What about Brazil’s neighbor, Argentina? Hundreds of thousands of Africans were brought there as well – yet, the black presence in Argentina has virtually vanished from the country’s records and consciousness. Others claim something more nefarious at work.
Tellingly, Sarmiento wrote in his diary in 1848: “In the United States… 4 million are black, and within 20 years will be 8 [million]…. What is [to be] done with such blacks, hated by the white race? Slavery is a parasite that the vegetation of English colonization has left attached to leafy tree of freedom.”
The CIA World Factbook currently notes that Argentina is 97 percent white (primarily comprising people descended from Spanish and Italian immigrants), thereby making it the “whitest” nation in Latin America. Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact.
Argentina’s Afro-descendant community has long struggled for recognition of its cultural contribution to the country. Now the Department of Human Rights has published a book entitled “Argentina’s African Roots: Visibility, Recognition and Rights,” which contains articles, pictures, poems, stories and testimonies that reflect the diversity of the country’s African-Argentine community. The book tells the stories of Africans brought to the shores as slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the hardships they have faced and the many contributions they have made to Argentina. The authors hope that the book will be adopted as a text in the nation’s schools and especially in history classes that have never even touched the issue. Leo Poblete reports from Buenos Aires for teleSUR.
No one in Argentina with black blood in their veins will admit to it.
Ironically, Argentina’s most famous cultural gift to the world – the tango – came from the African influence.
The Afro-Argentine Legacy of Tango w Facundo Posadas
“The first paintings of people dancing the tango are of people of African descent,” Gomes added.
According to Argentine national census of 2010 the total population was 40,117,096, of whom 149,493 (0.37%) identified as Afro-Argentine.
A woman by the name of Ms Lamadrid is fighting to alter the common belief that all blacks who live in Argentina are foreigners. In 1997 she founded Africa Vive, a non-governmental organisation that defends the rights of African descendants. She claims, that there are 1-2 million African descendants in Argentina.
Ms Lamadrid and Miriam Gomez, a history professor at the University of Buenos Aires, have dedicated themselves wholly to the NGO’s cause because “there is so much to do and very few people to do it.
Ms Gomez confirms that there are African roots in cultural activities that are still popular today such as Tango, the milonga and the candombe. Famous Afroargentines include the musician Jose Maria Morales and the poet Gabino Ezeiza.
However, the myth of the invisible Afroargentines is deep-rooted, as airport officials confirmed when they told Ms Lamadrid in 2002: “This can’t be your passport. There are no blacks in Argentina.” This attitude echoes prejudices that allegedly died out in the late 1800s, but have seemingly survived past the millennium. A court case on the issue produced no ruling.
Kizomba has also been described as the “African Tango”.
Due to the colonization of the Portuguese in Angola, and the presence of Cubans during the Civil War, other form of dances from Europe such as Tango, Plena from Puerto Rico brought by the Cuban also exist in Angola. These dances as well, influenced Kizomba, such as Cuban Son, Milonga, Tango and therefore Kizomba has also been described as the “African Tango.
Most Argentines, if you ask, will tell you: “In Argentina there are no black people”. So opens Afroargentines, a film which unearths the hidden history of black people in Argentina and their contributions to Argentine culture and society, from the slaves who fought in the revolutionary wars against Spain, to the contemporary struggles of black Argentines against racism and marginalization. The story that unfolds provides a counter narrative to the national myth of Argentina’s exclusively European heritage.
But there have been small breakthroughs as more investigations are carried out to trace African roots in Argentina. In 2006 the World Bank funded a pilot census that questioned 1,500 people from Buenos Aires and Santa Fe, a provincial capital. It revealed that 5% of Argentines recognize that they are African descendants; 20% were not sure. The genetics department of philosophy and social sciences of the university of Buenos Aires found that 4.3% of residents of the capital had traces of African genes. Ms Lamadrid said that they are scattered all over the country, claiming 5% living in San Telmo and about 3% in the province of Santa Fe.
History books used today in schools still perpetuate the myth that there are no Afroargentines, suggesting instead that they were all wiped out in the 1870s during the war in Paraguay and the yellow fever epidemic. True, many African male descendants were killed in the war but women and children survived. Similarly, yellow fever killed some, but not all.
Nowadays, in a culture that values blonde, blue-eyed people above all, one of the biggest problems facing the African population comes from within. Many people do not want to recognise their genuine roots because of the prejudices they may face. One friend of Ms Lamadrid’s, who is a successful lawyer, said the reason she keeps her ethnicity a secret is fear it would hurt her career prospects.
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