Afro-Latin Week Celebrates African Heritage of South AmericaATLANTA
According to U.S. Census reports, there are 38.8 million Hispanics now living in the United States as compared to 38.3 million Blacks or African Americans. However, the federal government’s claim that Hispanics have passed Blacks as the largest “minority” ethnic group confuses language and ethnicity. The claim implies that being Hispanic, i.e., speaking Spanish — a linguistic category that implies no ethnic or cultural unity — and being Black, a U.S. “racial” category, are mutually exclusive.
“We’re being told with seeming pleasure that the Hispanic population is now larger than the Black population, as if speaking Spanish were incompatible with being of African origin. The truth is that many people who speak Spanish are of African descent. Whereas the media seem to be trying to create a sense of us against them, we need to understand that many of them are really a part of us,” says Dr. Sheila S. Walker, cultural anthropologist and William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professor in the Social Sciences at Spelman College in Atlanta.
Walker organized Afro-Latin American Week last month, as a part of the Spelman College Year of the African Diaspora, which she also developed. Educators, researchers and community leaders of African origin from all of the Spanish-speaking nations of South America joined Spelman faculty and students, Atlanta Public School teachers, and members of the Atlanta community for a week of dialogue, workshops and presentations exploring similarities based on common African heritages and differences based on unique historical experiences.
The conference, “Generating Knowledge From the Inside,” was designed to provide an understanding of the contributions of African Diasporans to their national cultures, and to celebrate the African heritage of South America. Representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela came together to tell more accurate stories of the Americas by including the stories of Africa in the Americas.
“This gathering is important because we are involved in a global process of creating a shared consciousness about African and African American issues,” said Miriam Gomes, an Afro-Argentinean of Cape Verdean ancestry who teaches African literature in Buenos Aires. “Many Latin American countries, including Argentina, deny that they have populations of African descent. We must come together to correct such flagrant inaccuracies.”
Whereas the Washington, D.C.-based World Bank, a major development organization, estimates that there are approximately 150 million Afro-Latin Americans from Puerto Rico to Argentina, Walker points out that the Encyclopedia Britannica indicates there are no Afro-Argentineans, Bolivians, Paraguayans or Uruguayans. “The presence of our Afro-South American visitors dispels that myth,” Walker says.
“Afro-Latin American Week and the Spelman College Year of the African Diaspora are intended to help African descendants especially to understand the contributions of Africans in creating the Americas, and to help us reclaim our heritage going all the way back to the African origins of humanity,” Walker says. “It should also help all Americans understand the continuing roles that Africa plays in their lives.”
For more information on the Spelman College Year of the African Diaspora, visit <www.spelman.edu>.
— By Renita Mathis
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