Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000

Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000

Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000

Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000


While the rise and abolition of slavery and ongoing race relations are central themes of the history of the United States, the African diaspora actually had a far greater impact on Latin and Central America. More than ten times as many Africans came to Spanish and Portuguese America as the United States.

In this, the first history of the African diaspora in Latin America from emancipation to the present, George Reid Andrews deftly synthesizes the history of people of African descent in every Latin American country from Mexico and the Caribbean to Argentina. He examines how African peooples and their descendants made their way from slavery to freedom and how they helped shape and responded to political, economic, and cultural changes in their societies. Individually and collectively they pursued the goals of freedom, equality, and citizenship through military service, political parties, civic organizations, labor unions, religious activity, and other avenues.

Spanning two centuries, this tour de force should be read by anyone interested in Latin American history, the history of slavery, and the African diaspora, as well as the future of Latin America.


“New Census Shows Hispanics Now Even with Blacks,” the headline proclaimed. Documenting a profound shift in the racial and ethnic composition of American society, the 2000 census of the United States showed that, as a result of continuing immigration from Latin America, during the 1990s the national Hispanic population had grown by more than 60 percent. For the first time ever, the country's 35.3 million Hispanic residents now slightly exceeded the black population of 34.7 million.

Quietly elided in such a report is the fact that “blacks” and “Hispanics” are not necessarily separate groups. In the nations of Latin America, people of African ancestry are an estimated one-quarter of the total population. Indeed, the heart of the New World African diaspora lies not north of the border, in the United States, but south. During the period of slavery, ten times as many Africans came to Spanish and Portuguese America (5.7 million) as to the United States (560,000). By the end of the 1900s, Afro-Latin Americans outnumbered AfroNorth Americans by three to one (110 million and 35 million, respectively) and formed, on average, almost twice as large a proportion of their respective populations (22 percent in Latin America, 12 percent in the United States).

Especially as ties of immigration, commerce, tourism, and culture bind the two regions ever more closely together, it seems obvious that we need histories of Latin America's African diaspora comparable to those of the United States's African diaspora. This book is an effort to provide such a history.

I first encountered the term “Afro-Latin America” in the late 1970s, in articles by two political scientists, Anani Dzidzienyo and Pierre-Michel Fontaine. It struck me as a brilliant coinage. Latin American writers and intellectuals had long been referring to their fellow citizens of African ancestry as Afro-Brazilians, AfroCubans, Afro-Venezuelans, and so on; from this usage the concept of a larger, transregional category of Afro-Latin Americans followed naturally. To the best of . . .

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