|Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2013-06-17 00:27Z by Steven|
International Business Times
New York, New York
Palash Ghosh, Senior Writer, World
Tens of millions of black Africans were forcibly removed from their homelands from the 16th century to the 19th century to toil on the plantations and farms of the New World. This so-called “Middle Passage” accounted for one of the greatest forced migrations of people in human history, as well as one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever witnessed.
Millions of these helpless Africans washed ashore in Brazil—indeed, in the present-day, roughly one-half of the Brazilian population trace their lineage directly to Africa. African culture has imbued Brazil permanently and profoundly, in terms of music, dance, food and in many other tangible ways.
But 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…
…But blacks did not really vanish from Argentina – despite attempts by the government to eliminate them (partially by encouraging large-scale immigration in the late 19th and 20th century from Europe and the Near East). Rather, they remain a hidden and forgotten part of Argentine society.
Hishaam Aidi, a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, wrote on Planete Afrique that in the 1950s, when the black American entertainer Josephine Baker arrived in Argentina, she asked the mixed-race minister of public health, Ramón Carilio: “Where are the Negroes?” In response, Carilio joked: “There are only two—you and I.”
As in virtually all Latin American societies where blacks mixed with whites and with local Indians, the question of race is extremely complex and contentious.
“People of mixed ancestry are often not considered ‘black’ in Argentina, historically, because having black ancestry was not considered proper,” said Alejandro Frigerio, an anthropologist at the Universidad Catolica de Buenos Aires, according to Planete Afrique.
“Today the term ‘negro’ is used loosely on anyone with slightly darker skin, but they can be descendants of indigenous Indians [or] Middle Eastern immigrants.”
AfricaVive, a black empowerment group founded in Buenos Aires in the late 1990s, claimed that there are 1 million Argentines of black African descent in the country (out of a total population of about 41 million). A report in the Washington Post even suggested that 10 percent of Buenos Aires’ population may have African blood (even if they are classified as “whites” by the census).
“People for years have accepted the idea that there are no black people in Argentina,” Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, who is part black herself, told the Post.
“Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact. But where did that leave me?”
She also explained that almost no one in Argentina with black blood in their veins will admit to it.
“Without a doubt, racial prejudice is great in this society, and people want to believe that they are white,” she said. “Here, if someone has one drop of white blood, they call themselves white.“…
Read the entire article here.