Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Afrikan Heritage in Latin America

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African Americans escaping enslavement in the United States were welcomed into Mexico.
The following is taken from the Nubiart Diary. Many thanks to Brotha K. for this research.

NUBIART EDITORIAL: Editorial Pt 1 Following Chief Lola Ayorinde repeating her view that Afrikans outside Afrika are no longer Afrikan, both Nubiart shows were dedicated to the Afrikan diaspora in places where it doesn’t get much coverage. In the first half of midweek Nubiart, we looked at the western diaspora and in the second half, at the eastern diaspora. Nubiart welcomes equally well-documented research that supports the stance of Chief Lola Ayorinde and her fellow travelers.
Mexico – We started with an article called ‘African Roots Stretch Deep in Mexico’ by Roberto Rodriquez and Patrisia Gozales. The article came with photos of a man and woman (who may be the authors) and confirms their Afrikan identity. This article supports ‘Mexico Welcomed Fugitive Slaves and African American Job-Seekers: New Perspectives On The Immigration Debate’ by Ron Wilkins of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition which we read out on the show a month ago.
Afrikans still live in Mexico, mainly in Veracruz and the Costa Chica in Guerrero and Oaxaca states. The groundbreaking scholar on this issue is Aguirre Beltran, who published ‘The Black Population of Mexico’ in 1946. Afrikans had first lived in Yucatan, Michoacan, Tlaxcala, Mexico, Chiapas, Veracruz, Guerrero and Oaxaca but moved around the country to work in mining, textiles, ranching, fishing and agriculture.
“The first documented slave rebellion in Mexico occurred in 1537; this was followed by the establishment of various runaway slave settlements called ‘palenques’…In 1608, Spaniards negotiated the establishment of a free black community with Yagna, a runaway rebel slave. Today that community in Veracruz bears its founder’s name.”
The Afrikan, Vicente Guerrero, Mexico’s second President, abolished slavery in 1822 (143 years before the US civil rights movement). “In the summer of 1850, the Mascogos, composed of runaway slaves and free blacks from Florida, along with the Seminoles and Kikapus, fled south from the United States, to the Mexican border state of Coahuila. Accompanying the Seminoles were also ‘Black Seminoles’ – slaves who had been freed by the tribe after battles against white settlers in Florida. The three groups eventually settled the town of El Nacimento, Coahuila, where many of their descendants remain.”
There are Afrikan instruments in Mexico that are played by the indigenous peoples. More information is available from: www.afromexico.org
Venezuela – Humberto Marquez wrote ‘Venezuela: 150 Years After Abolishment of Slavery, Racism Persists’, from Caracas on Mar 23, 2004. Mar 24 is marked in Venezuela as the abolition of slavery in 1854. At the time, there were 25,000 slaves in a population close to 1 million. It is estimated the free Afrikan population in Venezuela at that time was 400,000. Slaveholders were indemnified for their loss with 200 pesos for each slave. However, the total of 5 million pesos was more than the state budget of 3 million pesos and their claims were never paid as civil war broke out (1859-64).
The main centres of Afrikan population are Caracas, Maracay-Valencia and Maracaibo. The insults heaped on Hugo Chavez, who is of mixed Indian and Afrikan ancestry, give an idea of the general treatment and attitude of many Venezuelans to Afrikans. Many are spurred on by US racism and the media, which includes the notorious monkey noises which TV station Globovision made over footage of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe when he was in the country to attend a Group of 15 summit in February 2004. This brought a statement of protest from the Ambassadors of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the Saharawi Republic (Western Sahara), Nigeria and South Afrika. The station’s managers justified their coverage by saying that the Afrikan ambassadors didn’t understand Venezuelan humour!!!
Colombia РOn Tues night, we attended the Colombian Solidarity meeting with Jorge Isaac Aramburo Garcia & Maria Encina Valencia Córdoba, members of Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN - Black Communities Process), who have been visiting Europe for the last two months. Maria has been a teacher for 24 years and concentrates on giving advice and support and the promotion of culture. She believes that music and dance are central to the struggle. She kicked off the evening with a song of solidarity to stop children lamenting that their parents did not struggle for a better life. We have to answer to history.
Jorge Garcia claims Mandinke forebears from the west coast of Afrika and so wants to be called Naca Mandinka. Their forebears were dominated by imperialism and they are now dominated by the Colombian state. They want an autonomous state on Colombia’s Pacific coast to live their culture.
Afrikans make up 26% of Colombia’s 45 million people – 11 million. Colombia is third after Brazil and the US in terms of the size of its Afrikan community, yet their history and culture has never been properly documented or promoted. They were never allowed to return to Afrika and slavemasters separated those from the same region or language group to stop rebellions.This led to the loss of their language and culture so NM is frustrated that he cannot speak an Afrikan language.There are 83 groups in their network covering arts, students, farmers, politics and the environment. They areunited by the struggle for the right to their identity and also work with Mestizos. 4 million Afrikans are organised along these lines.They demand the right to self-determination and control of any project that affects them as part of their campaign for reparations for the crimes of slavery.
They helped the Creoles in their fight for freedom but when independence came, it only benefited the Creoles. European nations supplied Bolivar’s army but Haiti played the biggest part but when the independence celebrations came, Europeans were invited but not the Afrikan Haitians.
The 1991 Constitution said Colombia was a plural ethnic society and Afrikans are using this to gain recognition. But the Colombian state is promoting uniculture. “Every culture has its own concept of what is necessary for its evelopment.” They refuse to integrate in to the dominant culture. Discrimination has a double sense – that which is equal is treated differently and that which is different is treated equally. “A pig doesn’t eat dog food.”
Justice and reparations is a law of impunity, as people won’t find out the truth of what happened. In the past, there was the slave triangle, now there is the triangle of multinationals, paramilitaries and the multinational inland theft. He called for a human rights mission to report on the mistreatment of Afrikans and for groups in Europe to denounce attacks on them as Colombian media doesn’t do it as it is controlled by the state. In Durban 2000, they struggled to get slavery recognised as a crime against humanity, but the perpetrators left the room when reparations came up, showing their racist ideology.
MC said that education in Colombia has negated Afrikan-Colombian identity, making them out to be ugly and brutish. Afrikans mix with whites and mestizos, claiming they want to ‘improve the race’. PCN wants education that generates autonomy, equal pay, gender equality and justice. They stressed the importance of ending discrimination against women at home, school and work. Illiteracy is 40% in rural areas.
NM said the 1991 law legitimised what was already standard Afrikan-Colombian practice. Pacific lands are common lands, but this was interpreted as empty lands, allowing multinationals to move in and claim them. Afrikan-Colombians didn’t have an instrument to resist this, but Law 70 passed in 1993 should allow them some defence. They are also using International Labour Organisation Article 69 which promotes the rights of indigenous people.
Slavery still continues. In Choco, workers are not paid wages, but given vouchers that they can only use in the landowners' shops. Choco is the poorest region in Colombia but has the most Afrikans. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and sub-Saharan Afrika is the poorest region in the world. This is not because of divine providence but the institution of racism. The racism is also present in meetings they go to outside Colombia, where women and indigenous issues make it to the final recommendations but the Afrikans rights don’t get mentioned. He urged the left to be modern and accept that capitalism, while global, impacts and manifests differently at a local level.
They both stressed the importance of Afrikan links and would like to unite with other diaspora groups on projects in Afrika especially in the fields of education and medicine. In Colombia, healthcare is is provided by private agencies, so it is effectively privatised. PCN is setting up health collectives but, although they are recognised by central government, they do not have the resources to really make an impact. They will be looking to make links with Cuba and their Latin American School of Medicine although there are no Cuban doctors in Colombia at present. There are links between Colombia and Cuba’s Ministries of Education.
MC rounded off the talk with two songs about exploitation among workers and people who migrate from rural to urban areas only to find that life is harder there and so return to their home region.

See also: 2007 Commemoration; Maafa Photographs; Soul Survivors.

NUBIART PODCASTS NOW AVAILABLE: ‘What Is Beauty?’, looking at attitudes to hair, skin bleaching, relationships and Afrikan identity. You can downloadthis now at: www.soundradio1503.wordpress.com

NB: Nubiart Diary can also be read weekly at www.ligali.org and on the Afrikan Quest website.
Keywords: Afrikan identity; Afrikan heritage; Latin American; slavery; Black history

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