“Without slaves from Africa, reported an early Portuguese source, ‘it is impossible to do anything in Brazil.’ Although prior arrivals are suspected, the first known landing of slaves from Africa on Brazilian soil took place in 1552. In 1580, five years after the founding of Loanda and on the eve of Brazil's sugar boom, there were no fewer than 10,000 Africans in Brazil.” --R.K. Kent in “Palmares: An African State in Brazil”: The Journal of African History, vol. 6, no. 2 (1965): 161-175. www.jstor.org/stable/180194.
The story of South American societies would be incomplete without a discussion ofAfro-Latinx populations’ role in their construction. Both indigenous cultures and Afro-Latinx cultures contributed to the vibrancy and dynamism of Latin American societies. However, the history of Afro-Latinx groups in South America is tied to slavery, racism, the denial of identity, and disregard for the pain and sufferings of Afro-Latinx populations. It is the tormented history of resilience and resistance. The story of African resistance in Brazil survives in the records of the Quilombo dos Palmares — a community that fought for freedom, liberty, and recognition in the face of adversity. Formed by Africans who escaped slavery, Quilombo dos Palmares existed in today’s Alagoa state of Brazil as an independent state from 1605 to its destruction in 1694. The story of Palamares is narrated in Marcelo D' Salete’s graphic novel Angola Janga. Another graphic novel, titled Run for it (Cumbe), narrates the story of Africans who resisted slavery from the 1500s to the 1800s. This fierce resistance, along with other socio-economic and political factors, forced Brazil to abolish slavery in 1888. Brazil was the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery. Despite structural racism, inequality, and the current climate of the conservative Bolsonaro administration, Afro-Brazilian people continue to proudly assert their culture, traditions, and political will. While the quilombos of the colonial past seem to have disappeared, the continuation of ideological quilombos in Brazil prompts us to consider various states’ attitudes toward minority groups. Across South America, the outright dismissal of Afro-Latinx identities is continuously met with self-assertion.
While the quilombos of the colonial past seem to have disappeared, the continuation of ideological quilombos in Brazil prompts us to consider various states’ attitudes toward minority groups. Across South America, the outright dismissal of black identities is continuously met with self-assertion. For example, in the so-called European countries such as Argentina and Chile, the history of black populations is that of longstanding denial and troubled reconciliation. An essay by BBC correspondent Jaime Gonzalez de Gispert titled “Aquí no hay negros”: cómo se borró de la historia de Argentina y Chile el aporte de los esclavos y los afrodescendientes” examines the complicated historical processes that led to a sort of official forgetting about the existence of black people in Argentina and Chile. However, this forgetting is not without resistance. Black activists — such as Marta Salgado, from Chile, who received the prestigious Nelson Mandela Prize in 2011 — continue to carry out defiance with others. NGOs such as Oro Negro, in Chile, and Consejo Nacional de Organizaciones Afros de la Argentina and Diáspora Africana de la Argentina (DIFAR), both in Argentina, continue to advocate for social justice for black populations. Colombia is also not an exception to the history of discrimination against black populations. One poignant example of this discrimination was captured in Afrografías: representaticiones gráficas y caricaturescas de los afrodescendientes, an analysis of caricatures of black people in the work of Perdomo Garcia Oscar. On the cover, we see an image of a black child drinking from a bottle of ink. The subtle use of racist imagery remains an undeniable subtext throughout Latin American publishing.