It is a shame that even in this day and age many people, including members of the African Diaspora, are unaware of the Afro-Latinos that have lived in Mexico, Central and South America for centuries. AfroAmerica XXI is trying to change that.
According to its web site:
“Afroamerica XXI has increased the visibility of the African Diaspora from Latin America when there were only a few organizations who worked in favor of this population. Never the less, we continue to generate great changes in our communities.
“With more that 180 Afro-Latin American organizations and politician members, and with its partners in North America and Europe. Afroamerica XXI, recognize itself as a Black Nation, with an important roll to Africa and its Diaspora regardless of one’s religion, language origin place and gender.
“With our acquired experience, the continuous strengthening of our leaders, and the creation of new and innovative programs, we hope to improve the lives of Afro-Latin Americans with your continue support.”
With regard to improving the lives of Afro-Latinos, Afroamerica XXI’s web site continues:
“Afroamerica XXI is a participatory, non-hierarchical coalition/process through which African descendant communities [a] have defined their goals for the next century, [b] have a Action Plan (Plan de Acción) to attain these results [c] collectively fight the problems of racial discrimination, marginalization and exclusion [d] advocate for their interests nationally and internationally and, [e] form links and support one another.”
“In response to the continued lack of investment, economic marginalization and human rights violations, Afro-Latin American leaders in Spanish speaking countries have developed AFROAMERICA XXI. This is a regional process existing in thirteen (13) countries in Latin America. AFROAMERICA XXI began in 1995 as a result of a study in nine countries (Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The study found that African Descendants from Latin America (Afro-Latinos) are faced with racism, tend to live in isolated, extremely poor communities, receive the least governmental services and are functionally ‘invisible’. This is because few of their countrymen – and even fewer people around the world – acknowledge their existence.
Every leader present began an Afroamerica XXI in their respective countries. As a result you can see different chapters of Afroamerica XXI around Latin America. Every chapter is independent with different structures but a shared mission.
Afroamerica XXI is forged by NGOs and politically elected Afro-Latin American leaders represent their communities. The specificity of this strategy is based on its cultural roots. The action plan by the next generation [1998 – 2021] is tailored to suit the present circumstances, cultural strengths, the assets, and current limitations of Afro-Latin Americans.”
Afroamerica XXI is a participatory, non-hierarchical coalition/process through which African descendant communities:
[a] have defined their goals for the next century,
[b] have a Action Plan (Plan de Acción) to attain these results
[c] collectively fight the problems of racial discrimination, marginalization and exclusion [d] advocate for their interests nationally and internationally and, [e] form links and support one another.
You can go to the Afroamerica XXI web site and see what all that they do at Afroamerica XXI, but I have posted just one piece of information that illustrates what can be found there. The following is an excerpt from the information that can be found on Afro-Venezuelans at the Afroamerica XXI web site.
“The following information was taken from the Poverty Alleviation Program for Minority Communities in Latin America: Communities of African Ancestry in Latin America-History, Population, Contributions, & Social Attitudes, Social and Economic Conditions. This was realized by members of and organizations of AFROAMERICA XXI
Approximate Total Population 22,803,000
Total Ethnic Groups 4
Approximate Afro-Peruvian Population 2,280,300
Population and its distribution
Venezuelan racial ideology is layered in a series of myths about the racial make-up of the country as well as the nature of race relations. Venezuela's domestic and international image is of a country living in racial harmony, made up of mostly Mestizos (Indigenous/European mix) whose culture also includes influences from Africa.
In the mid-1800's, nearly 70 percent of the population of Venezuela was "Pardo", or "persons of African descent". This fact was recognized by Simón Bolivar in the Congress of Angostura in 1819:
Tengamos presente que nuestro pueblo no es europeo, ni el americano del norte; que más bién es un compuesto de Africa y América que una emanación de la Europa.
The urban Afro-Venezuelans who completed a secondary and technical or university education are employed in the formal sector and constitute a small middle class (in terms of values, but in economic terms they are in the lower income segments). They tend to choose the professions more favorably disposed to hiring Blacks. Skilled jobs held by Blacks are typically in government services such as teaching and nursing or social work, all of which employ an important number of Blacks, women in particular.
Nevertheless, Blacks appear to be excluded from management positions. They are not represented in equal proportions in the upper echelons. Such is the case with the teaching profession, in which the majority of teachers in the unions are Black, but there are very few Black professionals in the upper ranks of the Ministry of Education. Blacks are not represented in the upper ranks of the military services, diplomatic corps, or the Catholic church. Among the majority of Blacks, unemployment is reportedly very high, particularly among adolescents.
Where image is important, such as in banks, in reception areas or in airplanes as flight attendants, Black women do not find employment opportunities. According to Dr. Juan de Dios Martinez of Zulia University, there are perhaps between 7 and 15 Black secretaries in the State of Zulia, where he estimates that 66 percent of the total population is Black.
Rural economies which depend upon agriculture or fishing are depressed. Difficulties in land titling and access to credit exacerbate circumstances, and many Blacks move into the cities to find work. The informal sector economy among Afro-Venezuelans consists of production and sale of foodstuffs, particularly traditional sweets and sweet breads, and casual day labour. A new presence in Venezuela's workforce are undocumented Black immigrants from Caribbean nations as Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In Caracas, there is a strong presence of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Colombia.
T[o]urism and its Impact on Barlovento
Blacks from the area say they have a difficult time benefiting from job opportunities in the industry. By the end of 1980, many tourism projects were completed in Miranda, around the city of Higuerote, and towards the other coastal areas. With the establishment of resorts, a variety of artificial waterways were created, diverting water from several rivers and causing stagnation in some natural bodies of water. Water treatment plants have not kept pace with tourism, which resulted in several beaches being contaminated with waste.
Tourism is seen by Black townships as a threat to their way of life because there are no economic benefits from servicing tourists, who use very little local food supplies or other local commodities. Local residents do suffer from its negative impact: housing has become scarcer in Higuerote and more expensive for local residents; there is a greater flow of drugs; delinquency has increased; teenage pregnancy rose; there is growing prostitution by both sexes; and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Youths are lured into these activities by the promise of easy money.
There is a pressing need for the Afro-Venezuelan community to develop its own tourism options. The pattern of tourism promoted for Barlovento by the Chambers of Commerce consists of packaged tours for foreigners, who are taken to condominium-style facilities and to specific locations for entertainment and shopping. This leaves very little opportunity for small businesses to access the tourist and creates very few spin-offs for the local economy.
The national health delivery system reaches the Black Communities in the same manner as other rural communities in the most prosperous states. Those that are closest to the largest cities or are parish capitals have a small hospital or clinic or are the site for a health ambulatory service. At least one doctor is on hand. Often these doctors are doing their required period of social service, and there is also a nurse. Villages that are more distant appear to have a dispensary operated by a nurse with a supply line to the nearest parish hospital.
The entire health system suffers from supply problems, the distant villages and the housing groups in rural areas being more severely affected. The most disadvantaged population groups are the caserios (small settlements) which are too small to have services and are located in areas of difficult access.
Residents must attend hospital facilities in Caracas. Health workers rarely want to enter these barrios, particularly those known to have gang shoot-outs. All of them have some Black populations.
Children suffer from fevers, diarrhea, and other common diseases. Among adults, high blood pressure and its attendant complications are the biggest health threat, but most of those diagnosed are under regular treatment. The rural folk we met were older than the national life expectancy age. The self-profiles of the Black Communities described their situation as healthier than the national average.
Venezuela's most recent poverty map is based on the census of 1990. Poverty rankings are based on unsatisfied basic needs and were made for the states and for municipalities. The methodology employed was designed by ECLAC. This methodology measures structural poverty but does not measure changes in the income levels of the homes, thus it does not capture the new poor or the depth of chronic poverty caused by a recessive economy.
The observations made by the mission and the information gathered from communities, although insufficient, suggest that while small rural towns do not show evidence of as much structural poverty, the drop in purchasing power of the bolivar and the lack of economic opportunities has deepened the level of poverty of Black families in the last five years. Comments made by informants also lead to the observation that they have reached the end of their reserves, and that communal assistance to each other will no longer be a possibility. The custom of giving away produce from the conuco and later receiving an equivalent when in need will soon be a thing of the past. According to rural residents in Zulia, what little there is will have to be used or sold in order to meet household's basic cash needs.
NATIONAL LAWS, POLITICAL REPRESENTATION AND GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS
Until the 1980s, Blacks have undertaken no political development as a group because of the prevailing societal and political attitudes that there are no separate racial or ethnic groups in Venezuela. Consequently, no pressure groups have evolved to advocate for Black interests. Afro-Venezuelans vote, join political parties, risk their lives in political debate and disturbances, and participate in the political process as part of groups representing trade unions, farmers, and educators, rather than as a separate group focused on Black interests. As a result, there is little evidence of a strong Black presence in Venezuelan politics.
Afroamerica XXI is in Spanish and English.