Against the Current: Collective works on State Violence, identity and Resistance

The History of the African Diaspora in Latin America

Similar to the United States, Latin America has a complex and long running history with slavery and colonization. Usually, when learning about the Middle Passage and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, we learn about the mass migration of enslaved Africans from West Africa to the United States and the development of a racialized class structure in the United States that still exists today. 

The majority of enslaved Africans, however, were not brought to the United States. More than 7 million enslaved Africans were brought to Latin America and Hispaniola. As a result of this mass migration, we see many patterns of syncretic language and cultural developments that can be paralleled to the same developments in parts of the United States with a deeply rooted history of African migration. Dialectic differences amongst Latin American countries arose as a result of the heavy influences of African language in nations with a large African population. In many nations, such as Puerto Rico, Africans were assigned to a role of second class citizenship as a result of slave codes instituted by the Spanish and French, and, as a result, a cyclical pattern of oppression that still exists today was established in many Latin American nations. To this day, descendants of the African diaspora throughout Latin America face a unique form of oppression due to their ancestry, and issues, such as racism and misogynoir, plague Latin America in a similar way that they manifest themselves in the United States. 

The African diaspora in Latin America also gave rise to various cultural practices that are still widely practiced throughout its nations. For example, religious beliefs such as Santeria in Cuba and Vodun in Haiti have survived centuries of orchestrated resistance from European colonial powers. In an attempt to preserve these West African traditions, Africans in Latin America syncretized, or blended, the African traditions with respectable models of worship such as Catholicism. Music and food are also examples of the African diaspora's effect on Latin America. This complex history of African influence in Latin America complicates our understanding of what Afro-Latinidad is and what it's implications are for the present day. Now, more and more people are beginning to complicate the idea of race and what Latinidad really means. Because of Latin America's deep ties to the African diaspora, a large population of Latin American has developed language to better identify themselves. Scholars and activists have come to accept the term Afro Latinx as a piece of gender inclusive terminology that acknowledges both their Latinidad and their blackness. Although not yet an immensely popular term, Afro-Latinxs use the term as an assertion of power and a rejection of anti-Blackness in Latin America. By identifying as Afro-Latinx, these individuals are slowly undoing the work of colonialism and cherishing the African roots which continue to be erased from accounts of Latin American history. 


Continue to: Afro-Latinx & Black Feminist Movement

This page references:

  1. Slavery in the Carribean
  2. Los Palos
  3. Puerto Rico Slavery