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Article

Aaron Myers

During the 1960s and 1970s, influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States and nationalist movements in Africa, Afro-Brazilians experienced a surge in black pride. This heightened black consciousness was also prompted by denouncements of racism and praises to “Mother Africa” heard in Jamaican Reggae, increasingly popular in Brazil during the 1970s. As a result, black Brazilians, especially those in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Salvador, reaffirmed their connection with Africa and became more vocal about problems facing their community, particularly racial discrimination. This process was accelerated by the abertura (opening)—the gradual return to democratic rule that began in 1979 and loosened restrictions on free speech. In Salvador, this newfound black pride reinvigorated the old and waning afoxés and gave birth to a new type of black Carnival organization, the bloco Afro.

Afoxés emerged in the late ...

Article

Any discussion of African ethnic groups in the Americas must begin with certain caveats concerning the nature of African “ethnic groups” in the areas of west, west central, and southeastern Africa, from which African diasporic populations in the Americas and the Caribbean originated. First, scholars and other observers have rightly pointed out the cultural similarities and shared histories of large groups of people whom they have termed ethnic groups. However, among African people themselves, before the age of European colonialism in the nineteenth century, such labels affiliating large groups of people held little everyday meaning. That is to say, an Igbo woman in a village in West Africa did not necessarily attach great importance—or any importance at all—to belonging within a larger Igbo collective of tens of thousands of people.

Second within all such ethnic groups there exist literally countless local and regional subgroups with various cultural and historical distinctions ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

A passionate speaker and outspoken critic of United States imperialism and the 1898 invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos spent many years in prison for his role in the pro-independence nationalist movement, during the turbulent years of the 1930s through the 1950s. He opposed the annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States when the island was ceded by the Spanish after the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1895–1898). For Albizu, Puerto Ricans—ethnically mixed and culturally different—were not, and should not be, Americans. Independence was the only legitimate and anti-imperialist solution to the island's status.

From an early age Albizu stood out as an excellent student He grew up in the city of Ponce a municipality in southern Puerto Rico where he received a grant that gave him the opportunity to study chemical engineering at the University of Vermont He later graduated from the Harvard Law School where ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

In 1988 writer Jamaica Kincaid published an acclaimed, but honest and critical history of her childhood home, Antigua, entitled A Small Place. Antigua—a country consisting of Antigua, Barbuda, and the tiny uninhabited Redonda islands—is indeed a small place. But its strategic location at the edge of the Caribbean Islands, its high rates of sugar production, and its tourist appeal has made it a valuable country. As Kincaid points out, however, this economic value—with profits concentrated in the hands of a few, and labor spread out over the backs of many—did not enrich most Antiguans' lives. In recent decades Antigua's challenge has been to take advantage of its natural beauty and resources without continuing to do so of its people.

Like many of the Caribbean Islands, Antigua's earliest inhabitants were Ciboney Meso-Indians who began settling Antigua by about 2400 b.c.e. They were followed by people who have often been ...

Article

Because art is such a broad topic and Latin America and the Caribbean is such a diverse region, this article will focus on the media of painting and sculpture. With a few exceptions in the field of architecture, the following discussion will not explore the contributions of black artists in other genres, such as the graphic arts and photography. Although they constitute a large and important part of artistic production by Blacks in Latin America and the Caribbean, festival arts, such as the costumes or floats produced for such African-based celebrations as Carnival, and sacred arts, such as altars or ceremonial accessories used in various African-derived religions, including Vodou, Santería, and Candomblé, are also beyond the scope of this article.

This article is organized into three sections concentrating on three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where blacks have played a central role in defining ...

Article

Aruba  

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Aruba is one of the few Caribbean islands whose people are still largely descended from an original indigenous population. This is partly because Aruba was never the site of plantation slavery and so was never home to the large numbers of African slaves who are the ancestors of most other contemporary Caribbean islanders. Over 85 percent of Arubans are of mixed Arawak Indian and European ancestry. A majority of the remaining 15 percent are black immigrants from other Caribbean islands who have come to Aruba to fill some of the many available jobs in thriving tourist and oil industries.

Aruba's earliest inhabitants were Caiquetios Arawaks who migrated from South America approximately 2,000 years ago. The first European contact with the island came in 1499, when explorer Alonso de Ojeda claimed Aruba for Spain. But Aruba was soon declared an isla inútil a useless island because of its barren ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The Bahamas may be best known as the setting for one of the most charged events in history: the “discovery” of the New World by European explorers. The exact place that Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas has long been debated. Many sources have long believed it to be Long Bay; other possible sites may be San Salvador Island, Cat Island, Samana Cay, or one of several other islands in the Bahamas. But historians agree that Columbus and his crew were in the waters of the Bahamas when they came ashore on the morning of Friday, October 12, 1492. In this way, the Bahamas became the backdrop for the cultural encounter that would eventually bring Europeans, Africans, and Asians to inhabit the Americas and the West Indies.

Article

Bahia  

Aaron Myers

Of all the states in Brazil, Bahia has maintained the strongest ties with Africa and African culture. During the first two centuries of the colonial era, Bahia absorbed most of the slaves imported to Brazil. At this time, the slaves came to constitute a majority of Bahia's population and exerted a proportional effect on the developing character of the state. Today, Bahia's traditions and customs are living testimony to the enormous influence of Africans and their descendants.

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Barbados has been described as the Caribbean's most “British” island. Blacks in Barbados speak with a British accent, play the traditionally British sport of cricket, and adhere to British custom in their legal and political affairs. Great Britain has indeed been an important force in the nation's development. But standard accounts of the history of Barbados have often focused on its British character at the expense of its African heritage. Some historians have emphasized the British role in creating the institutions that govern Barbados today. Similarly, its educational system, sports industry, and economy have all been tied to Great Britain. However, British culture has not necessarily played the most important role in the historical emergence of Barbados as a free and democratic society.

Many historians now acknowledge that slavery was perhaps the defining institution in Barbados and that African slaves are essential players in the island s history In fact ...

Article

Belize  

Before independence, the version of Belizean history taught in schools reflected the country's colonial status and the conservative Eurocentric views of the various Christian churches (Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist) that controlled most schools. The indigenous people of the region, the Maya, were mentioned chiefly in terms of their ancient civilization and archaeological ruins and their struggles with Spanish conquistadores in the sixteenth century. The history of Belize was depicted as beginning with English buccaneers (seafaring freebooters who preyed on Spanish ships), who in the 1630s began to cut logwood, from which a valuable dye was produced, from a base near the mouth of the Belize River.

The official version of events scarcely mentioned the thousands of enslaved Africans who were brought to the British settlement in the eighteenth century to cut logwood and later mahogany for England s luxury furniture industry Masters and slaves were said to have lived and ...

Article

Alvin O. Thompson

Black slavery in the Caribbean was primarily an economic phenomenon although it had important political and social ramifications A large cheap docile labor force was the ideal the Europeans sought for their sugar coffee cocoa cotton and other tropical plantations The sparsity of the indigenous Caribbean populations in most of the islands at the time of the European arrival and their subsequent decimation by inhuman treatment and epidemic diseases introduced from Europe and Africa led to a critical shortage of labor for the new European plantations The geographical location of Africa and the collaboration of the African ruling classes with the European purveyors of the slave trade ensured continuous supply of slaves from that source Over time the introduction of Africans radically changed the demographic economic social and cultural landscape of the Caribbean Peoples of African descent today constitute the largest population groups in most of the islands and are ...

Article

Bolivia  

Rob Garrison

For those who think of the Andes region and conjure up images of indigenous Indian populations, it is surprising to realize that black people also live in Bolivia. There are even Bolivians who are unaware of this fact. Many Bolivians, not aware of their country's historic involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, think that blacks are migrants from Brazil or other nearby countries. The scarcity of Afro-Bolivians in the country (about two percent of the population) may partially explain the superstition held by some citizens that pinching someone when they see a black person will bring good luck. Whatever the origin of this belief may be, the objectification of black people that it represents illustrates the subtle forms of racism that Afro-Bolivians find offensive.

Reputed to be the most Indian of the American republics because of its large Aymara and Quechua speaking population Bolivia accords little if any recognition ...

Article

Brazil  

Aaron Myers

With a total area of 8,547,404 sq km (3,300,171 sq mi), Brazil shares a border with French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela to the north; with Colombia and Peru to the west; and with Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay to the southwest. Its Atlantic coastline stretches 7,490 km (4,650 mi).

Many people associate Brazil with the seductive rhythms of Samba, the annual Carnival celebration, Soccer, and beautiful beaches. Few realize that Brazil's population includes the largest number of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. The influence of Africa on the population and development of Brazil has been great and pervasive, and few—if any—aspects of Brazilian society and civilization have remained untouched by that influence.

The strong show of Afro Brazilian culture during Carnival brings together Brazilians of all colors helping to create the impression that Brazil is a racial democracy ...

Article

Canada  

James W. St. Walker

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. A few came as explorers, more came as slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, still more as former American slaves fleeing to Canada between 1783 and 1865, and since then as free immigrants from the United States, the West Indies, and Africa. Until the 1980s very few came directly from their ancestral continent, yet the label African Canadian is being used increasingly to include all Canadians of African descent, wherever they were born. In the 1996 census, African Canadians composed about 2 percent of the total Canadian population.

Article

Aaron Myers

Scholars distinguish three major types of Candomblé in Brazil, each of which is associated with different nações (literally “nations,” which refer to the African ethnic group origins of the Candomblé): the Gêgê-Nagô Candomblé, the Angola-Congo Candomblé, and the Candomblé de Caboclo. The first is based on Yoruba and Fon religious traditions and languages, while the others are based on diverse Bantu and Brazilian sources. There is a great deal of variation both between and within these three types of Candomblé, but all are strongly influenced by Yoruba beliefs and rituals. This article attempts to discuss the elements common to all three variants of Candomblé.

Large numbers of Yoruba slaves from Nigeria and Benin were brought to Brazil during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They believed in one Supreme Being, known as Olorun or Olodumaré, and numerous intermediary spiritual beings, known as orixás which were in broad ...

Article

Verene A. Shepherd

The use of the labor of enslaved Africans became a part of the strategic economic thinking of European wealth accumulators in the Americas by the early seventeenth century as soon as it became clear that indigenous and white servant labor were both numerically inadequate to serve the needs of the expanding agricultural economy Having conquered the land resources of the indigenous peoples and with no desire to work this land themselves Europeans turned to the coerced labor of outsiders to extract returns from the land The success of the colonization project depended on the export of agricultural commodities to provide raw material and consumer goods for Europe Sugar rice indigo coffee cotton and tobacco were among the crops that provided planters in the Americas with the exportable agricultural commodities they needed There was no inherent reason why export led growth had to be associated with slavery Smallholders in other parts ...

Article

Dale Tomich, Francisco A. Scarano, Michael Craton, Pieter Emmer, and Carolyn Flick

[To chart the history of slavery in various European colonies throughout the Caribbean, this entry comprises five articles:

British Caribbean

French Caribbean

Spanish Caribbean

Dutch Caribbean

Danish and Swedish Caribbean

For further discussion of the scope and documentation of slavery in the region,see Historiography, article on Latin ...

Article

The festivals known as Carnival are public celebrations of European origin that have been profoundly transformed by diverse New World African cultures throughout the Americas. Although Carnival is celebrated in many Latin American and Caribbean cities, this description will focus on four different Carnivals: two in Brazil, one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in Salvador, Bahia; one in the Caribbean, in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and one in the United States, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Article

Liliana Obregón

Spanish colonizers first encountered the bay of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of present-day Colombia, in 1502, although it was not until 1533 that a permanent settlement was established. Pedro de Heredia, the city's founder, named the site and bay after Cartagena in Spain, adding “de Indias” (of the Indies) for its location in the Americas. Heredia and his men soon found gold and wrote back to King Carlos I of Spain requesting permission to import African slaves to the area to work in mining and processing this precious metal. By 1545 Cartagena de Indias was developing into a prosperous port town, populated mainly by Spaniards who had been attracted by reports of gold. From 1580 to 1630 gold mines were exploited in the inland towns of Zaragoza Cáceres and Remedios which were accessible from Cartagena by river The mines extended the city s area ...

Article

Charles Van Doren

For three centuries, from about 500 to 200 b.c.e., Carthage was the capital of a commercial empire that dominated trade in the western Mediterranean. Starting around 250 b.c.e., however, the Carthaginians found themselves increasingly in conflict with the expanding Roman Republic. The Romans, after three ruthless wars of attrition, destroyed the city and scattered its inhabitants. Reestablished by the Romans in later years as a commercial outpost, Carthage languished for centuries after the fall of the empire. Today it is a pleasant suburb of Tunis, Tunisia. This article deals primarily with the ancient history of the city and its role, despite its ultimate defeat, in the growth of Roman Africa.