Afro-Latin American

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Afro-Latin American

caption = Notable Afro-Latin Americans
Ronaldinho·Pelé·Arturo Alfonso Schomburg·Gabino Ezeiza
pop = Sub Saharan African >100,000,000 Latin Americans *Figure excludes Belize, Guyana, Suriname, or non-Romance-speaking areas of the Caribbean
region1 = flagcountry|Brazil
pop1 = 82.7 million
region2 = flagcountry|Colombia
pop2 = 9.3 million
region3 = flagcountry|Haiti
pop3 = 8.2 million
region4 = flagcountry|Dominican Republic
pop4 = 3.0-4.0 million
region5 = flagcountry|Cuba
pop5 = 3.9 million
region6 = flagcountry|Venezuela
pop6 = 2.6-7.0 million
region7 = flagcountry|Peru
pop7 = 0.87 million
region8 = flagcountry|Ecuador
pop8 = 0.41 million
region9 = flagcountry|Mexico
pop9 = 0.2 million
region10 = flagcountry|Honduras
pop10 = 0.15 million
region11 = flagcountry|Puerto Rico
pop11 = 0.7 million
region12 = flagcountry|Nicaragua
pop12 = 0.52 million
region13 = flagcountry|Costa Rica
pop13 = 0.12 million
region14 = flagcountry|Panama
pop14 = 0.46 million
region15 = flagcountry|Guatemala
pop15 = 0.26 million
region16 = flagcountry|Uruguay
pop16 = 0.13 million
region17 =
pop17 =
region18 =
pop18 =
region = All other areas
languages = Portuguese, Spanish, and several creoles
religions = Predominantly Christian (mainly Roman Catholic); minorities practicing Judaism,
Islam, or no religion
related = sub-Saharan, African American, Afro-European

An Afro-Latin American (also Afro-Latino) is a Latin American person of at least partial Black African ancestry; the term may also refer to historical or cultural elements in Latin America thought to emanate from this community. [ [ The American Heritage Book of English Usage.] "Latino" discussed.] The term can refer to the mixing of African and other cultural elements found in Latin American society such as religion, music, language, the arts and social class.

The term "Afro Latin American", as used in this article refers specifically to black African ancestry and not to European colonial or Afro-Arab ancestry, such as Arab Moroccan or white South African ancestry. [ [ Names and Labels]
See also [] for discussion which describes the application of "Afro" to a term.
] The term is not widely used in Latin America outside of academic circles. Normally Afro Latin Americans are called "black" (in Spanish "negro", in Portuguese "negro" or "preto"). More commonly, when referring to cultural aspects of African origin within specific countries of Latin America, terms carry an Afro- prefix followed by the relevant nationality. Notable examples include Afro-Cuban (Spanish:"Afro Cubano") [ [] ] and Afro-Brazilian; [ [ Museu AfroBrasil] ] however, usage varies considerably from nation to nation.

The accuracy of statistics reporting on Afro-Latin Americans has been questioned, especially where they are derived from census reports in which the subjects choose their own designation, due to the fact that in all countries the concept of black ancestry is viewed with differing attitudes.

In the United States African Latinos are included in the Hispanic population, along with whites, Amerindians, mestizo, etc.

Of a total Latin American population of 549,549,000, an estimated 100 million are Afro Latin-American. [ CIA - The World Factbook - Field Listing - Ethnic groups] [Latin America#Racial Origins] Approximately 5% of the Latin American population self-identify, or are classified by census takers, as being primarily of black ancestry. A further 16% of the population is mulatto, while Zambos are a small minority. By combining all three, another definition of Afro-Latin American is arrived at, one that in Latin America would be widely considered overly broad. (In fact, it would more resemble the one drop rule commonly accepted in the United States). By such a definition, about one-fourth of Latin America's population would be African Latin American. Another fairly large minority probably has at least some black African ancestry.


People of African origin probably first arrived in the Americas with the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. For example, Pedro Alonso Niño, traditionally considered the first of many New World explorers of African descent [cite book |author=Henry Louis Gates Jr., Nellie Y. McKay |title=The Norton Anthology African American Literature |publisher=W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. |location=500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 |year=1997 |pages=2665 |isbn=0-8133-0071-1 |oclc= |doi=] was a navigator in the 1492 Columbus expedition. Those who were directly from Africa mostly arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as agricultural, domestic, and menial laborers and as mineworkers. They were also employed in mapping and exploration (for example, Estevanico) and were even involved in conquest (for example, Juan Valiente). They were mostly brought from West Africa and Central Africa in what are now the nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Angola, and Congo, There are three major groups: the Yoruba, Akan, and the Bantu. Most of the slaves were sent to Brazil, Peru, and the Caribbean, but lesser numbers went to Colombia and Venezuela. Countries with significant black, mulatto, or zambo populations today include Brazil (86 million), Colombia (10 million), Haiti (8.7 million), Dominican Republic (8 million), Cuba (up to 4 million), and Puerto Rico (20%-46%). Recent genetic research in UPR Mayaguez has brought to light that 26.4% of Puerto Ricans have African heritage on the X chromosome and 20% on the Y chromosome, thus between 20%-46% of the Puerto Rican population has African heritage. [ [ Puerto Rico - DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000 ] ] (For more on this see Demographics of Puerto Rico).

Traditional terms for Afro-Latin Americans with their own developed culture include "Garífuna" (in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize), "cafuzo" or "mameluco" (in Brazil), and "zambo" in the Andes and Central America. Marabou is a term of Haitian origin denoting a Haitian of multiracial ethnicity. The term describes the offspring of a Black African/European or mulatto and an Amerindian, specifically the native Taíno, born in Haiti (formerly Saint-Domingue). The heavy population of Africans on the island established by the French and Spanish diluted the generations of so-called "marabous" over the decades, and virtually all Haitians today of Amerindian descent are assumed to also possess African ancestry. Several other terms exist for the "marabou" racial mixture in other countries.

The mix of these African cultures with the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and indigenous cultures of Latin America has produced many unique forms of language (e.g., Palenquero, Garífuna and Creole), religions (e.g., Candomblé, Abakuá, Santería, Lucumi and Vodou), music (e.g., kompa, salsa, bachata, cumbia, Palo de Mayo, plena), samba, martial arts (capoeira) and dance (rumba, merengue). Many of these cultural expressions have become pervasive in Latin America.

Contentious issues

Several issues arise from the theme of African Latin American. One is based on the selection of countries normally included in the definition of Latin America which, being based on the language spoken, excludes all countries in the geographical area, such as Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica where the people do not speak a Latin-derived language. As a result, several countries which have significant black heritage are excluded from study.

Another issue is the validity of the numbers of people who are classified as black. In many countries the people who are counted as "black" or some mixture is based on choices made by individuals in responding to census questionnaires who may, or may not, define themselves as black based on their own ideas or specific cultural biases concerning blackness. In the late 1990s, it became possible to determine racial origin by studying certain DNA factors in individuals; however, this practice is not widely used to date.

A further issue is that of the validity of racial identity. In some countries, it is believed that there has been an almost universal homogenization of the races and there have been attempts in other countries, such as Colombia, to eliminate racial differences by encouraging inter-racial marriages.Fact|date=January 2007

Racial and ethnic distinctions

Terms used within Latin America which pertain to black heritage include "mulato" (black - white mixture), and "zambo" (indigenous - black mixture) and moreno. "Mestizo" refers to an indigenous - white mixture. The term "mestizaje" refers to the intermixing or fusing of races, whether by mere custom or deliberate policy. In Latin America this happened extensively between all the racial groups and cultures, but usually involved European men and indigenous and African women. Unions of white females and non-white males were almost taboo.

These distinctive terms were used in part to distinguish between different social strata in which the Europeans and "criollos" (people of pure European heritage born in the Americas) who generally were the ruling and administrative parties were at the top, and the African and Indian races who were the laboring class were at the bottom. The offspring of mixed marriages generally occupied a status closer to that of the father's, thereby putting children with a black or Indian father at a disadvantage. Microsoft Encarta 2007]

outh America


There are approximately 52,000 Afro-Latin Americans in Argentina. [cite web |url= |title=Afro-Argentine |accessdate=2008-08-25 |work=Joshua Project |publisher=U.S. Center for World Mission ]


African descendants in Bolivia account for about 3% of the population. They were brought in during the Spanish colonial times and the majority live in the Yungas.


Around 46% of Brazil's 188 million people are Afro-Brazilians (39% either African and European ancestry and African, European and Amerindian ancestry, 7% African ancestry). Around 80% of the northeast state of Bahia is of African descent.

Brazil experienced a long internal struggle over abolition of slavery and was the last Latin American country to adopt it. In 1850 it finally banned the importation of new slaves from overseas, after two decades since the first official attempts to outlaw the human traffic (in spite of illegal parties of African slaves that kept arriving till 1855). In 1864 Brazil emancipated the slaves, and on September 28 1871, the Brazilian Congress approved the Rio Branco Law of Free Birth, which conditionally freed the children of slaves born from that day on. In 1887 army officers refused to order their troops to hunt runaway slaves, and in 1888 the Senate passed a law establishing immediate, unqualified emancipation. This law, known as "Lei Áurea" (Golden Law) was sanctioned by the regent Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, daughter of the emperor Pedro II on May 13 1888. [ Cruz,Shamil] ."African Americans in the Caribbean and Latin America" ]

One of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans is the Brazilian footballer Pelé.


Chile enslaved about 6,000 blacks, about one-third of whom arrived before 1615; most were utilized in agriculture around Santiago. Today there are very few Afro-Chileans, at the most, fewer than 0.1% can be estimated from the 2006 population.Microsoft Encarta 2007]

Mario Rojas, a Chilean musician dedicated to reviving the traditional "cueca" in Chile believes that this traditional dance has its roots in Africa in part for the 6/8 rhythm which passed from Arabia through to Nigeria, and also its syncopated lyrics. [ [ 'La cueca es un arte de elite'] 9/18/2001 Interview in Spanish with Mario Rojas]


Available estimates range from 4.4 to 10.5 million Afro-Colombians. [ BBC Mundo: ¿Colombia hacia la integración racial?] ] Afro-Colombians make up approximately 4% (9,154,537) of the population, according to a projection of the National Administration Department of Statistics (DANE),Microsoft Encarta 2007] most of whom are concentrated on the northwest Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast in such departments as Chocó, although considerable numbers are also in Cali, Cartagena, and Barranquilla. Colombia is considered to have the third largest Black/African-descent population in the western hemisphere, following Brazil and the U.S.

It has been estimated that some 4.4 million Afro-Colombians actively recognize their own black ancestry, while many other Afro-Colombians do not, as a result of inter-racial relations with white and indigenous Colombians. Afro-Colombians may often encounter a noticeable degree of racial discrimination and prejudice, as a socio-cultural leftover from colonial times. They have been historically absent from high level government positions. Many of their long-established settlements around the Pacific coast have remained underdeveloped. In Colombia's ongoing internal conflict, Afro-Colombians are both victims of violence or displacement and members of armed factions, such as the FARC and the AUC. Afro-Colombians 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. Some Afro-Colombians have also been successful in sports such as Faustino Asprilla.

San Basilio de Palenque is a village in Colombia that is noted for maintaining many African traditions. It was declared a Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. [cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=The Cultural Space | date= | publisher= | url = | work =UNESCO | pages = | accessdate = 2007-09-27 | language = ] The residents of palenque still speak a Spanish/African creole [ [ A Language, Not Quite Spanish, With African Echoes] ]


In 2006 Ecuador had a population of 13,547,510 with 8%, or 1,083,801 descendants from Spanish and African people. Microsoft Encarta 2007.] The Afro-Ecuadorian culture is found in the northwest coastal region of Ecuador and make up the majority (70%) in the province of Esmeraldas and the Chota Valley in the Imbabura Province. They can be also found in Quito and Guayaquil. The best known cultural influence known outside of Ecuador is a distinctive kind of marimba music. "Bao" is a fusion of native rhythms and Caribbean rhythms including "candombe", salsa, merengue, reggae and calypso. From the Chota Valley there is "Bomba (Ecuador)" music which is very different from marimba from Esmeraldas.


Black Paraguayans are descended from African slaves brought to Paraguay by the 16th century. They became a significant presence in the country, and made up 11% of the population in 1785. Today, there are an estimated 63,000 blacks Paraguayans, or 1% of the population. [cite web |url= |title=Afro-Paraguayan |accessdate=2008-08-25 |work=Joshua Project |publisher=U.S. Center for World Mission ] Most Afro-Paraguayans established communities in towns such as Areguá, Emboscada, and Guarambaré. Many achieved their freedom during the Spanish rule. In the capital Asunción, there is a community of 300 Afro-Paraguayan families in the Fernando de la Mora municipality.


Afro-Peruvians make up about 3-4% of the population (close to a million).

Afro-Peruvian music was little known even in Peru until the 1950s, when it was popularized by the performer Nicomedes Santa Cruz. [ [ Nicomedes Santa Cruz] ]


African slaves and their descendants figured prominently in the founding of Uruguay. In the late 1700s Montevideo became a major arrival port for slaves, most brought from Portuguese colonies of Africa and bound for Spanish colonies of the New World, the mines of Peru and Bolivia, and the fields of Uruguay.

In the 19th century, when Uruguay joined other colonies in fighting for independence from Spain, Uruguayan national hero Jose Artigas led an elite division of black troops against the colonists. One of his top advisors was Joaquin Lezina, known as Ansina, a freed slave who composed musical odes about his commander's exploits and is regarded by Afro-Uruguayans as an unheralded father of the nation.


Black Venezuelans are descendants from African slaves brought to Venezuela from the 17th to the 19th century for the coffee and cocoa crops. Most of the African-Venezuelans live in the North-central Region: coastal towns in the area called Barlovento (Miranda State), Northern Yaracuy, Carabobo and Aragua States, and Eastern Vargas State; but there are areas in South Lake Maracaibo (Zulia State) and Northern Merida State in the Andes, among others with several towns and villages. They have kept their traditions and culture alive especially through music. Venezuela is a very racially mixed nation. Research in 2001 on genetic diversity by the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research ("Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas", IVIC) in which the population was compared to the historical patterns of the colonial castes. Adding to this new information about genetic diseases and characteristics associated with people from Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Native Americans reveals that approximately 5% of the population is of African descent and 29% of the Venezuelans are mulattos (mixed African and European), but no further data about the amount of pardos (mixed black and Amerindian) is provided.Fact|date=October 2007 This information reveals that at least 32% of the Venezuelan of population is, to some extent, of Afro-Venezuelan descent.Fact|date=October 2007.

Nevertheless, Afro-Venezuelans have stood out as sportsmen, many of them in the Major League Baseball and other sports (e.g. former NBA/Houston Rockets forward Carl Herrera), however, most of them don't describe themselves as Afro-Venezuelan, but as Latinos or Hispanics or simply Venezuelans.Fact|date=October 2007 Afro-Venezuelans have also stood out in arts, especially music.Fact|date=October 2007 In 2006 both Miss Universe Venezuela and Miss World Venezuela were mulatto, but generally black people are rarely seen in the local media.

One of the most famous and controversial Afro-Latinos, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated in an interview while visiting the United States, "When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa... Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is—indeed, has a lot to do with racism–no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African." [ [ Democracy now] ]

Central America

The Afro-Latin Americans of Central America mostly live in or near Caribbean coast. The blacks of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua, are both of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean, Mestizo, and/or Miskito heritage whereas those of Costa Rica and Panama are mostly of African-Caribbean heritage. Many Afro-Caribbean islanders came to Panamá to help build the Panama Canal and to Honduras to get work in the banana plantations.

Costa Rica

Three per cent of the population is of black African descent (called Afro-Costa Ricans) and are English-speaking descendants of nineteenth century black Jamaican immigrant workers. The indigenous population numbers around 1%, 41,338 individuals. In Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. Most Afro-Costa Ricans are found on the Caribbean coast.

El Salvador

The declining native American population influenced a Royal Ordinance issued in 1541 that gave the Spanish land owners and miners permission to import African slaves into El Salvador. The New Laws did not officially come into effect in El Salvador until 1548 when the president of the “Jurisdiction of Los Confines” (which included El Salvador) freed all native slaves in the country and recommended that more Africans be brought to El Salvador to take the place of those who had been freed. Over the next seventy-five years upwards of 10,000 Africans were brought to work on the haciendas and in the mines of El Salvador. In 1635 the town of San Vicente was established by Spanish colonists and became an important center for the indigo trade. African slaves were brought here to work on nearby plantations. Several other towns also had African communities: Zacatecoluca (south of San Salvador), Chinameca (west of San Miguel), and Ahuachapan and Sonsonate (both west of San Salvador) all had sizable African populations at one time.

With the mixing of Spanish, African and native there arose free “mulatto” and “zambo” communities in a number of towns. Zambos are persons of mixed native American and African ancestry. Some slaves attempted to gain their freedom by marrying into the native population. Laws were passed by the Spanish to prevent such Afro-Amerindian unions, but the mixing of the two groups could not be prevented. Slaves continued to marry natives with the idea that they might gain freedom, if not for themselves, then for their racially mixed offspring. The children of such unions were free under Spanish law. It's said that among Africans and natives during the colonial period, Indian women would rather marry Negroes than Indians; and neither more or less, Negroes prefer to marry Indian women rather than Negresses, so that their children will be born free. [cite book | last = Price | first= Richard | title = Maroon Societies |year = 1979] This resulted in the creation of the zambo population group. Mullatos, mestizos and zambos eventually came to mix with each other creating the so called mestizo population of today. At the end of the colonial era the mixing of the various races in the country was well on its way in creating a population that no longer had strong ethnic identities as native, African or European.

In 1625 a planned slave rebellion in San Salvador was narrowly averted. As a result, Spanish colonial authorities became more reluctant to import any more slaves into the country then absolutely necessary. Throughout all of Central America there were growing free mestizo and mulatto populations. Together with cheap native labor, fewer slaves were brought to El Salvador and Central America after 1625 then during the previous century. A process of the mixing together in El Salvador of “mulatto”, “zambo” and “mestizo” resulted in a population that was 31% of mixed ancestry by 1779. The census that year recorded “mulattos” and “mestizos” (together) as persons of mixed racial ancestry. This census reported 25,000 “mulattos and mestizos” living in the San Salvador area in that year.

At the time of independence (1821), the population of El Salvador was over 50% of mixed racial ancestry. Today the figure is over 90%. There are really only various “shades of brown” in the country with few extremes in color variation.

General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez instituted race laws in 1930 that prohibited blacks from entering the country, this changed during the 1980s and the law was removed.cite book |author=Montgomery, Tommie Sue |title=Revolution in El Salvador: from civil strife to civil peace |publisher=Westview Press |location=Boulder, Colo |year=1995 |pages= |isbn=0-8133-0071-1 |oclc= |doi=]

In the area of folk and popular music, the influences of Africa on El Salvador become very apparent. The national folk instrument, the marimba, has its origins in Africa and was brought to Guatemala and the rest of Central America by African slaves during colonial times. The melodies played on it show native American, African and European influences in both form and style. Salvadoran popular music, as well as its social dances, show strong connections to the rhythms of western and central Africa. The most popular social dances in El Salvador are those that have been adopted from the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and dances. The Cumbia came from Colombia, the Rumba-Bolero from Cuba and the Merengue from the Dominican Republic. No Salvadoran social event is complete without the playing of these Afro-Caribbean dances. They are so completely integrated into Salvadoran life that they are today the most typical expressions of the popular musical traditions of the country. In their Salvadoran form they take on a style that is similar, yet different, from that which they originated. [ [ AfroMestizo: El Salvador] ]

Latin-American historian Hubert Herring wrote in his History of Latin America (1969) “ In the nations of Latin America the white man, the red man, and the black man have met and merged with one another to form a new kind of people: Jose Vasconcelos called it the raza cosmica - the cosmic race.” Perhaps in no other Latin American nation did the “merging” of these three racial groups become so complete.


Guatemalan culture is a mix of European, Mayan Indian, and African, but only 2% of the population is considered black or mulatto. The main community of African descent are the Garifuna, concentrated in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. The rest of the community is of Afro-Caribbean stock and mulattos. Izabal, on the Caribbean coast, is the center of African culture in Guatemala, with its population being of mixed African, Mayan Indian, and European.

Also many of African decent are located in Jutiapa, Guatemala which are primarily of European and African extractions. In this region of the country there are still many of African decent present today. Although many may not recognize most of those that are due to loss of culture in Jutiapa, Fact of the matter is that people learn in Guatemala's history that there was once slaves in Guatemala.

Many of the slaves brought from Africa came to Guatemala to work on cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, and coffee plantations. The main reason for slavery in Guatemala was because of the large sugar cane plantations and haciendas located on Guatemala's Pacific and caribbean coasts.The national folk instrument, the marimba, has its origins in Africa and was brought to Guatemala and the rest of Central America by African slaves during colonial times. The melodies played on it show native American, African and European influences in both form and style.


The official census of Honduras indicates that 2% of the population, or about 150,000 individuals, self-identified as black during the last official census. This number is based on self-identification and does not use the American definition of blood quantum to identify "blackness" as Henry Gates does in his estimate of the black population of Honduras: "Estimates of people of African descent in Honduras vary widely, from 100,000 to 320,000 (1.8 to 5.8 percent of the country's 5.8 million people in 1994." [cite book | last = Gates | first= Henry Louis | title = Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience|year = 1999]

If one uses the blood quantum definition of blackness, then blacks came to Honduras early in the colonial period. One of the mercenaries who aided Pedro de Alvarado in his conquest of Honduras in 1536 was a black slave working as a mercenary to earn his freedom. Alvarado sent his own slaves from Guatemala to work the placer gold deposits in western Honduras as early as 1534. The earliest black slaves consigned to Honduras were part of a license granted to the Bishop Cristobal de Pedraza in 1547 to bring 300 slaves into Honduras. Certainly a large part of the modern Honduran population today identified as mestizo has at least some black ancestry, but they do not self-identify as black.

The self-identifying black population in Honduras is mostly of West Indian (Antillean origin), descendents of indentured laborers brought from Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean Islands. The Garifuna (or Black Caribs), a people of mixed Amerindian and African ancestry, were expelled from the island of Saint Vincent after an uprising against the English and in 1797 and were exiled to Roatan. From there they made their way along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Belize, and Nicaragua. Large Garifuna settlements in Honduras today include Trujillo, La Ceiba, and Triunfo de la Cruz. Even though they only came to Honduras in 1797, the Garifuna are one of the seven officially recognized indigenous groups in Honduras.

Slaves on the north coast mixed with the Miskito Indians, forming a group referred to as the Zambo Miskito. Today the Miskito consider themselves to be purely indigenous, denying this African heritage. [cite book | last = Helms | first= Mary | title = Negro or Indian? |year = 1977] Today there are a sizable number of people in the department of Olancho (a center of gold mining and cattle ranching) that would be considered black by U.S. standards. They do not, however, identify as such but rather as mestizo. [cite book | last = Lang | first= Julio | title = Espectro Racial de Honduras|year = 1951] The Black Creoles of the Bay Islands are today distinguished as an ethnic group for their racial difference from the mestizos and blacks, and their cultural difference as English-speaking Protestants. [cite book | last = Knight | first= Alan | title = The Idea of Race in Latin America|year = 1990]

All these circumstances led to a denial by many Hondurans of their African heritage which reflects in the census even to this day. "Blacks were more problematic as national symbols because at the time they were neither seen to represent modernity nor autochthony, and their history of dislocation from Africa means they have no great pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas to call upon as symbols of a glorious past. Thus Latin American states often end up with a primarily "Indo-Hispanic" mestizaje where the Indian is privileged as the roots of the nation and blackness is either minimized or completely erased." [cite book | last = Wade | first= Peter | title = Blackness and Race Mixture |year = 1993]


About 9% of Nicaragua's population is black, or Afro-Nicaragüense, and mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean or Atlantic coast. The black population is mostly of West Indian (Antillean) origin, the descendants of indentured laborers brought mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands when the region was a British protectorate. There is also a smaller number of Garífuna, a people of mixed Carib, Angolan, Congolese and Arawak descent. The Garífuna live along the Caribbean coast and islands. Nicaragua has the largest population of blacks in Central America.

Afro-Nicaraguans are mainly found on the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS on the Caribbean Coast of the country.


Black laborers from the British West Indies, mainly Jamaica, came to Panama by the tens of thousands in the first half of the twentieth century. While most were involved in the effort to build the Panama Canal, many also came to work on Panama's banana plantations. By 1910 the Panama Canal Company employed more than 50,000 workers, three-quarters of whom were Antillean blacks. They formed the nucleus of a community separated from the larger society by race, language, religion, and culture.



According to a 2001 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1.1 million Cubans described themselves as Black, while 2.8 million considered themselves to be "mulatto" or "mestizo" or "javao" or "moro". [ [ Cuba census 2001] ] Many Cubans still locate their origins in specific African ethnic groups or regions, particularly Yoruba, Igbo and Congo, but also Arará, Carabalí, Mandingo, Fula and others.

There is also a significant presence of black Haitian immigrants in the country. Creole language and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the nineteenth century. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantanamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations. By 1804 some 30,000 French were living in Baracoa and Maisi, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province. Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as brazeros (hand workers, from the Spanish word brazo, meaning "arm") in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island many Haitians suffered discrimination. But since 1959 the Castro regime claims that discrimination against Cubans of Haitian descent has stopped. After Spanish, Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba. Over 400,000 Cubans either speak it fluently, understand it but speak with difficulty, or have at least some familiarity with the language. It is mainly in those communities, where Haitians and their descendants live, that Creole is most spoken. In addition to the eastern provinces there are also communities in Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces where the population still maintains Creole, their mother tongue. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program.

Some of the most famous Afro-Cubanos are Salsa Legend Celia Cruz and Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Dominican Republic

73% are Mixed (mostly mulatto) [ [ Minorities At Risk] ] [ [ MazaWorld] ] , 11% are Black, and 16% are White, with no fewer than nine ethnic mixes including: mestizos, mulattoes, zambos, grifos, quadroon Indians, quadroon mulattoes, puchelas, saltaras, and cabras.

There is also a significant presence of black Haitian immigrants in the country up to a million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic. There are also immigrants from other Latin American countries including Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Dominican culture is a mixture of Taino Amerindian, African, and European origins. While Taino influences are present in many Dominican traditions, the European and African influences are the most noticeable.


The population of Haiti is 8.7 million, of which 95% are of African descent and the remaining 5% is mulatto and white. [cite news | title=Haiti: People | url = | work =CIA World Factbook | accessdate = 2008-03-11]

Marabou is a term of Haitian origin denoting a Haitian of multiracial ethnicity. The term describes the offspring of a Black African/European or mulatto and an Amerindian, specifically the native Taíno, born in Haiti (formerly Saint-Domingue). The heavy population of Africans on the island established by the French and Spanish diluted the generations of so-called "marabous" over the decades and virtually all Haitians today of supposed Amerindian descent are assumed to also possess African ancestry.Fact|date=March 2008 Several other terms exist for the marabou racial mixture in other countries (see Cafuzo, Zambo). Haiti is an Afro-Latin nation with strong African contributions to the culture as well as its language, music and religion. To a lesser degree French, Spaniard, and in rare occasions (food, art, and folk religion) Taino and Arab customs are present in society.

Puerto Rico

According to the 2000 U.S. Census taken in Puerto Rico, 80.5% of Puerto Ricans identified as White, 8% of the population as Black and 10.9% as of mixed or other race. [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Puerto Rico ] ] An island-wide mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) study conducted by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez revealed that 61% of Puerto Ricans have maternal Native American ancestry, 26.4% have maternal West or Central African ancestry, and 12.6% have maternal European ancestry. [] On the other hand, the Y chromosome evidence showed Puerto Ricans' patrilineage to be approximately 75% European, 20% African, and less than 5% indigenous. The combined results reveal a mostly mestizo (Taino and European) population with important European and African elements (Demographics of Puerto Rico)

Certain critics consider census figures to be skewed since they are based on self-definition and acute physical observation of census-takers.Fact|date=January 2007 These critics maintain that a majority of Puerto Ricans are racially mixed, but that they do not feel the need to identify as such. They argue, furthermore, that Puerto Ricans tend to assume that they are of African, American Indian, and European ancestry and only identify themselves as mixed if having parents "appearing" to be of separate "races". It should also be noted that Puerto Rico underwent a "whitening" process while under U.S. rule. The census-takers at the turn of the 20th Century recorded a huge disparity in the number of "black" and "white" Puerto Ricans between the 1910 and 1920 censuses. "Black" suddenly began to disappear from one census to another (within 10 years' time), possibly due to redefinition of the term. It also appears that the "black" element within the culture was simply disappearing possibly due to the popular idea that in the U.S. one could only advance economically and socially if one were to pass for "white". ['race%20classification%20Puerto%20Rico']

Misinformation of ethnic populations within Puerto Rico also existed under Spanish rule, when the Native Amerindian (Taino) populations were recorded as being "extinct". Biological science has now rewritten their history books. In all, about 31 African tribes have been recorded in Puerto Rico.Fact|date=January 2007 These tribes were not voluntary travelers, but have since blended into the mainstream Puerto Rican population (as all the others have been) with Taino ancestry being the common thread that binds.

Many so-called "pure" blacks in Puerto Rico are found in the coastal areas, areas traditionally associated with sugar cane plantations (especially in the towns Loiza, Guayama, Ponce, and Carolina). Although, due to the DNA evidence that is being presented by UPR at Mayaguez, many African bloodlines have been recorded in the central mountains of the island, though not written in the Spanish history books of the time. Consequently, Taino bloodlines have begun appearing in the coastal towns. All this suggesting that escaped Africans ran off to the mountains to escape the slaveowners, while some Tainos remained close to their main staple food, fish.

The Puerto Rican musical genres of "bomba" and "plena" are of African and Caribbean origin respectively and danced to during parties and African-derived festivals. Many "Boricuas" who claim West/Central African ancestry are descendants of enslaved Congo, Igbo and Yoruba tribes from Africa. After the abolition of slavery in 1873 and invasion by the United States a number of African Americans have also migrated and settled in Puerto Rico.

One of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans is the Puerto Rican Boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad.


The vast majority of contemporary Afro-Mexicans inhabit the southern region of Mexico; those that migrated north in the colonial period assimilated into the general population, making their existence in the country less evident than other groups. Some Afro-Mexican facts:
* Mexico's second President, Vicente Guerrero, an Afro-Mexican, issued a decree abolishing slavery and emancipating all slaves in 1829, during his short term as president.
* Race is not considered for any official purpose, including the census.
* Gaspar Yanga founded the first free African township in the Americas in 1609.
* a Black man named Esteban el Negro (Steven the Black), a North African Moor from Spain, searched for the fabled city of Cíbola with Cabeza de Vaca.
* the song 'La Bamba', a traditional folk song and dance, was originally a song sung by African slaves in Veracruz as they worked. Bamba is the name of an African tribe in Angola.
* Veracruz, Campeche, Pánuco and Acapulco were the main ports for the entrance of African slaves.
* In the past, offspring of African/Amerindian mixtures were called "jarocho" (wild pig), "chino" or "lobo" (wolf). Today jarocho refers to all inhabitants of the state of Veracruz, without regard to ancestry.
* Madison Pettis a well-known actress mother is Mexican and her father is African American.

List of famous Afro-Latinos

*List of Famous Afro-Latinos

Afro-Latino populations in the Americas

(*)Note that population statistics from different sources and countries use highly divergent methods of identifying race, ethnicity, or national or genetic origin of individuals, from observing for color and racial characteristics, to asking the person to choose from a set of pre-defined choices, sometimes with an "other" category, and sometimes with an open-ended option, and sometimes not, which different national populations tend to choose in divergent ways. Color and visual characteristics were considered an invalid way to determine the genetic "racial" branch in anthoprology (the field of science that original conceived of race, as a genetic branch of people who could have a relative success together compared with other branches, now considered invalid) as of 1910. It is likely these numbers do not fully reflect the percentage of the population that is of African heritage if you use any method of identification other than that of self-identification such as; the blood quantum definition, identification based on physical characteristics and identification by cultural traces. Self-identification also fails to identify those who would consider themselves of African heritage if the option were given in the national census.

See also

* African diaspora
* African Caribbean
* Atlantic Creole
* Black Hispanic
* Creoles
* Maroons
* Mulatto
* Black People
* Zambo
*List of topics related to Black and African people


External links

* [ Joshua Project - Afro-American, Hispanic]
* [ Oro Negro: about the black population in Chile]
* [ Africans in the Caribbean and Latin America]
* [ Black Latin America]
* [ Afro Mexico or Bobby Vaughn's The Black Mexico website]
* [ Latin American Network Information Center's "African Diaspora" webpage with links to various websites (LANIC is affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin)]
* [ Young Lords origins web site]
* [ Cowater International Inc of Ottawa's preliminary report] (1996) for the Inter-American Development Bank titled: "Poverty Alleviation Program for Minority Communities in Latin America--Communities of African Ancestry in Latin America: History, Population, Contributions, & Social Attitudes (Social and Economic Conditions with Partial Bibliography)" This report is 188 pages and contains history of Spain and Latin America, the African contributions to Latin America and pages 46 to 61 in Acrobat (or pages 31 to 46 in the document) is titled "Analysis of Social Attitudes Towards Afro-Latin Americans".
* [ Clare Ribando's (Analyst in Latin American Affairs for the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service) brief report titled: "CRS Report for Congress--Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Considerations for U.S. Policy" (January 4, 2005)]
* [ The Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America (IAC)]
* [ English version of Judith Morrison's Presentation to the Inter-American Dialogue's Working Group session (held on September 23, 2005) in Microsoft Word format.] Morrison is the Executive Director or the Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America.
* [ Judith Morrison's Powerpoint Presentation titled: "The High Cost of Discrimination in Latin America" (2005)]
* [ Jere R. Behrman, Alejandro Gaviria, & Miguel Székely's "Social Exclusion in Latin America: Introduction and Overview" report for the Inter-American Development Bank]
* [ The World Bank Group's website titled "Afro-Latin Americans" from 2001 and not updated]
* [ The World Bank's Latin American and Caribbean Social Development Unit's newsletter "La Ventana"] Webpage contains links to three editions to newsletters detailing World Bank activities toward the social inclusion of Afro Latin American and indigenous peoples.
* [ The World Bank's Publications on Afro Latin Americans (see column on right side for Acrobat documents available for download)]
* [ David de Ferranti's (former Regional Vice President of the World Bank, Latin America & the Caribbean) remarks of June 18, 2002 to the Annual Meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America titled: "Advancing Public Policy for Afro-Descendents in Latin America: Social and Economic Development, Legal Issues and Human Rights"]
* [ Powerpoint Presentation by Josefina Stubbs, a Senior Social Development Specialist in the World Bank titled "Afro-descendants in Latin America: Poverty, Inequality and Discrimination"]
* [ Tanya K. Hernández' (Professor of Law & Justice, Frederick Hall Scholar, Rutgers University School of Law) speech given November 28, 2005 Washington, DC titled: "Discrimination and Education in Latin-America"] The speech was given at the Special Meeting to Examine and Discuss the Nature of a Future Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
* [ The World Bank's website titled: "The World Bank and Afro-Latins - Overview"]
* [ World Bank webpage announcing their report titled: "Inequality in Latin America & the Caribbean: Breaking with History?"] The webpage includes links to specific report chapters, including Chapter 3, which considers racial factors involved in inequality.
* [ The multiple author publication "Race and Poverty: Interagency Consultation on Afro–Latin Americans (LCR Sustainable Development Working Paper No. 9)" published November 2000 by the Inter-American Dialogue, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank of their roundtable's proceedings held June 19, 2000 in Washington, D.C.]
* [ Ivan Briscoe's short piece on the Open Democracy website titled "The time of the underdog: rage and race in Latin America"]
* [ Inter-American Development Bank's informational website for their book "Social Inclusion and Economic Development in Latin America" (2004) by various authors and with considerable parts dealing with Afro Latin Americans]
* Peggy A. Lovell's article "Gender, Race, and the Struggle for Social Justice in Brazil" November 2000, pages 85-103, Latin American Perspectives [ Try clicking here for link to journal article]
* Omar Arias, Gustavo Yamada, & Luis Tejerina's journal article from the International Journal of Manpower (Volume 25 Number 3/4 2004 pages 355-374) "Education, family background and racial earnings inequality in Brazil" [ Try clicking here for link to journal article]
* Maria do Carmo Leal; Silvana Granado Nogueira da Gama; and Cynthia Braga da Cunha's article "Racial, sociodemographic, and prenatal and childbirth care inequalities in Brazil, 1999-2001" from Revista de Saúde Pública (vol.39 no.1 São Paulo Feb. 2005) [ Try clicking here for link to journal article]
*CNN video of [ Afro-Colombian community]
*Colombian 2005 Census Television Commercial [ "Orgullosamente Afrocolombiano"]
* The World Bank's Sector Report "The Gap Matters: poverty and well-being of Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples" [ Click here for the report]
* [ Colombia's Law 70 (English translation)]

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