Afro-Latin American

From Academic Kids

An Afro-Latin American is a Latin American person who is, at least in part, of African heritage or lineage. Concepts of "Black" or "African" often differ in Latin America from those held in English speaking nations.

Africans first arrived with the Spanish and Portuguese with Columbus. For example, Pedro Alonso Nino was a navigator in the 1492 expedition. Africans arrived in Latin America mostly as part of the Atlantic slave trade to provide labor. Also, they were employed in mapping and exploration (for example, Estevanico); and were even involved in conquest (for example, Juan Garrido and Juan Valiente). They were mostly brought from the West African nations of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire and Morocco. There was also an existing African diaspora born in Spain and Portugal. Most of the slaves were delivered to Brazil and the Caribbean. The rest were brought in small proportions to Central America and other areas of South America. Countries with large black populations include Brazil, Panama, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

The mix of these African cultures with the Spanish, Portuguese, indigenous and other cultures of Latin America has produced many unique forms of language (eg. Palenquero), religion (eg. Candomblé), music (eg. salsa) and dance (eg. the tango). Some of these cultural expressions are now pervasive in Latin America.



Brazil has the largest black population of any country outside of Africa. Blacks and mulattoes in Brazil make up almost half the population. The largest concentration of Brazilian Africans are in the state of Bahia where over 80% of the people are black. In 1976 a study was conducted in Brazil to see how people identify themselves and the result reflects the complication of identity, with 134 distinct terms including descriptions like Bem-clara (translucent), Malaia (from Malabar) and Morena-roxa (purplish-tan).


Colombia's blacks make up 21% (mulatto 14%, pure blacks 4%, and zambos 2%) of the population, mostly concentrated on the northwest coast and in such departments as Chocó. Not all mulattos and zambos define themselves by their ethnic and racial origins, though many are apparently increasingly beginning to do so. There is no legal segregation and blacks are constitutionally entitled to exactly the same rights as the rest of the population. In practice, it has been argued by observers that Black Colombians may often encounter a noticeable degree of passive racial discrimination and prejudice, as a socio-cultural leftover from colonial times. Many of their traditional settlements around the Pacific coast have remained underdeveloped, for the most part. Black Colombians are affected by Colombia's ongoing internal conflict, both as victims of violence and displacement and also as members of armed factions, such as the FARC and the AUC. Despite these problematic issues, Black Colombians have been able to overcome prejudices and have played a role in contributing to the development of certain aspects of Colombian culture. For example, several of Colombia's musical genres, such as cumbia, have African origins or influences.


Main article: Afro-Cuban

Most Cubans (65%) are mulattoes; an additional 11% are pure blacks. Black Cubans were brought from the Yoruba and Congolese people of West Africa as slaves to work on the sugar cane fields. The slaves did not lose their culture, but practiced it in secret. Most dances out of Cuba such as Mambo, Salsa, Son, Santeria voodoo chanting, and Rumba are mostly African in origin.

Dominican Republic

Around 84% of the Dominican Republic's people have some African blood: 76% are mulattoes and 11% are pure black. Dominican blacks were brought as slaves in large proportions from West Africa to sugar cane plantations on the island. Blacks from Dominican Republic and Haiti are in the majority along the border between the two countries, and that is also where the pure blacks are mainly concentrated. Dominican culture is greatly effected by African tradition. The music, religion, language, food, and dress of the Dominican people have very noticeable African roots.


Main article: Afro-Ecuadorian


Main article: Afro-Mexican


Panama has the largest black population in Central America. Most Black Panamanians live on the Caribbean coast and are of West Indian heritage. The West Indians (mostly Jamaicans) came to the country to help build the Panama Canal. The rest of the population are of pure African, mulatto, or mixed black and Kuni Indian heritage. Panamanian language and music is Spanish with a West Indian accent. One popular music genre which appears to have started in Panama and has started to find great success in the United States is Spanish-language reggae. Called reggaetón, it blends Caribbean Spanish styles with the Caribbean English styles. The actual percentage of blacks in Panama is unclear but it is somewhere in the range of between 14% and 42%.

Puerto Rico

Almost all Puerto Ricans have some African lineage. The actual racial statistics of Puerto Rico are not known, but research indicates that close to 10% of Puerto Rico's population are pure blacks, with most of the island's population being mulattoes or mulatto mixed with Native American lineage. Most pure blacks in Puerto Rico are found in the Northern Coastal area (especially in the towns Loiza, Guayama,and Ponce).The music (bomba) and (plena) of Puerto Rico are Afro Latin genres danced to during parties and African derived festivals. Most Black boricuas are descended of African slaves brought from the Yoruba people of Nigeria.


Black Venezuelans make up 10% of the population. Many of these Venezuelans live in small slum-like towns called campos. Afro-Venezuelans are descended from African slaves and West Indian immigrants. They have kept their traditions and culture alive especially through music. President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez has been said to have african blood.

Other parts of Central America

The blacks of Central America are few in number and are found mostly in coastal cities. The blacks of Guatemala (5%) and Honduras (3%) are of mainly Garifuna heritage. The Garifuna people are descended from African slaves brought from Ghana who later mixed with Carib Indians. The Guarifinu live in small secluded villages and preserve their culture. The blacks of Nicaragua (9%) and Costa Rica (3%) are of West Indian heritage (mainly Jamaican) who were brought over as slaves to work on banana plantations. Black Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans are noticeable because they speak Creole, Spanish, and have West Indian accents.

Other parts of South America

Most other South American countries do not have large black populations. For example, Uruguay (4%), Argentina (3%), Bolivia 1% and Chile (1%) all have very small populations of blacks who have preserved some of their culture, but have taken in the larger culture which is the broader Latin American culture. Ecuador (3%) and Peru (3%) are another group of South American countries with Blacks, but these African descendants have preserved their culture and live in predominately Afro-Ecuadorian or Afro-Peruvian neighborhoods or towns. The province of Esmeralda in Ecuador is over 70% mulatto or pure Black.

See also

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