Pan Africanism : In Argentina, Researchers Exhume Long-Unclaimed African Roots...

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Aqil, May 7, 2005.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By Monte Reel
    Washington Post Foreign Service

    BUENOS AIRES - Their disappearance is one of Argentina's most enduring mysteries. In 1810, black residents accounted for about 30% of the population of Buenos Aires. By 1887, however, their numbers had plummeted to 1.8%. So where did they go? The answer, it turns out, is nowhere.

    Popular myth has offered two historical hypotheses: a yellow fever epidemic in 1871 that devastated black urban neighborhoods, and a brutal war with Paraguay in the 1860s that put many black Argentines on the front lines. But two new studies are challenging those old notions, using distinct methods: a door-to-door census to determine how many Argentines consider themselves black, and an analysis of DNA samples to detect traces of African ancestry in those who consider themselves white.

    The results are only partially compiled, but they suggest that many of the black Argentines did not vanish; they just faded into the mixed-race populace and became lost to demography. According to some researchers, as many as 10% of Buenos Aires residents are partly descended from black Argentines but have no idea. "People for years have accepted the idea that there are no black people in Argentina," said Miriam Gomes, a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires who is part-black and considers herself Afro-Argentine. "Even the schoolbooks here accepted this as a fact. But where did that leave me?"

    It left her as part of a practically invisible fringe, a group whose very existence had been snubbed by the country's early statesmen. The nation aggressively courted "the reviving spirit of European civilization" - in the words of 19th-century Argentine social architect Juan Bautista Alberdi - and promoted an image of a European country transplanted on South American soil. "Argentina was interested in presenting itself as a white country," said George Reid Andrews, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has specialized in black history in Latin America. "Its ideologues and writers put a great emphasis on the yellow fever epidemic and the war, and it was feasible to pretend that the black population had simply disappeared as immigration exploded."

    Estimates of the current population of blacks in Buenos Aires are essentially wild guesses, partly because the Argentine government has not reflected African racial ancestry in its census counts in well over a century. But Gomes is among the group of scholars and scientists who want to take a closer look at today's black culture in Argentina, which they believe will help them form a clearer picture of what happened in the past.

    Funded in part by the World Bank and assisted by Argentina's Census Bureau, the group launched a limited census of various neighborhoods in the capital last month. First, they asked whether any people in the house considered themselves Afro-Argentine, then they asked whether anyone in the house had any black ancestors. In neighborhoods with historically high concentrations of black residents, they conducted more detailed surveys of religious practice, diet and social organization - an attempt to measure the influence of African culture there.

    The results won't be analyzed until later this year. Diego Masello, a professor with the National University of the Third of February, said the thorniest challenge of the census has been eliciting honest answers - or any answers at all. "In some cases, the census-takers reported that residents who visibly had some African traits, even some who appeared completely black, absolutely refused to participate," said Masello, who is helping direct the census. Gomes said such responses have been frustrating, but illustrative. "Without a doubt, racial prejudice is great in this society, and people want to believe that they are white," Gomes said. "Here, if someone has one drop of white blood, they call themselves white."

    But personal definitions do not count when analyzing DNA, which is what a group of scientists from the University of Buenos Aires and Oxford University in England did earlier this year. After collecting blood samples at a local hospital, they searched for genetic markers that indicate African ancestry. The results, to be published this year in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, suggested that 10% of those who identified themselves as white were, in part, descendants of black Argentines.

    "A lot of people were very surprised by this," said Francisco R. Carnese, a geneticist at the University of Buenos Aires and co-author of the study. "When you walk around Buenos Aires, you don't see signs of African ancestry. But you see it in the genes." Carnese said there was also a growing desire among Argentines to figure out their heritage - one reason that multiple studies are trying to shed light on the same thing, he said. For most Argentines, that means delving into the cultures of Italy, England and Germany, but Africa also deserves consideration, he said.

    The near-invisibility of black culture and roots in Argentina has been a striking contrast with neighboring Brazil, which once imported millions of African slaves and has a large, high-profile Afro-Brazilian community. Africans had a strong hand in shaping Brazilian culture: samba music, the Lenten festival of carnival and African religions that have melded with Roman Catholicism to form hybrid systems of faith. Even the national dish, a black bean staple called feijoada, is popularly credited to 16th-century slaves.

    In Argentina, partly in response to the new research, black interest groups have started promoting what they say is a strong African influence on some of the traditions most closely associated with Argentina. There was little slave trade with Argentina; many Africans who ended up there had originally been imported to Brazil. "The first paintings of people dancing the tango are of people of African descent," Gomes said. The asado - the traditional Argentine barbecue that includes glands, livers and other organs from cows - also was influenced by blacks who collected the parts that the Argentine cowboys, or "gauchos," threw away, according to Masello.

    The census-takers hope their work will inspire the government to include African ancestry in its next census in 2011 - a decision that Gomes said she believed would go a long way in acknowledging the role of Africa in today's Argentina. "If we're not counted," she said, "there's no way to really convince people that we actually exist."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/04/AR2005050402125.html
     
  2. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Thank you for this post & link brother Aqil. I wrote in another thread that widespread race mixing does not create a "new race", instead it leads to the extinction of whatever race happens to be in the minority. There have been many black communities throughout South America & Europe which vanished as a result of intermixing with the white populace. Buenos Aires is yet another example of this occurance. If we are not more aware, this same pattern will occur in the US as well. At roughly 11% of the US population, compared to whites who make up 75% of the US population, African Americans can not afford to mix with whites (or any other races) on a large scale.
     
  3. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    You're quite welcome, Pan...I also found these articles re: Brazil quite interesting:

    'New' Africans Invade Brazil's Northeast

    By Guido Nejamkis
    Reuters

    SALVADOR, Brazil (Reuters) - They live in Salvador, Brazil's most African city, but they long to return to the continent where they were born. They are Salvador's "new" Africans, studying and working in the city that was Brazil's capital until 1763, and looking on with curiosity at the rituals and customs left behind by their predecessors brought here centuries ago as slaves.

    Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia and Brazil's most populous northeastern city, was the entry port for hundreds of thousands of African slaves. More than 3 million African slaves were shipped into Brazil before it became the last country in the Americas to abolish the practice, in 1888.

    Nearly half of Brazil's 175 million people define themselves as black, or "pardo" - a loose definition including virtually all dark shades of skin - giving the country the world's largest black population outside of Africa. Now Africans from countries like Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe are rushing here as students.

    Fatima Nunes, from Guinea Bissau - who is studying for a doctorate in public health in Bahia - adores wandering in the labyrinthine streets of Pelourinho, the neighborhood where Salvador's slave market used to stand. Named by UNESCO as a "World Heritage Site," today Pelourinho is a mirror of life in Bahia, filled with restaurants and shops offering "Afro-Brazilian" food, crafts and African clothes. "There are ancient traditions which existed in Africa and have disappeared but you can still see them practiced here," said Nunes. "They value the clothes, food and crafts from Africa more than us and have turned them into a source of income."

    Swarming with tourists, Pelourinho's cobblestone streets are filled the drum beat of Oludum, a group based on African musical roots and the legends of the Africans who arrived in Brazil as slaves. Lola Acani, a Nigerian who arrived in Salvador 10 years ago, took advantage of the African trends sweeping through Salvador by opening a shop in Pelourinho. She offers clothes, bracelets, necklaces and even African-style combs in her shop. "Salvador is my second home, but some day I will return," she says.

    Most of the students come to occupy university places left open by Brazil, which wants to reactivate its relations with Africa, or were sent by governments which need professionals to build economies at home, or rebuild after years of war. Many have found the possibility of a better future than they had at home but the dream of returning remains even though many left behind pain, destruction and death.

    Pedro Neves left Angola in 1996, leaving behind Africa's most bloody civil war, a war that killed his brother. He graduated from law school in Brazil and now works as a lawyer in Salvador. "I decided to work here because Angola was at war," he says. "But today it is better and I think about returning. I came to Brazil trying to overcome the pain and I am thinking about returning for the children my brother left behind. I miss them."

    Physicist Roberto Andrade, who works for the secretary of International Affairs at the University of Bahia, said that the university has begun an aggressive policy of cooperation with African universities, offering courses and training in subjects like geophysics, medicine and health. "In many areas Brazil is a reference for Africa, in subjects like the fight against AIDS and health for women," said Andrade. Brazil has a world-renowned anti-AIDS program, which offers patients a cocktail of cheap generic drugs. Recently the University of Bahia organized a trip to Luanda to create closer ties.

    Still, most African students want to pay back the help they got from their governments and countries by returning home after studying in Brazil. "I want to return and I need to return," said Neves. "Angola invested in us to help rebuild the country."

    Guinean Isidoro Semedo, who is taking a masters in economics at the University of Bahia, agrees. "When I finish my course I will return," he says. "Nostalgia beats in my heart."
     
  4. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Latin Americans, Arabs Criticize Rich Nations at Summit

    By Andrew Hay and Guido Nejamkis

    BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - South American and Arab leaders criticized the world's rich countries and Israel, and gave support to the Palestinians on Tuesday at a summit originally intended to promote stronger business links between the two regions. "This is a brave meeting with ambitious objectives. We want to take concrete steps in the fight for development and social justice," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said at the opening ceremony, where princes and emirs in Arab robes and headgear gathered in a convention center in Brazil's futuristic capital.

    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, on his first overseas trip since Iraq held elections, urged the participants to help his country's reconstruction with investment and recognition. Both sides, however, clearly had different priorities.

    Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said that while he supported trade between developing nations it was in the political world that true cooperation would be gained. "We must call upon the entire international community to find a final resolution (to the Palestinian issue), a solution that is definitive, so that everyone will do their best so that Israel will submit itself to international law and accept a negotiated peace," Bouteflika said to cheers from delegates.

    Brazilian President Lula wants summit participants to identify business opportunities that will open up new relationships between poorer regions long dominated by the world's most powerful economies. He used the occasion to reiterate his criticism of the world trade order and subsidies by the rich countries. "Our great challenge is to design a new international trade and economic geography," said Lula, who proposed this summit after a Middle East tour in 2003 as part of a drive by Brazil, the world's fourth-largest democracy, to establish itself as a diplomatic force and a voice for the developing world.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez seized the chance to rail against the United States and "the capitalist voracity. "Some call us countries on the path to development, others undeveloped. I choose to say developed, exploited, dominated," he said in his address.

    In a concrete achievement, the Mercosur trade bloc linking Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay signed an accord to begin talks on a free-trade pact with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Brazil has said it intends to double its trade with the Arab world to $15 billion over the next three years.

    But the Arabs were focused on securing political support for the Palestinians and censure of Israel. The final summit declaration will condemn terrorism but will also support the rights of people to resist occupation. Washington and the Israelis have expressed concern, believing this could offer support to anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hezbollah, whom they deem terrorists. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked South American countries for "always having been on the just side of the Palestinian question." He asked all participants to work to give a new push to the peace process.

    In his speech, Iraqi president Talabani, a Kurd, said Iraq was a rich and strong country which would lift itself up quickly. "We came to this summit asking also for a condemnation of terrorism and these savage terrorist acts that are committed against the Iraqi people," he said. "We are suffering from some problems but we are decided and we are sure of victory. We hope that this summit helps our people in their just fight," he said.

    A huge security operation was mounted in Brasilia, causing traffic chaos in this city, built from scratch in the middle of the Savanna in the late 1950s. More than 9,000 troops and police were deployed to guard against any terrorist attack. Light tanks were positioned along the roads and the convention center was surrounded by barbed wire with military helicopters flying overhead.
     
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