Augustin Delgado (Ecuador)   Luis Tiant (Cuba)   Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico)           
Felix "Tito" Trinidad (Puerto Rico)    Bobby Bonilla (Puerto Rico)

              Merlin Santana (Dominican Republic)      Mongo Santamaria (Cuba)        Tatyana Ali (Panama)   

COLOMBIA

2002 Black Population: App. 10,000,000

The story of Afro-Colombians is like night and day. Blacks were brought to region which would be later known as Colombia in the 16th century during the Atlantic slave trade. African slaves worked on Gold mines, sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches and large haciendas. Afro-Colombians are very visible along coastal Colombia but during the mid 1970s, many blacks migrated to the larger cities. In 1851, slavery was abolished but it would be over 100 years before Blacks would be truly visible. After the emancipation, the Spanish mestizaje (race mixing) movement was an idea that the elite wanted to put in effect to "wipe out" any trace of Africansm by making the nation "lighter". The movement was not totally successful because many Blacks ran for the jungles where they lived with AmerIndians. Not until 1991, after a very strong popular struggle, did the new Colombian Constitution give Afro-Colombians the right to collective ownership of traditional Pacific coastal lands, and special cultural development protection. Even with this new Constitution, Afro-Colombians still have problems facing them but they are slowly but surely gaining "firsts" in their history of being Colombians. Overall, the daily struggle is still there, as witnessed in the state of Choco as Blacks are the prime victims of the 40 year long civil war. The question is just how longer will it take in order for the rest of the world to find out what`s happening to this group.
From the city of Baranquilla, Edgar Renteria, went from selling fruit and fish to becoming the most famous Colombian born Major League Baseball player. His popularity has increased baseball exposure in his native land. He is a breath of fresh air for a country waged in war with itself. He is famous for the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. "My performance in the World Series showed the United States something positive about my country," he said. He received "San Carlos Cross of the Order of the Great Knight," Colombia`s highest honor, from President Ernesto Samper at La Casa de Narino presidential palace on 11/4/97 and was named 1997 "Man of the Year" by El Espectador newspaper. The Afrocentric shortstop is one of the best players ta his position. In the winter of 2004, he signed with the Boston Red Sox.
Joe Arroyo is one of the top Salsa soloists of all time. Dating back to his days in the city of Cartagena, the city of escaped slaves, he
started singing in church choirs and in nightclubs. He provides a fusion of sorts in his music by incorporating sounds of Cumbia, Soca and Zouk which ends up having a very Caribbean sound. After battling drug addiction in the 1980s, he made his way back to reclaim the career he almost lost due to drug abuse. Arroyo is probably the most afrocentric Latin artists to ever hold a mic as many of his songs deal with Black life and Black history in Colombia. Songs like "Piel Canela" and "Blaco y Negro" come to mind but his most important songs is "Rebelion". Read the lyrics and you will see why.
Luis Murillo is the Ex-Governor of the State of Choco, now living in exile in Washington, D.C. He worked tirelessly for peace in his state and his country. He was elected in 1996 but did not take office until 1998 due to election fraud. "Choco, Territory of Peace" was a plan he thought up asking for the Colombian army, paramilitaries and guerrillas to leave the state and to allow the government to exercise neutrality. For his efforts, he received death threats and was eventually kidnapped by paramilitaries. Quickly after his release, he moved his family to the USA. He is now touring the US to build support for a more humane US foreign policy toward Colombia. He wants to return one day to Colombia to continue his political fight.

Senator Piedad Cordoba is the highest ranking Afro-Colombian congress person. Her work is mostly directed towards trying to find a solution towards the civil conflict, and towards the rights of women, Blacks, AmerIndians, gays and lesbians, and victims of violence. In 1999 she was kidnapped in Medellin. Her kidnapping was orchestrated by paramilitary leader Carlos Castano. After being held captive for 2 weeks, she was released on June 4. She later said "Castano is genuinely interested in participating in peace talks, which currently involve only the government and leftist rebels. The country has to consider this other actor in the conflict." Cordoba has an excellent chance to become the first female president of Colombia which would make tremendous strides for a Black movement in Latin America. Unfortunately, her life is constantly in jeopardy as assassination attempts have halted her progress. However, she continues to work hard towards her goals for a better Colombia.

The Department of Choco is known as one of the most violent places in the world. Choco is sometimes called the Rwanda of the western region of the world. Located on the Pacific side of Colombia, it is one of the country`s most famous parts for having a large Black population. Yes, it is named "Choco" but not because of its African roots, but because of the Choco AmerIndian tribe who lived there first. Out of the 600,000 citizens, 90% are Black. It is one of the most richest regions in the world because of its diversity as many different species of animals and insects. Also, its a source for mineral deposits, namely oil. Due to the land being rich in its diversity, paramilitaries are on an all out rampage to eliminate Black and Indigenous peoples from the state to take advantage of the land riches and to implement highways. "Ethnocide" is what some are calling it. More and more people are being displaced everyday. The US Congress passed a $1.3 billion "aid" package called Plan Colombia. The only thing this package is going to aid is the continuation of the violence that plagues Colombia and the state of Choco. In the next US presidential election, find out what the politicians are going to do about this plan. The Colombian government is worried that the news of how severely the Black community is suffering will get out and get the attention of African-Americans or African countries. Plan Colombia is detrimental to the lives of all Colombians of all different races. The war is not based on racism, in my opinion, but Blacks are the prime victims. For Afro-Colombians, the war is not based on drugs. The above picture is on two (2) kids whose home was destroyed by violence.

Choco has, however, produced individuals that all of Colombia can be proud. One of them is Vanessa Mendoza. In 2001, she became the country`s first black woman to win the Miss Colombia beauty pageant. Vanessa grew up very poor as did most of Choco`s population in the town of Unguia. Her region had no electricity so she had to use a candlelight to do her homework plus she rarely had a pair of shoes to wear. With the help other people in Unguia, she raised enough money to enter the competition for Miss Colombia. After winning the state of Choco she went on to win the national competition. She has persuaded government officials to provide more electricity in Unguia, she is the first Black person to appear on a Colombian stamp and she has offered to help with negotiations for peace in the country.

Also hailing from Choco is another noteworthy individual. Ilia Calederon, in 2001, made history by becoming the first Latin American of African descent to anchor a U.S. Latin news program. She is the lead anchor of the Noticiero Telemundo del Fin de Semana and a graduate of de la Universidad de Antioquia which is in Medellin.
Nimia Vargas is the co-founder of the Colombian Network of Rural Women and the Network of Choco Women. Gender equality and the social development of Choco is her specialty. The Women`s Leadership Training School was set up by Vargas in 1996 and helps women to become elected delegates. Once women learn how the government operates, they will want to take part in it.

Marino Cordoba is the head of AFRODES which is the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombian. This organization brings together displaced Afro-Colombians settled in Bogota. It appeared in 1999 to denounce the lack of visibility of displaced Afro-Colombians, claim their rights and promote specific measures of attention and protection against forced internal displacement. At the present time AFRODES comprises 176 Afro-Colombian families in Bogota and has organized chapters in several other localities of the country, including Cartagena, Buenaventura, Quibds and Riosucio. It is included in the Ministry of the Interior Register of Afro-Colombian community organizations and undertakes state-financed socioeconomic stabilization projects in these communities. Cordoba compares the struggle of Afro-Colombians to the plight that African-Americans and the Civil Right movement of the mid 1900s. He was forced to leave Colombia in 2001 and he now tours the USA and is connecting with African-Americans and informing them and the USA about Afro-Colombian issues. He lives in Washington, DC.

 

ECUADOR

2002 Black Population: App. 2,000,000

Afro-Ecuadorians...yes, there are black people in Ecuador. Africans were brought over in boats from West Africa to work on the coastal areas and food plantations. The first ship, in 1553, that carried the slaves was stranded on the coast of Esmereldas. Then, the African fought off their white captors. 10% of the population is black. The other groups are mainly whites, mestizos, indigenous peoples and Asians. The blacks and the indigenous peoples are the poorest in the nation. According to some, Ecuador is one of the most racist countries in Latin America. Although slavery was abolished in 1821, it did not officially end until 1881. The profusion of racism with Ecuadorian society constrains blacks both in terms of labor and educational opportunities. Many are concentrated into informal labor markets with little to no job stability or security. If you need a comparison of the treatment of Afro-Ecuadorians, think of the way that the Indians are treated in the USA by the whites. Blacks are located in the major cities but are mostly concentrated in the Esmeraldas (La Capital Negra) and Imbabura. Ecuador does not deny the fact that it has a black population but the country tries their best to limit their exposure except when it comes to boosting national pride for Black athletic achievements or using them and Amerindians as tourists attractions
Marimba is a trditional Afro-Latin art form from the Pacific coast of Ecuador and Colombia, consisting of music, dance and theatrical expressions. A perfoming group usually consists of musicians (marimba, drums, other percussion and vocal) and dancers (3 or more pairs of male and female). The once declining art of marimba is now reviving as the core of resurgent Afro-Ecuadorian culture.
Papa Roncon is a legendary marimbero and a symbol of Afro-Ecuadorian music.
1996 included an important milestone for Afro-Ecuadorians. Monica Chala was the first ever Afro-Ecuadorian to win the Miss Ecuador beauty pageant. She currently fights for the rights for Afro-Ecuadorians and for all poor people in her native land.

Augustin Delgado, the top futbol player to hail from Ecuador. Born in the Juncal village in El Chota (Imbabura), he played a very important role in Ecuador qualifying for the 2002 World Cup for the first time ever. La Escuela de Futbol (The Futbol School) is a school he set up in Juncal where young players come and learn how to play futbol and to better their skills. Before the 2002 World Cup, however, he signed a #3.5million deal in November 2001 with the team in Southampton, England. Signed while injured, his stay has been surrounded by rumours of discontent and language problems but he is sure to make an impact on the FIFA world.
Born in the town of San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas, Luz Del Alba is of Afro-Ecuadorian and Native Indigenous descent. She has been a leading activist in social, environmental, and women issues in Esmeraldas, where Afro-Ecuadorians concentrate. She coordinates the ecological community project in Olmedo Village let by the Japanese NGO "ACTMANG" (Action for Mangrove Reforestation).
Afrik`ns Homo Sapiens is a musical group that performs "Bao" music. Bao is a fusion of native rhythms and Caribbean rhythms including candombe, salsa, merengue, reggae and calypso. According to GoEcuador.com, Afrik`ns Homo Sapiens may be this generation`s ambassadors of Afro-Ecuadorian culture and identity. Through their music, one can sense the possibilities of a commonality which transcends cultural, racial and economic barriers.
Notorious is how the government would describe Jaime Hurtado. However, the people would describe him as inspirational. Hurtado was infamous for figthing for the rights of the working people of Ecuador. Tirelessly he fought for a "New Ecuador", if you would, which would have been ran by the working class. Those who knew him called him the "Champion of the Poor". Hailing from the city of Guayaquil, he went on to become the founder and leader of the Democratic Popular Party (MPD). His opposition of rightwing governments and the neo-liberal economic model led to his unfortunate assassination in the winter of 1999. The crime is part of an Ecuadorian campaign to frighten anti-government protestors such as the killing of Petrice Lumumba in the Congo or Malcolm-X in the USA. His death was not necessarily racially motivated but the government did kill two birds with one stone. Apparently, he was getting to close to the truth.

2002 marked the first time that Ecuador qualified for the FIFA World Cup. Futbol, or soccer, is king in Ecuador as it is in most South American countries. Qualifiying for the World Cup has brought more national pride to Ecuador. Although, the country is mostly mestizo, the national team is overwhelmingly black. The success of the team has had a little effect of the daily racism blacks endure living in Ecuador but their success will go down in their country`s history. That cannot be denied.

VENEZUELA

2002 Black Population: App. 4,500,000

60,000 Africans were brought to the land of Venezuela in the 17th and 18th centuries to work on *bleep*o plantations. As in other South American nations, blacks dominate the population along the coast. Venezuela is known as having a Cafe Con Leche culture and proven by the fact that over two-thirds of Venezuelans define themselves as mixed race. However, there are many pure black Africans. Not to mention the large mulatto population. Venezuelans sya that there is little to no racism in the country. However, blacks work in poorly paid agricultural or domestic jobs. Power and wealth remains in the hands of the white (Spanish) elite but remains a highly unequal society. Although, the nation is unequal, Venezuela does have blacks working in high government positions. The African community in Venezuela is very African conscious and they even publish a magazine called Africanias.

Barlovento is the Black mecca for Venezuela. It was known among Europe`s chocolatiers for its high quality c@c@o. For 300 years this was one of Venezuela`s greatest sources of revenue, from plantations worked by large numbers of black slaves. Black pride reigns in Barlovento such as Esmereldas in Ecuador and Choco in Colombia. The Venezuelan African community in Barlovento hosted the Second International reunion of the Latin African Family in 1999 with reps coming from Puerto Rico right down to Argentina. The Africans in Venezuela are now playing a prominent role on the international stage whereas previously, they were unseen.
The sonero. The showman. The entertainer. Oscar D`Leon has been performing Salsa for over 30 years and has brought many crowds to their feet. His music is 100% guaranteed to make people nod their heads, rush to the floor, drop their drinks, and just have a good time. He is responsible for one of the greatest Salsa songs of all time, "Lloraras". Anyone can have a party with nothing but Oscar D`Leon music. He even has said, "My music is for dancers, directly from my heart to your feet". D`Leon has recorded over 60 albums including El Mas Grande, La Salsa Mayor and El Rey De Los Soneros. Also, of course, he has worked with other big names in the business such as Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval and Celia Cruz. Although he is from Venezuela, , he is influenced by famous Cuban musical legends like Beny Mori and La Sonora Matancera. In an interview he did with Sabor Magazine, D`Leon said "Cuban music was influenced from the roots of Africa and, in turn, spread that influence on the rest of the world`s music.". Fans need not worry, this brother will not be retiring anytime soon. Matter of fact, he may never retire.

 

BELIZE

 2002 Black Population: App. 90,000

 

GUATEMALA

2002 Black Population: App. 110,000

If one were to look up the population numbers on Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, many times they will not see a percentage for its Black population. Many Guatemalans, even, are unaware of the fact that there are Black people in the land. Mestizos, Mayan Indians and Black Africans make up the bulk of Guatemalan people. Africans arrived as slaves around the same time that Guatemala was invaded by Pedro de Alvarado around 1524. Sugar plantations and haciendas were the big reason for slavery. Most of the Africans, who were enslaved, eventually intermarried with the Native American population. Slave importation did not last a long time as the conquistador became very nervous due to the uprising of the Blacks they captured. Slavery became less important to the conquistadors and slavery was abolished in 1823. The Afro-Guatemalans one may meet today are the Garifuna peoples who came from Honduras in the 1800s and maintain many of their traditions in art, food and music. The next batch are Afro-Caribbeans (BlackWest Indians) and they speak Creole English as well as Spanish, and mostly have English last names. Afro-Antilleans came to Guatemala seeking jobs from neighboring Belize and Jamaica and found those jobs working with the U.S.`s United Fruit Company. Punta and Reggae are popular amongst Afro-Guatemalans. The Black population of the country is mostly located on the Caribbean lowlands in Livingston, Puerto Barrios and Santa Thomas but there are some in Guatemala City.

 

HONDURAS
2002 Black Population: App. 110,000

 

NICARAGUA

2002 Black Population: App. 380,000

One would think that a certain situation or certain cause would bring together a group of people to bring about change. For example, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 50s and 60s brought people of all colors together to gain civil right for everyone in the country. In Nicaragua, that is not the case; the country is split down the middle. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries, not only in Central America, but also in the world. Bad leaders, natural disasters and the recently ended, civil war have ruined the country. Mestizos, Blacks, Native Americans make up the bulk of the people but there are also Whites, Arabs and Asians. Besides the Garifuna peoples, Afro-Caribbeans and Miskitos make up the other major African groups in the nation. Slavery began in 1524 and ended in 1821 as Blacks were primarily used for farming purposes, replacing the murdered Natives. Most Blacks live along the Atlantic coast.
Miskitos are located along the Atlantic, or "Mosquito Coast", side of the country and are descendants of Blacks and Indians. The Blacks are descendants of escaped Caribbean slaves. The Mosquito Coast was a region of Nicaragua that was not colonized by Spain, but instead became a British "protectorate". Because of this English is mostly spoken by the people living there. During the civil war, many Miskitos were displaced from their homes by the Sandinista guerillas. Most fled into Honduras but eventually came back in the mid 80s. There are about 75,000 Miskitos in the country. Although, they are of African/Indigenous ancestry, they are mostly associated with their Indian culture because of they have retained their language and culture.
The Garifuna peoples came from Honduras in the 19th century and are located in Orinoco, the Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas. The still speak their African tribal languages and also have a faith-healing festival called Gara-Wala.
Afro-Caribbeans are the largest group of Black people. They arrived as slaves with the British and the Dutch in the 17th century from the British-influenced West Indian island countries, namely Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. They still speak Creole English but the entire population speaks Spanish. The United Fruit Company provided jobs for Afro-Caribbeans during the early 1900s. The Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas have the largest Afro-Caribbean community. "Mayo Ya", an annual festival in May, fuses elements of their West Indian tradition such as Reggae music dancing. Most of these English-speaking Blacks are very educated and hold an edge over the indigenous people and Mestizos in the area.
Blacks, of all cultures, and the Indigenous peoples have "beef" with the Mestizos. Some blame it on the different languages spoken, some blame it on the different sides that were chosen during the recently ended Civil War, and some blame it on political factions. If poverty and natural disasters, like Hurricane Mitch in 1998, cannot bring about some Nicaraguan unity, what will?

COSTA RICA

2002 Black Population: Est. 103,000

Costa Rica`s Black population is the largest "minority" in the country. Slavery brought is the first wave of Blacks but more migrated, along with other ethnic groups such as Italians, to become workers on the Costa Rica Railroad and fruit plantations in the late 1800s. The Black population are descendants of Jamaica, Barbados and coastal Africa. The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish but the Blacks speak English as well from their days in the West Indies. Limon is where most Blacks are located. Segregation was a daily ritual for the Blacks who worked on the railroad and banana plantations. The government felt that they were not citizens of the nation so most of the country was off limits to them, sort of like a color bar. In the mid 1900s, operations moved to the Pacific due to "spoiled" bananas, but the Black workers could not follow becuase of the color laws. A labor strife in 1934 would be the start of changes for the Afro-Caribbeans in Costa Rica. The strike was followed by a 40-day civil war which was won by Jose Figueres who was concerned about the discrimination and poverty of the Black people. It was Figueres who allowed the Blacks to apply for Costa Rica citizenship and freedom to travel the country after rewriting the Constitution in 1949. The Afro-Costa Rican population has declined as most moved to neighboring Panama and to the USA but they have attained high education standards are employed in leading professions. Their culture has also been attained as they speak Creole English, practice African religions, perform Caribbean music and enjoy West Indian cuisines. It is because of this that they have not been fully accepted as "Latinos" by Costa Rican Mestizos and Whites because they have not fully adapted to the culture, although they speak spanish. Racism still exists but it is extremely quiet.

Limon is the place where you will find most Black folk. It is still the main port for bananas for Costa Rica. Also, it is home to the best carnival in Central America which was started by Alfred King and takes place in October. Calypso and Reggae are king in Limon which is the ultimate party-starter.

San Jose`s own, Quince Duncan, is probably not just the most important writer in Costa Rica`s history, but possibly amongst all Latin American countries, as well. He is the unofficial representative for Blacks who dominate the Atlantic coast and of course, who helped build the country into what it is today. When people think of Blacks in Costa Rica, they think of Duncan. His stories show that Black people of Costa Rica have contended with the African, Caribbean and Costa Rica elements which have made up their identity. "La Paz del Pueblo", "Los Cuatro Espejos", and "El Negro en Costa Rica" are non-fiction stories that deal with Afro-Costa Rican`s self-concept.
Costa Rica has a rich futbol heritage. The national team made the World Cup for the first time in 1990. After failing to qualify in `94 and `98, Costa Rica reemerged as one of the six Latin American teams to make it to soccer`s "big dance". The Central American country finished level on points with Turkey, but lost out on goal difference. Seven players on the team are of African descent.

 

PANAMA

2002 Black Population: App. 600,000

Panama was the first place in the Western region`s mainland that had a Black settlement. Formerly, a part of Colombia until its independence in 1903, Panama is not always considered a Central American nation, historically at least. The first Blacks arrived around 1513 as explorers who built vessels, the next batch arrived a few years later as slaves who transported goods from ships and to work on gold mines. The first African slave rebellion in the Americas took place in Panama as they overpowered the slavemasters and received help from the AmerIndians. These people were called "cimmarones" (the wild ones) but are now known as "Playeros" (the beach people), Spanish speaking and Roman Catholic Black people.
1849 marked the building of the Panama Railroad and the opportunity for work. It also marked a second coming of Black people as Afro-Caribbeans, mostly from Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, were recruited to work on the railroad. In 1880, the French started work on the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique. Its purpose was for a transoceanic canal across the ithmus. Finally, the building of the Panama Canal by the USA began in 1907. Like the building of the railroad, Blacks were recruited to work for the French and the Americans in Panama. Workers lost their lives during construction of all 3 projects and after the jobs were done, most Blacks remained. Racial segregation has been taking place ever since the building of the canal. A "Gold" and "Silver" label was used in Panama, White workers were paid in gold while Blacks were paid in silver. Public facilities were labeled "gold" and "silver". The label was not only used in the Canal Zone, but in all of Panama for many years. Afro-Caribbeans preserved their culture and traditional ways as a way to rebel against North Americans and other Latinos. Conflicts between them and Spanish-speaking Panamanians last through today. Discrimination and lack of citizenship caused Afro-Caribbeans to stick together even more and develop their own communities with Protestant churches, schools and businesses. Just like Abraham Lincoln wanted to deport all Afro-Americans back to Africa, former Panama president, Arnulfo Arias tried to deport all Afro-Caribbeans, East Indians and Chinese out of Panama. Segregation in the Panama Canal Zone ended during the Noriega regime and the government has made laws to enable equal treatment. Their West Indian culture has been and is always on the rise in Panama. Most Blacks from Panama, when they migrate to the USA, don`t always identify as Latinos but as spanish-speaking Blacks. Calypso, Reggae, Soca, Creole English and French, have all been retained.
The original Blacks in the country are nicknamed "nativos" while the Afro-Caribbeans are known as "antillanos". The lack of unity between these two groups is very surprising. There are still laws that are directed towards Afro-Caribbeans in Panama but they are getting closer everyday to equal human rights. Both groups have been fighting for their rights for 500 years.
Afro-Caribbean, Rod Carew, was one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball in the past 30 years. Born in the Panama Canal Zone, him and his family moved to New York City when he was a teenager. In addition to his skills at hitting, he was once thought of the next player to hit .400 in a season. The closest he got was .388 in 1977. A member of the 3,000 hit club, Carew played for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels in his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991 and later became a batting coach for the California/Anaheim Angels. In the 2002 World Series, he threw out the first pitch in one of the games.

 

ARGENTINA

2002 Black Population: App. 2,000,000

Afro-Argentinians are in danger. How you may ask? Well, the black population in Argentina are at risk of being erased from existence. Yes, Afro-Argentinians are an endangered species. How can a people be endangered? Blacks are not even included on the official cencus. Next to Ecuador, Argentina is very racist as well. Lets start at the beginning. Portugese colonizers brought Africans to Argentina around 1630 from Angola. Portugal could not hang onto the land and its slaves due to its conflict with Spain and to protect its claims in Brazil. Farming and servant duties were the primary jobs of black slaves in this territory. The population in the country in the 1700s was almost 50 percent. The decline would start in the 19th century.
Abolition of slavery occured in 1851. However, there were two ways that a black person would be granted freedom before that. Either by manumission or, more frequently, by coartacisn (self-purchase). Most men participated in manumission while women paid for freedom.
The reasons which contribute to the endangerment to Afro-Argentinians are as follows. First, black men were heavily involved in Argentina`s wars with Great Britain in 1806-1807, the wars for independence from 1810 to 1816 against Spain, the civil wars throughout the 1820s, and wars against Brazil and the Indian population. Looking to gain social and economic mobility promised by politicians Blacks fought in the Indian extermination campaigns of the 1830s and 1840s. Second, racial intermarriage was encouraged due to the deaths of black men in the wars and for possible social mobility for mixed kids. Third, Argentina`s desire to be a European nation in the western region. Aregntina has long been obsessed with the idea of modeling the country after Italy or Spain while making the land whiter while "wiping out" the Natives and the blacks. In Spain, Italy and France, however, there are sizable black communities, but Argentina is obsessed with being a totally White republic. Policies to attract European immigrants worked as a migration began from Europen nations Between 1869 and 1914. a large number of Afro-Argentine women married European immigrants, thereby losing their ethnic identity.
Today, whites make up about 85 percent of the nation and mestizos make up about 15 percent. Blacks are more exoticized than stigmatized but are still kept below the poverty line. Due to the decline, Argentina can deny their African history and the fact they are one of Latin America`s most racist nations. A museum worker in Buenos Aires in an interview said "We can`t waste space putting things that don`t have any relevance to our history". That is a very bold statement when the Tango is a dance and music with such strong West African roots and adored in the country. One of the country`s newspapers, during the 1998 World Cup, ran a headline, "Bring on the monkeys" in reference to possible matches with Nigeria and Brazil.
Africa Vive, a group to emerge from Argentina, has reached out to Afro-Argentine leaders with the aim of creating an organization that can battle poverty in Afro-Latino communities. To assist, I suggest a large migration of blacks of around 3 million from Nigeria and South Africa to Argentina. Would that make or break the population? If Europeans can do it, why can`t Africans?
Maria Lamadrid is the president of Africa Vive, the Afro-Latin American organization based in Argentina. She calculated the first Black cencus in a long time and determined that there are approximately 2,000,00 people of African descent living in Argentina ranging in skin tones from "high yellow" to "jet black".

 

BRAZIL
2002 Black Population: App.
80,500,000

 

MEXICO

2002 Black Population: App. 1,000,000

..the Mexican city of Cibola was founded by a Black man named Esteban el Negro (Steven the Black), a Moor from Spain
...Blacks had important roles in Mexico`s military and helped gain its independence from Spain
...the song `La Bamba` by Los Lobos was originally a song sung by African slaves as they worked in Veracruz
...Bamba is the name of an African tribe in Angola
...Mexico employed more African slaves than any other nation in the western world
...Veracruz, Campeche, Panuco and Acapulco were the main ports for the entrance of African slaves
...Most of the roads, bridges and cathedrals were erected by Black people
...In the 16th century, Afro-Mexicans made up 71% of Mexico`s population
...The offspring of African/AmerIndian integration was called jarocho (wild pig), chino or lobo (wolf)
...Vicente Guerrero (El Negro Guerrero), who was Mexico`s 2nd President, helped abolish slavery
...Under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz Black people were not allowed to immigrate into Mexico
...Many Black communities bear names related to Africa such as Mozambique, Cerro del Congo (Congo Hill) and El Mulato
...Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz are where most Afro-Mexicans live today
...Negro is viewed as derogatory and is no longer used but rather Moreno (Brown) when the subject of Afro-Mexicans is brought up
...Light-skinned Blacks are known as blanquitos (Little Whites) and are the most priveleged of Afro-Mexicans

CUBA

2002 Black Population: Est. 6,000,000

Unlike other Latin American countries, or in North America for that matter, racial discrimination in Cuba has mostly been non-violent, mostly verbal. One known incident of violent racism was in 1912 when government troops killed about 3,000 blacks in fighting that erupted after an Afro-Cuban political party was declared illegal. One Afro-Cuban is quoted as saying "There is no official racism here anymore but there is still a culture of racism. The mistake was to think that just by having everyone integrated, racism would fade away." One of the myths is that there is no discrimination in Cuba. Sure Blacks, Whites, mixed people, Asians and others interact with each other but racism still persists. Work is being done to bring about changes, though. Christopher Colombus landed on the island in 1492. After the decimation of the AmerIndians, Africans were brought in as slaves to work on sugar plantations. The fact that sugar was the basis of the Cuban economy, many more Blacks were enslaved to work on the island`s crops. Slavery was abolished in 1886, one of the last nations to do so. Upward mobility for Blacks has improved considerably, although they are still underrepresented in the high levels of government and the communist party. Blacks have particularly found advancement in military careers and in Cuba`s highly successful sports programs. If there ever were a spanish-speaking nation that epitomized African pride it would be Cuba. As a matter of fact, the Marxist government of Cuba has declared Cubans an Afro-Latin American people and has formed close ties with Angola, Ethiopia, and other African states. Most Afro-Cubans are proud of their blackness and consider Cuba to be a "Black country".

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

2002 Black Population: App. 7,000,000

 

PERU
2002 Black Population: App. 1,500,000

 

PUERTO RICO

2002 Black Population: App. 320,000

March 22, 1873 marked an important day in Puerto Rico`s history. It was the day that slavery was finally abolished. Puerto Rico, nicknamed the "Island of Enchantment" was, for Blacks and Indians an "Island of Disenchantment" or an everyday living hell during the colonial period. As in other western region nations, the Amerinidians mostly were either worked to death or died from diseases caught from the conquistadors. Puerto Rico, which translates into "rich port", became the new home for many Africans as they were forcefully brought over to take the place of the declining Tainos to produce coffee, tobacco and most importantly sugar. From the day they set step through the port around the year 1560, Afro-Puerto Ricans were seen as inhuman, strange, exotic and suspicious. Slavery was an expensive business to be engaged in so White slavemasters began branding the foreheads of slaves to distinguish legal slaves from the illegal ones and keep them from being kidnapped by rivals. Just like the U.S.A. during slavery time, Puerto Rico had what is known as "house negros" and "field negros". Like I stated earlier, Blacks were primarily used to grow sugar cane; they usually were the field negros and were much more rebellious. House Negros, namely Black women, were used as servants in the house and not only served food and clean houses; they were used to provide sexual pleasure to the masters and their sons. Black people all over the world have historically been viewed as "sexual beings" even to this day. For the conquistadors in PR, they felt the only purpose for Black people on Earth was to serve them with sex not to mention give birth to more slaves, perform culinary arts, and make the masters rich by harvesting the aforementioned crops. If it wasn`t for Ramon Betances and the rest of the Puerto Rican Abolistionist movement, slavery came to an end after over 350 years. It was definitely a business decision on behalf of the Spanish National Assembly as they were compensated with 35 million pesetas per slave and Blacks had to work three (3) more years before totally losing the shackles. The abolition of slavery on the island did have another cost. Just as in Mexico, Puerto Rico according to many scholars suffers from "African Amnesia". Take into fact that in 1820, Blacks made up 56% of the nation and then in 1950 it was down to 23%. In the 2002 census, 8% out of 3 million plus people identified as Black while 80% said they were White. It is without a doubt that Puerto Rico is "the lightest country in the West Indies" but one can`t only determine race by only skin color as is done on the island. Truthfully speaking, Puerto Ricans are more Mulatto than Mestizo plus there also is a small surviving Amerindian Taino population even today. Blackness is acknowledged, though, but rarely in a positive light. The ones who do acknowledged it are mostly Black or dark-Mulatto and have been seen as less "Puerto Rican" due to the racial policies still practiced in PR and the relationship with the U.S.A. has played a huge part in the denial of Blackness. Even though native Boriquas like Ricky Martin and Mark Anthony have embraced the African element in Salsa music, Black history in Puerto Rico exists but it does not exist. However, thanks to some, Puerto Rico is starting to regain its memory letting the world know that there was an African past therefore influencing the present. Maybe one day, Puerto Rico can truly be the "Island of Enchantment". from the upcoming book, Afros All Over

 

HISTORICAL PAGES

AFRO-ECUARODIAN - Black History in Ecuador
Afro-Mexico - Black History in Mexico
Albizu - Tribute to Afro-Boriqua, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos
EL_BRUJO69 - History of African descended Religion, Santeria
Hispaniola2004 - History of island of Hispaniola (Haiti & Dominican Republic)
nuestraCULTURA - Dedication to Latin American culture
Afro-Latino - Dedication to the African Diaspora
MariposaLoicena - History of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico

 

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