In this paper, I would arguer that the history of USA is intertwined with the issue of Blacks – their enslavement and freedom but it has not as yet been focused that this subject has far greater impact in Central and Latin America, thus the greater impact of blacks in Central and Latin America would be the main theme or argument of this paper. This book, Afro-Latin America by George Reid, is the first attempt to focus on this side of the African Diaspora. With remarkable skill George Reid Andrews has woven the history of people who came from Africa to South America – broadly speaking. He traces their path from slavery to freedom and how this in turn left its stamp on the politics, economics and culture of this region. As individuals and as groups they pursued the path towards freedom, equality and acquirement of citizenship by being part of the military, political movements, civic bodies, unions, religious activities and in various cultural streams. The book travels through two centuries and should be of interest in all interested in the past, present and future of Latin America.
It is one of the best anthropological accounts of this region. The style is gripping with detailed statement of experiences, of the people of African origin in the former colonies of Spain and Portugal and the stamp of their influence on these parts on all walks of life – society, economics and culture. While the history of the Blacks is well researched and ably presented in USA, it is not so with Latin America where there is still an air of mystery and vacuum. It is ironical that it should be so considering the fact that it has the highest number of Africans residing here outside the African continent (Fagundes 68-78).
The book starts with the stunning statement – “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 the continuing immigration from Latin America during the 1990s the national Hispanic population had grown by more than 60%. For the first time ever the country’s 35.3 million Hispanic residents slightly exceeded the black population of 34.7 million” (Andrews 3).
The Blacks and Hispanics are not always distinct groups as is generally thought of. In Latin America blacks comprise a quarter of the population. The “heart of the New World African Diaspora” (Andrews 3) lies not in the north of the border in USA but in South America. During the slave period ten times more Africans came to Spanish and Portuguese America than to USA. By the close of 1900 the former outnumbered the latter by 3:1 – 22% of the population in Latin America while it was 12% in USA. With immigration, commerce and tourism ties are getting stronger and hence it is necessary to sketch a history of the Latin American African Diaspora as distinct from USA African Diaspora. In this book such an attempt has been made. The term Afro-Latin-American made its debut sometime during the 70s. Hitherto it was Afro-Venezuelans, Afro-Cubans etc. Latin America is the cluster of American countries under the rule of Spain or Portugal from 1500 to 1800 (Madrigal 99-108).
There are many other people living in this region – not only those who have come from Africa; there are Indians, Whites, Asians etc. But whether as a minority or majority the Black presence is strong in the field of agriculture and slavery. Blackness has become synonymous with a lower social status leading to a popular mass culture. The proportion of Blacks fell because of neglect disease and death. Also there was more mobility and mixing in the south unlike the rigidity of the north. Black tended to become whiter with material success; the Black became the Pardo or Mulatto. The idea was to bar them from European ancestry privileges (Aguiar 299-308).
The book is not about the race as defined...