“In 1570, enslaved Africans outnumbered Spaniards in Mexico three to one, but were reduced to only 10 percent of the population by 1810. On the Caribbean islands, Blacks outnumbered Whites by as many as 23 to 1.”
In this installment of the the Black History Month series, I explore Africa’s role in creating an ethnic group whose identity is normally confused, and sometimes hidden or entirely wiped out. Without Africans, the entire Latino ethnic group would not even exist today. Aside from the human aspect of it, the entire culture—food, music, customs would not exist. Latinos are a result of conquest, “exploration” and slavery. MOST Latinos are of or have African descent in their lineage. It is oftentimes rejected in favor of a more “whitewashed” image, but the truth remains that Latinos are a result of the African Diaspora. With Black Latinos in the media consistently and ferociously battling what they are, a la skin Sammy Sosa skin bleaching, it is no surprise the same conditioning and brainwashing and self hatred that has been shopped in the United States to Black Americans is mirrored in Latin America. But the reality is we are here, a lot of us are proud and we will be seen.
The first town of freed African slaves in the Americas is not exactly where you would expect to find it — and it isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find either. First, it’s not in the United States. Yanga, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, is a sleepy pueblito founded by its namesake, Gaspar Yanga, an African slave who led a rebellion against his Spanish colonial masters in the late 16th century and fought off attempts to retake the settlement. The second thing that is immediately evident to vistors who reach the town’s rustic central plaza: there are virtually no blacks among the few hundred residents milling around the center of town.
If you have not heard of Mexico’s native blacks, you are not alone. The story that has been passed down through generations is that their ancestors arrived on a slave boat filled with Cubans and Haitians, which sank off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The survivors hid away in fishing villages on the shore. The story is a myth: Spanish colonialists trafficked African slaves into ports on the opposite Gulf coast, and slaves were distributed further inland. The persistence of this story explains the reluctance of many black Mexicans to embrace the label “Afro”, and why many Mexicans assume black nationals hail from the Caribbean. Colonial records show that around 200,000 African slaves were imported into Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries to work in silver mines, sugar plantations and cattle ranches. But after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the needs of these black Mexicans were ignored. Some Afro-Mexican activists identify themselves as part of the African diaspora. Given their rejection from Mexican culture, this offers a more empowering cultural reference. But with no collective memory of slavery (it was officially abolished in Mexico in 1822), or of any time in Africa before then, Afro-Mexicans are considerably removed from their African roots.
Source: Mexico’s hidden Blacks
The 18th century brought about a turning point in Caribbean history when slavery was brought to the islands. European importers demanded high quantities of sugar, the product of sugarcane, which grew easily in the Caribbean’s temperate weather. As demand for sugar increased, so did the demand for plantation labor.
The indigenous Arawaks were the Europeans’ original slaves but they were quickly dying out. By this time slavery was a fixture in European and Arab countries. To continue the grievous trend in the Caribbean, then-friar Bartoleme de las Casas of Hispaniola suggested enslaving Africans. Hence, many new slaves came from Africa’s Guinea coast. They were taken from their homes by slave-raiding parties, which were often endorsed by the local government.
They were shipped to the West Indies via the notorious Middle Passage–a horrendous mode of transport in which slaves were packed into the ship’s hold so tightly that they could not move freely and sometimes suffocated to death. On average, 12 percent of slaves died on the trip; those who survived were fed, “oiled”, and paraded through the streets to the slave market where they were auctioned off and traded for liquor, guns, and other goods.
They were pawns in the infamous Triangular Trade: European ships set sail for the Caribbean colonies with bartering goods, arms, and liquor for African slave traders; slaves were captured and shipped from Africa to the islands; and in the final step, sugar and rum were exported from the Caribbean back to Europe.
The average life expectancy for an imported slave was only seven years, but history tells that many died within the first year after they arrived. The acclimation period, or “seasoning” as it was called, was a time of brutal adjustment for the new slaves. They were forced to adopt new cultural customs and language.
On the plantations, owners demanded slaves sever every tie to their homeland and kept slaves of the same culture apart. Rebellion was common, and slave owners exercised harsh punishments for disobedience or acts of will; indeed, it was not illegal to kill an African man in the British colonies until the beginning of the 19th century.
In the 1770s, anti-slavery movements began to take shape in Europe. The Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established in 1787 to raise public awareness of the inhumane treatment of slaves. It wasn’t until 1807, however, that a law was passed banning the trade of slaves on British ships.
Soon after the law was passed, many other countries enacted similar laws; in 1831, a massive anti-slavery rebellion in Jamaica destroyed many sugar estates, motivating Parliament to sanction the Emancipation Act of 1834. After a four-year “apprenticeship” during which the slaves were still bound to plantation life, they were released unconditionally.
Cuba was still importing slaves until 1865, and did not officially abolish slavery until 1888. The French possessions did not free their slaves until 1848, followed by the Dutch in 1863 and Puerto Rico in 1873. Many freed slaves purchased parcels of land for subsistence farming. On some of the smaller Caribbean islands, however, there was little land left to buy, so they had to return to plantation work.
According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees. However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. Interesting.
Source: Wikipedia: Dominican Republic
Central and South America
A few African servants accompanying the early Spanish or Portuguese explorers were the first slaves to enter the continent. Larger-scale importation of slaves from Africa developed after the slave trade was established early in the 16th century, though reliable quantitative information is lacking. Estimates of the number of Africans brought to South America are four million for Brazil and three million for all of Spanish America, of which most went to areas of present-day Venezuela, Colombia, coastal Ecuador and Peru, and northwestern Argentina; a number also went to the large Spanish colonial cities as urban servants. In addition, many Africans were brought to the British and Dutch Guianas (present-day Guyana and Suriname, respectively). African slaves were considered to be more resistant than American Indians to tropical diseases, especially in plantation areas. Most of the slaves imported into South America came from Portuguese or Spanish trading posts along the west coast of Africa, including areas near present-day Angola. The slave trade ceased in the early 19th century as most of the new republics banned slavery.
Source: Encyclopedia Britanica
Music, culture, and customs derived from Africa
The tango dance of Argentina was developed from dual African ancestries. One source is undoubtedly the Spanish fandango, but the fandango is really Moorish. The other source is a Black dance called the candombe, the feature attraction of Afro-Argentine festivals during and after the period of slavery. Latin American music has always been deeply influenced by the vibrant rhythms and melodies that Blacks brought with them from their African homeland.
This is particularly true of Brazil; in fact, the first real music school in that country was founded by a Black priest. Brazilian music is thoroughly filled with African themes, and well-known composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos have long found inspiration in the Black musical heritage. Many Caribbean musical styles have become widely known, including the mambo from Cuba, salsa from Puerto Rico, reggae from Jamaica, and calypso from Trinidad.
Brazil is home to the world’s second largest population of African descent. Brazilians regularly eat foods and use words that originated in Africa, their history books talk almost exclusively about the deeds of white heroes, said Emanoel Araujo, a renowned black sculptor and the curator of the Afro Brasil Museum in Sao Paulo.
“We need to redo the history of this country,” Araujo said, “and work around the premise and the perspective of the African not only as a slave but as the one who changed Brazilian society, the one who constructed Brazilian society, who constructed the wealth of Brazil.”
That day of acknowledgment is still far off, and Brazil, a country with one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the world, is sharply divided between its whites and non-whites.
Related: I’m not African-American, I’m Black
Related: My Girl Crush
Related: Dude, the whole concept of race is made-up :rolls eyes and walks away:
Related: Black Americans DO Have Culture
Related: The problem with stereotypes, is not the stereotype at all
I had a provocative discussion with my friends @lovemecca and @chewchronicles about the amazing book “The Book of Night Women.” We discussed our love for the book and the plot and storyline along with issues brought up in the book. The conversation turned to colonization, culture and finally race relations as it pertained to the two aforementioned topics. The book was about slaves in Jamaica and the history of the island’s colonization. My Ghanaian girlfriend, read the book and said the book was probably a biography of her family. It talked about the Ashanti tribe and there was even a town in Jamaica that was similar to her last name. She recently went to Jamaica with the book and was telling a waiter about it and he tuned out and walked away when she spoke about the slave history. In another incident she said a Jamaican lady she knows says “Jamaica is such a backwards country, I am British.”
I told Steven and Mecca some West Indians (not all) would be more apt to claim they are the nationality of their colonizers than admit they are descendants of African slaves, some even go as far as to not even acknowledge they are Black, I said it’s because they resent being grouped in with Black Americans. Steven said, The Black American experience is NOT the (only) Black Experience. I agreed. I have seen this shocking phenomena time and time again. I have never heard a Black American refer to themselves as English or British. The insanity needs to stop. Blacks in their respective colonized countries did not spring from the mountains, they were brought there some way or another. I simply cringe and die inside (sometimes my Haitian girlfriend and I laugh and point) whenever I hear a Haitian refer to themselves as French or a Jamaican say they’re British. Legitimately, there ARE Haitians and Jamaicans born in those respective countries but that fact does not apply to those who do this.
Steven and Mecca said it is similar to the Black American phenomena of claiming Indian (Native-American) in their blood. They went on to both say that the true story is a lot of slaves were raped, thus Black Americans do tend to be mixed with European blood, and it may be less painful to illustrate that a grandparent took up with a Native American (which did happen, although not as much as people may describe) versus saying their great grandmother was raped by a slave-master. Expounding on this, I added that the question “are you fully black” makes absolutely no sense because the Black race is such an inherently mixed race, given colonization, the slave trade and the diaspora, that the concept doesn’t even exist anymore, and hasn’t existed for a very long time. I said really, Black Americans should start taking more ownership of their culture. There is an established Black American culture and it should be celebrated, not diminished.
Continue Reading Black Americans DO have a culture…
I came across this article on AskMen.com about exactly what the name says. The things men lose when they enter a serious relationship.
This is it in list form:
10. Your female friends
9. Your weekends
8. Your casual fun
7. Your self-indulgences
6. Your exit
5. Your financial independence
4. Your options
3. Your own plans
2. Your space
1. Your identity
I asked the men of twitter and the majority disagreed. @InsanityReport said the article would be more accurately named ’10 Things Men Worry About Losing’ since it was written in such “a frat boy, amateurish way.” He went on to say some of the points in the article in a way made sense but “some of it isn’t necessarily bad or limited to just men but there are some things men fear losing.”
Stop committing these offenses. NOW!
Not wearing your correct make-up color
Why anyone would want to look like Casper is beyond me, but can we please stop the madness? That concealer is stark white and so is your foundation. This is not OK. Match your foundation to your skin or if you’re in between go the next shade up not down. It looks horrid. Trust me.
Not wearing your size
We can all agree there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to clothing size. A size 8 in one brand is not the same in another. So for the love of all things right why don’t you ignore the size label and buy what fits. No one will know except you! Stop letting senseless vanity cloud your comfort…and mine for that matter.
Knowing good and well those heels need to be fixed or dumped
Hey I’m guilty of it too. Wearing those amazing heels til the silver in the heel pokes out. But c’mon it’s time to take it to the shoemaker or give it up.
Knowing good and well you are freezing
I know women sacrifice a lot for style and beauty and personally I am convinced that coat manufacturers are in cahoots with the pharmacy industry because they purposely make woman’s coats not warm. But in any case, it’s winter. It’s cold. Wear sleeves. Wear pants. It’s ok, he’ll still notice your booty dazzling personality
Continue Reading Ladies, can we get real for a sec here?…
Because I am sure there are people from every group on the planet that embodies a stereotype, however these people are not the representative of their group. There are others. There are alternatives. That is the problem. There’s no balance. No population of any people is a monolith and it is mind-boggling to think that in a a world with so many choices, so many colors, flavors, creeds, walks of life, and “alternative” way of life that people still hold on to the belief that stereotypes should still pervade our media mainframes. There were some who had a problem with Antoine Dodson’s initial news appearance. In the station’s follow-up, they addressed the outcry about “questioning the decision to let people like him share their story, because it reflects poorly on the community” and the reporter countered saying “censoring people like Antoine is far worse.” Antoine admitted he was just being himself, not trying to portray a stereotype. He is who he is and no one should fault him for it. He’s not the problem. The stereotype isn’t either. It is the lack of non-stereotypes that I cringe at.
More than anything, these depictions are just frigin boring. Seriously. It is lackluster, dusty, uncreative and unimaginative. You have no capacity to learn, to grow to educate yourself that you simply lean on archaic ideas to describe, millions of people on this planet? Does that even make any sense? I have said it before and I will say it again, there is a trend of crying “racism” every time a group of people finds something unfavorable. Not everything is racist, or meant to be racist. There are many factors to consider before playing the “racist” card. Intent and ignorance. If the intent wasn’t malicious (and that is very easy to gauge) then I can’t legitimately call it racism. If the person is ignorant or had little to no exposure to people of color then I can’t call you a racist. I can freely call your point of view offensive and say you’re uneducated, unrefined, uncultured and brutish. Perhaps even a heathen. But not a racist. Logically, you have to pick and choose these battles because the battle for squashing stereotypes is a losing one and pretty pointless. You can only combat it by showing something different.
I remember my sister was watching a commercial for a children’s movie and when it was done, she turned to me visibly upset and said “why does the Black woman always have to be screaming and have a nasty attitude?” I didn’t have an answer for her. She was 15 and noticed and wasn’t happy about it. I just had to remind her that we are so much more than these minority archetypes. We are major. There is so much more to a Hispanic woman, to a Black man, to an Asian, Arab, Native American than meets anyone’s eyes. Unfortunately it won’t be shown but it’s up to the individual to diversify their life experiences with these different types of people. But if they don’t, well surely the individual will believe every tall guy plays basketball whilst slapping bitches in their Range Rover after making it rain with a stolen purse. Why not? They know no better.
Continue Reading The problem with stereotypes is not the stereotype at all…
What I saw last night, ‘Venus Noire.’ A film about Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, aka Hottentot Venus. She was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions, exploited, abused and dehumanized, for her physical appearance, notably her large buttocks (steatopygia) and the elongated labia, in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus. She entertaining people by gyrating her nude buttocks and showing to Europeans what were thought of as highly unusual bodily features.
“Hottentot” as the then-current name for the Khoi people, now considered an offensive term, and “Venus” in reference to the Roman goddess of love. I had dreams/nightmares about the movie. It is just that poignant. I am speechless. This rarely happens. Post to soon follow once the raging machinations of my mind simmers a bit.
The African Diaspora Film Festival ends December 14th and grabs diverse far reaching film art from all ends of the globe as the African Diaspora itself was. Full film schedule here. Watch the ‘Black Venus’ trailer:
I found ‘em y’all! Yup! I found the culprits! I caught ‘em! I caught ‘em in action! I ran out of the store and into Beeb’s car. He was cracking up. “What’s so funny?” I asked. He pointed at a group of men on the corner. “Them. They’re posted up hollering at every girl that goes by.” We spent the next five minutes parked watching them in action, uproariously laughing and pointing with the window open. If you know me, I have an unapologetically loud laugh. Some of the men saw what we were doing and were shamed into leaving. Others remained to try their luck because they knew just one woman had to respond to their advances. That one woman who let some men think it’s acceptable to “pssssttt” at me on the street. The ones who oblige the demands for a number after the “psssssst.” The ones who engaged in the drama and entertained his calls and left me to ignore him when I lost his number after I said I would and oh yea the ones who cleared their schedule every time he wanted to “chill,” I’m appalled at your behavior. It’s all your fault!
Speaking of chill, going to your home to watch a movie is not a date. No. It’s not. Thanks to you, this fool over here certainly thinks it does. His taken aback look explains it all. You women have agreed to this “date request” and it has worked very well for him over these few years. ‘Til now. Sir, please call me back when you have come up with acceptable date plans. He never called back. He found someone who accepted his original one. So it continues. I’m looking at the woman who doesn’t recognize her worth and settles for the lowest common denominator when she needn’t. Why? Because she has something. The Treasure.
I found out about this martial arts duo on NY1′s “New Yorker of the week.” The report quoted that “Dan Anderson and Dasha Libin were encouraged by an FBI statistic that reported 84% of women who fought back against would-be attackers, escape.” I was moved by the woman’s story. She said had she had these skills before, she is sure she would not have been as badly hurt as she was. I think it is a matter of life and death for women to learn a few crucial self-defense techniques. I did a google search to find out more about the free self defense classes available. Watch the report:
Self-defense class information:
SIFU-GURO DAN ANDERSON, FITNESS EXPERT DASHA LIBIN, A NYPD OFFICER & THERAPIST TO CONDUCT DEBUT CLASS, WITH ADDITIONAL DATES STARTING IN OCTOBER FOR “DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS” MONTH at Anderson Martial Arts Academy.
(October 29 and December 3, 2010; February 25, April 15, and June 24, 2011, 7PM-9PM)
Continue Reading Free self-defense class for women in NYC…