The African presence in Argentina is often denied and suppressed. "Liberty has no color" read the signs held outside a Buenos Aires city courthouse. However, Argentines are famous for saying, "no hay negros en Argentina, "there are no blacks in Argentina." Yet this is a country which first president, Bernardino Rivadavia, who was called the "Chocolate Dictator" by his political opponents, had Black ancestry.
Afro-Argentine Maria Lamadrid of Africa Vive
Maria Lamadrid, an Afro-Argentine, vividly recalls the day when her country's immigration authorities prevented her from boarding a plane for Panama, demanding she present them with a "real passport."
Argentina is generally considered the whitest country in South America — 97 percent, by some counts — possibly more ethnically European than immigrant-saturated Europe. There was once a large Afro-Argentine presence but it has faded over the epochs. Now, for the first time in a century and a half, Argentine descendants of African slaves are organizing and going public to assert their identity. During the colony, the Spanish authorities described as different "varieties" from "crossing" include those resulting from the union of Black African people with people of other ethnic origins. The names used were:
- Mulatto: Black and White parents.
- Morisco: Mulatto and White parents.
- Albino: Morisco and White parents.
- Quadroon: one-quarter Black ancestry/three-quarter White ancestry.
- Octoroon: one-eighth Black ancestry/seven-eighth White ancestry.
- Tercerón: White/Mulatto mixed, an octoroon.
- Quinterón: fifth-generation Black ancestry/one parent who is an octoroon and one White parent.
- Hexadecaroon: sixth-generation Black ancestry.
- Zambo: Black/Amerindian mixed.
- Zambo Prieto: Black/Amerindian mixed with predominant Black.
Socially, possess a "crossing" in the family tree was a macula. These classifications, and other common in the colonial culture, as "mestizo" or cholo, were used to stigmatize people and prevent their social advancement. In some cases, well-known historical personalities were found in this situation, as Bernardo de Monteagudo and Bernardino Rivadavia, were described as "mulatto".
There are nearly two million people of African descent in the country
Miriam Gomes, vice president of the Sociedad Argentina Caboverdeana
Domingo F. Sarmiento, who was president during the great yellow fever epidemic and the War of Paraguay, events to which is assigned the extermination of the Afro Argentine, had a strong racist position and argued the need to eliminate the black population. In 1848 he wrote all this in his diary during his trip to the United States.
|“||Slavery in the United States today is without question a possible solution; 4 million are black, and within 20 years will be 8. Rescue, who pays 1,000 million pesos worth? Libertos - or Freedmen, what is 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. Did it not dare to uproot the tree when it could, while leaving the dead, and the parasite has grown and threatens the whole tree gleaned?||”|
Years later the same Sarmiento wrote:
|“||I come to this happy Chamber of Deputies in Buenos Aires, where there are no gauchos, or black, or poor.||”|
—Cited by Ruchansky
Expressions of Sarmiento is an example of the attitude taken by the Argentine State after slavery was abolished by amending the census classifications so there is no record of their presence, eliminating the categories of people "black" or "brown", to merge it with other groups under the banner of "Trigueña."
Some of the few researchers in the situation of Afro Argentinians the end of the 19th century, have argued that his alleged posting by the European immigrants is not compatible with the fact the high rate of masculinity of the latter.
Non-European immigrants settled in large numbers in the northern provinces, where the population was predominantly black.
In 1887, the percentage of black population was officially calculated at 1.8% of the total. From that moment will not be registered in the census. The State's position was again made explicit at the time of the National Census of 1895 when its leaders said:
|“||Will soon be completely unified population forming a new and beautiful whites.||”|
Since then, and for nearly a century, in Argentina virtually no studies were conducted on the nature Afro Argentinians.
Afro-Argentines at a bonfire in San Juan -1938-A.G.N.
Beginning in the 1930s, large internal migration began to Buenos Aires and other urban centers to be integrated as factory workers in the industrialization process open then. Beginning in the 1940s, his presence was crowded and was disparagingly called for large sections of middle and upper class, "black heads."
Only in recent decades have there begun to appear research both historical and sociological aimed at the black population, with results that have been received with surprise and in some cases rejected by large segments.
In recent years, have multiplied the studies, activities and organizations related to population Afro Argentine. The overall result indicates a presence both physically and culturally far greater than that posed formally.
African influence in Argentine culture
Perhaps the most lasting effect of black influence in Argentina was the Tango, which charges some of the characteristics of the festivities and ceremonies that slaves developed in the so-called tango, meeting houses in which they are grouped with permission from their masters. Although not yet clearly demonstrated, it is considered that even the milonga (and dance) and chacarera draw on its influence, and the minstrel song, besides the fictitious dark Martín Fierro, the minstrels were famous Gabino Ezeiza and Higinio D. Cazón. The pianist and composer Rosendo Mendizabal, author of "El Entrerriano", was black, and Carlos Posadas, Enrique Maciel (author of the music of the waltz "La Pulpera de Santa Lucía"), Cayetano Silva, born in San Carlos (Uruguay) and author of the San Lorenzo march music, and Zenón Rolón, who wrote numerous academic music, funeral march as the Great in 1880 was run in honor of the LiberatorJosé de San Martín to be repatriated the remains.
The colloquial speech of Spanish in Argentina argues many black African terms, for example mine (synonymous with woman), maid, tripe, brothel, Marot, catinga, tamango, Mandingo and milonga, using many of them in the slang. In religion, in addition to the festivities of Carnival, the veneration of St. Benedict and St. Balthasar, the wise person black, still popularly revered in much of Corrientes, Chaco and north east of Santa Fe.
However, racism is still important. The terms black, bold, dark-haired and black head-directed towards people of another social class, but with a strong semantic content linked to race-are still used, though their victims are often people of Amerindian origin, and even of European origin.
Jimmy Santos An Afro-Argentine drummer and vocalist who is best known for his work in condombe, rock and jazz.
Poems by Afro-Argentinians
- In the midst of my people I am isolated,
- because where my cradle was rocked
- roughly over on its side,
- a breed of outcasts has remained
- and it is to that race which I belong.
- And we have no homeland, if it exists,
- It knew how to draft us from its breast;
- the charges that serve for a saddened man.
- And if we have but one right granted,
- It is surely the right to die.
- (1869) Horacio Mendizabal.
- Oh damned, damned, a thousand times
- you faithless white, your cruel remembrance
- is eternal hurt from your history
- (1878) Casilda Thompson.
- There are no more Negro bottlemen,
- nor porters
- or fruit-selling blacks,
- much less a fisherman;
- because those Neapolitans
- have even become pastry chefs
- and now want to rob us of
- the laundryman's trade.
- There are no more servants of my colour
- Because every one of them is a wop;
- Before long, by Jesus Christ!
- They'll be dancing the Zemba with a drum.
- Anonymous poet, probably from the late nineteenth century.
Below is a real academic work on how the Afro-Argentines sacrificed their lives in war to make Argentina safe for all the other race in its boundaries especially the whites and how they (blacks) were systematically decimated as a race.
Afro_Argentines in their traditional outfit
The phenomenon of the low numbers of Afro-Argentines in the twentieth-century population of the Republic of Argentina is sometimes referred to as the ‘‘riddle’’ of the disappearance of the Afro-Argentines, or even the ‘‘black genocide’’. Historiography on Afro-Argentines has concentrated almost entirely on their disappearance rather than on their existence in nineteenth-century Argentina. A vast problem when assessing the historiography of Afro-Argentines is the almost ubiquitous perception that they were the victims of history and that their ‘‘disappearance’’ was somehow inevitable. As such, analyses of their history frequently relate exclusively to their contribution to and acceptance within white culture, or to reasons for their alleged disappearance.
The demographic decline of the Afro-Argentines has variously been attributed to miscegenation, disease and warfare. George Reid Andrews sets out four principal reasons for the decline in the first chapter of his book: death and injury in wars, intermarriage, low birth rates and high mortality, and the decline in the slave trade. He later appends reclassification of black people as white or mestizo to the list. Indeed, reclassification has its origins in the early eighteenth century, when the Spanish monarchy instituted a system whereby a subject could purchase certificates of legal ‘‘whiteness’’ called gracias al sacar. Andrews argues that death had less to do with the perceived disappearance of Afro-Argentines than such reclassification, frequently as ‘‘triguen˜os,’’ and cultural prejudices.
These contributed to downplaying the contribution of black people to porten˜o culture and overlooking the patriotism and high level of integration of some black porten˜os. Andrew’s argument does pose the question that if Buenos Aires was such a racist society, how was it so easy for blacks to ‘‘pass’’ as mulattoes or even whites. We are left confused as to whether we are dealing with a rigidly stratified society or a situation of social fluidity, where people could redefine themselves ethnically in order to further their own economic interest.
Death in the army is frequently referred to as the primary reason for the demographic decline of Afro-Argentines. George Reid Andrews usefully reveals the fact that desertions massively outweighed deaths in Argentine armies; it was more convenient for historians and society in general to claim that these soldiers had died rather than deserted, and stayed alive. Daniel Scha´velzon adds that many Afro-Argentines’ response to their inferior situation was the most self-destructive response of all, suicide.
What is not emphasised enough in any of the five books is the effect of cessation of immigration from Africa on the survival of the Afro-Argentines as a recognisable social group in the face of mass immigration from Europe
One glaring void in the various theories that seek to explain the ‘‘disappearance’’ of Afro-Argentines is their obvious failure to account for a substantial proportion of the entire population of Afro-Argentines. That is, Afro-Argentine women, who did not fight in these wars, and many of whom in the mid-nineteenth century could be found engaged in the patently non-hazardous pursuit of doing the laundry for the city of Buenos Aires.
This points to the prevalence of inter-marriage and immigration in accounting for the small number of dark-skinned inhabitants of the port city and its surroundings in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Liboreiro does hint at this point when she states that because immigration did not continue from Africa, Afro-Argentines were forced to intermarry, even if they did not choose to do so. This intermarriage is directly related to the absence of black men with whom black women could have procreated, as so many of them were engaged, or killed, in battle. Furthermore, for an Afro-Argentine woman, having children with a non-Afro father would improve her children’s prospects in bonaerense society, provided the children distanced themselves from their Afro-Argentine roots. Marvin A. Lewis claims that interethnic unions were not frowned upon by the black population, because of the low status of blackness in society.
He later contradicts himself, claiming that they fought this trend, in an illustrative glorification of the community’s press: ‘‘They waged a constant battle against biological extermination through miscegenation.’’
Argentina’s black people were the subject of a concerted policy by the government, with the compliance of many intellectuals, to apply pseudo-scientific racism to population planning. Lewis indicates that there was a political connection between the late nineteenth-century rise in the white population of Buenos Aires, due to the arrival of immigrants from Europe, and the concurrent decline in the population of African origin. In
1869, the proportion of the national population who were of African origin was registered as 26.1%; in 1895, it was 1.8%. Marvin A. Lewis mentions this interface in passing, though he sees it as integral in their demise as a recognisable social group: ‘‘The argument of national identity first and the individual afterward was effective in destroying Afro-Argentine continuity while Germans, Italians and British progressed with their identities intact.’’
Solomianski provides a more comprehensive analysis of the effect of European immigration on the Afro-Argentine community, seeing it as the most decisive factor in the ‘‘the dilution of the social reference group’’ of Afro-Argentines. He considered the increase in associative activity and the proliferation of newspapers in the community as a reaction to the threat posed by successive waves of European immigration. Immigrants did edge slaves, and then free Afro-Argentines, out of their traditional employment as artisans or in agriculture. At the turn of the century, according to Scha´velzon, 37% of free and enslaved agricultural labourers were of African origin. Another area where immigrants ultimately replaced Afro-Argentines was in music and dance.
Military service figured in the life of almost every Afro-Argentine man. General Jose´de San Martı´n’s Army of the Andes had two exclusively black battalions, the Hunter Battalions 7 and 8, who fought in the battles of Chacabuco, Cancha Rayada and Maypu´ . Solomianski mentions the 700 African slaves who fought during the British invasion ofBuenos Aires in 1806 and 1807, along with other Afro-Argentines who were already enlisted in regiments at the time of the invasion. Andrews claims that of the 5,000 people who defended Buenos Aires in 1807, 876 were in the Corps of Indios, Pardos and Morenos. Liboreiro highlights a less positive contribution of the Afro-Argentines to Argentine history in the participation of some Afro-Argentines in General Julio A. Roca’s expedition of extermination against indigenous people in Patagonia in 1879, the
infamous ‘‘Campan˜ a al Desierto.’’
Gabino Ezeiza, nicknamed "Black Ezeiza" (February 3, 1858 – October 12, 1916), was an Argentine musician.
Liboreiro emphasises the presence of Afro-Argentines in the battles of Caseros, Cepeda and Pavo´n in the 1850s and early 1860s, a time of civil war in Argentina, when Buenos Aires had seceded from the Confederation of the thirteen remaining Argentine provinces. She does not however analyse their involvement in these battles, thus failing to enlighten the reader on the nature of their activity. One of the few celebrated AfroArgentines is ‘‘El Negro Falucho’’, a soldier of the River Plate Regiment of the Army of the Andes in 1824. Solomianski points out that this entire story, of a submissive but patriotic black soldier, may have simply been an invention of Bartolome´ Mitre’s in 1857.
Afro-Argentine woman and his son
Blacks in Argentina: Disappearing Acts
by Hishaam Aidi
When songstress Josephine Baker visited Argentina in the 1950s she asked the biracial minister of public health Ramon Carilio, “Where are the Negroes?” to which Carilio responded, laughing, “There are only two – you and I.”
Scholars have long pondered the “disappearance” of people of African descent from Argentina, long considered South America’s “whitest” nation. A 1973 article in Ebony asked, “what happened to Argentina’s involuntary immigrants, those African slaves and their mulatto descendants who once outnumbered whites five to one, and who were for 250 years ‘an important element’ in the total population, which is now 97 percent white?”
One history book calls the country’s lack of self-identifying black people “one of the most intriguing riddles in Argentine history,” while another notes that “the disappearance of the Negro from the Argentine scene has puzzled demographers far more than the vanishing Indian.” Was the Afro-Argentine community annihilated by disease and war, or absorbed into the larger white community?
Afro-Argentine girl of Cape Verdean ancestry
Of course, whiteness itself is relative. Many Argentines who proudly consider themselves white come to America and are shocked to find that in American racial discourse they are considered “Latino,” “Hispanic” or vaguely “Spanish” and not white. Says Paula Brufman, an Argentine law student and researcher, “Argentines like to think of themselves as a white nation populated by Europeans. I was surprised when in the US, people – especially Latinos – told me I was not white but Spanish.”
Today in Argentina, there is a growing interest in the country’s African past and Afro community, “la communidad Afro,” as it’s called. The past decade has seen black clubhouses, religious institutions and dance clubs crop up in the capital, Buenos Aires. A group called Africa Vive (Africa Lives), made up of Afro-Argentines, has spearheaded the campaign to raise awareness of the country’s Afro-culture and history. At the Durban UN Conference on Racism, Africa Vive presented a widely circulated study about the socioeconomic situation of Afro-Argentines. The report documented the high unemployment and difficulties with naturalization that many blacks in Argentina encounter.
“Minorities in Argentina – indigenous, Afro, et cetera – suffer from a problem of invisibility and poor organization,” says Mercedes Moschl of the Buenos Aires City’s Human Rights Commission, who worked with Africa Vive on the aforementioned report, as part of the municipal government’s “Right to Identity” initiative.
Afro-Argentine Higinio D. Cazón (1866 - 1914) was a musician and Songwriter. His minstrel activity led to many parts of the Republic, but the preferred center of their performances was in Buenos Aires and the people of this province.
So, how many people in Argentina today can claim African ancestry? The numbers are themselves difficult to calculate, says Alejandro Frigerio, an anthropologist at the Universidad Catolica de Buenos Aires. “People of mixed ancestry are often not considered black in Argentina, historically, because having black ancestry was not considered proper. Today the term ‘negro’ is used loosely on anyone with slightly darker skin, but they can be descendants of indigenous Indians, Middle Eastern immigrants. People in Africa Vive say there are a million ‘afrodescendientes’ in Argentina. Although many people are not aware that they may have had a black great-grandmother or –father, I think that this is an overestimation. I would estimate that there are 2 or 3 thousand Afro-Argentines, descendants of slaves, ‘negros criollas,’ 8 to 10 thousand in the Cape Verdean community, most born in Argentina, and I’d add another 1,200 Brazilian, Uruguayan, Cuban and African communities.”
Created in 1996, Africa Vive has reached out to Afro-Argentine leaders with the aim of creating an organization that can battle poverty in Afro-Latino communities. It has single-handedly brought media and the mainstream’s attention to the plight and legacy of Afro-Argentines.
“different groups have emerged, including Grupo Cultural Afro and SOS Racismo, but Africa Vive is probably the most important group that has rekindled interest in things African in Argentina,” says Frigerio. “It is the main group composed of Afro-Argentines, descendants of the original Afro-Argentine population. Africa Vive has successfully drawn the media’s attention – they organized a conference against discrimination at the University of Buenos Aires in 1999, and were written up in an eight-page article in the daily Clarin. The article was significant because for the first time in almost thirty years, the term ‘Afro-Argentine community’ was used, instead of ‘black’ community.”
Frigerio continues: “Last September, these black groups, led by Africa Vive, convinced a national deputy to organize a ceremony in memory of black soldiers who died fighting for Argentina’s independence. The event took place in one of the traditional halls of the National Congress and was attended by the commander-in-chief of the army and the head of state. The national deputy spoke in honor of the fallen black soldiers and then awarded honorary degrees to the heads of several black organizations. It was quite remarkable that such an event could take place in Argentina.”
War heroism, in fact, is one reason Argentina lags so far behind in recognizing its people of African descent. Even after the official abolition of slavery, many blacks were still slaves and were granted manumission only by fighting in Argentina’s wars, serving disproportionately in the war of independence against Spanish rule and border wars against Paraguay from 1865 to 1870. Blacks were also granted their freedom if they joined the army, but they were deliberately placed on the front line and used as cannon fodder. Historian Ysabelle Rennie notes that the government deliberately placed as many blacks as possible in “dangerous military service” and sent them into battle “where they got killed off fighting Indians (another race Argentines were interested in exterminating).”
Argentine sociologist Gino Germani chalks up the “disappearance” to racist immigration policies, saying that the nation’s “primary and explicit objective” was to “modify substantially the composition of the population,” to “Europeanize the Argentine population, produce a regeneration of races.” Marvin A. Lewis, author of Afro-Argentine Discourse: Another Dimension of the Black Diaspora, concurs, saying that “there was an official, concerted effort to eliminate the blacks from Argentine society.”
Many have argued that people of African descent simply “disappeared” by mingling into the waves of thousands of European immigrants. Argentine historian Mariano Bosch wrote in 1941 that Italian men had “perhaps an atavistic preference for black women: body odor led them to matrimony and the blacks accepted them as whites,” or rather, “almost whites, because the Italian has much African in him, and his color is a dull pale.”
Afro-Argentine Enrique Maciel-was a versatile and sensitive composer, lyricist, and harmonium, piano, bandoneon and guitar performer. The latter is the instrument that identified him permanently in the memory of tango listeners.
“There is a silence about the participation of Afro-Argentines in the history and building of Argentina, a silence about the enslavement and poverty,” adds Paula Brufman. “The denial and disdain for the Afro community shows the racism of an elite that sees Africans as undeveloped and uncivilized. . . . The poverty in the Afro community was terrible. Although slavery was abolished in 1813, the death rate of freed blacks was always higher than that of white people and of slaves. Why is that? Because in Buenos Aires, slaves were very expensive, so the masters took real good care of them. Once a black got his freedom, his living standards collapsed even further.”
The past few years, however, have seen a growing interest among young Argentines of all backgrounds in Afro-Argentine culture – in tango, the dance and music with such strong West African roots, and other dances such as the milonga, the Zambia and the malambo. For this, many thank immigrants from other parts of South America.
“Afro-Uruguayan and Afro-Brazilian migrants to Buenos Aires have been instrumental in expanding black culture – teaching Afro-Uruguayan candombe, Afro-Brazilian capoeira, orisha and secular dances to white Argentines,” says Frigerio, who has written of various Afro-Argentine cultural movements, including dancing saloons owned by blacks, carnival societies and black newspapers. One such dancing saloon, “The Shimmy Club,’ was founded in 1922 and lasted until 1974.
Afro-Argentine international reggae superstar Fidel Nadal
Frigerio believes the newfound interest in Afro-Argentine culture is not only the result of immigration but also of a new state policy. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Argentina was ruled by a succession of military juntas who suppressed and almost eradicated black culture. “The military dictatorships from 1966 onwards prohibited or severely constrained the gathering of people in the street or in closed spaces – a practice which certainly negatively influenced carnivals, which almost disappeared; tango dancing, which died out until it was revitalized in the 1990s; and also black dance clubs such as The Shimmy Club. All genres of popular culture severely suffered during the dictatorships and many almost disappeared, but began resurfacing in the 1990s.”
Still, he cautions against too much optimism regarding race in Argentina. “The new laws and institutes help celebrate ethnic diversity and help groups like Africa Vive emerge and operate,” Frigerio says, “but they have not undermined the dominant national narrative of racial homogeneity and whiteness.” While the racial situation is much better today than it was half a century ago – when a review of Josephine Baker’s performance wrote of her “monkey rhythm” – Frigerio says that “today blacks are more exoticized than stigmatized. . . . What scholar Livio Sansone said of Brazil, we can say of Argentina: there are hard and soft areas of racism, or areas in which it may be advantageous or disadvantageous to be black. In Buenos Aires, being black is advantageous in finding a girl/boyfriend, but less so for finding a job, unless the person is a musician or dance professor.” source:http://www.columbia.edu/~ha26/afro-latino/blacks_in_argentina.htm