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Total population
149,493 (2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
Salta · Tucumán · Córdoba · Santa Fe
Buenos Aires · Misiones · Corrientes
Predominantly Rioplatense Spanish
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Latin American · Afro-Uruguayan

According to the Argentina national census of 2010, the total Argentine population is 40,117,096,1 of whom 149.49323 identify as Afro-Argentines.

The Afro-Argentine population resulting from the slave trade during the centuries of Spanish domination of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata had a major role in Argentine history. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, they comprised up to fifty percent of the population in some provinces, and had a deep impact on national culture. In the 19th century, the population declined sharply in number as a result of several factors such as the Argentine War of Independence (c. 1810-1818), high infant mortality rates, low numbers of married couples in this ethnic group, the Paraguayan War, cholera epidemics in 1861 and 1864, as well as a yellow fever epidemic in 1871. By the late 19th century, the Afro-Argentine population consisted mainly of women who mixed with European immigrants, who arrived by the thousand on Argentine soil.45

Over 5% of Argentines state they have at least 1 black ancestor, and a further 20% state they do not know whether or not they have any black ancestors. 67Genetic studies carried out in 2005 showed that the average level of African genetic contribution in the population of Buenos Aires is 2.2%, but that this component is concentrated in 10% of the population who display notably higher levels of African ancestry. 8 Today there is still a notable Afro-Argentine community in the Buenos Aires district of San Telmo. There are also quite a few African-descended Argentines in Merlo and Ciudad Evita cities, in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

Introduction and Origin of Africans during Colonization

Statue of "Slavery" also known as "The Slave", Francisco Cafferata, Sicily in the square, Parque 3 de Febrero, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

As part of the process of conquest, the economic regimes of the European colonies in America developed various forms of forced labor exploitation of the American aboriginals. However, the relatively low population density of some of the South American territories, resistance from some Aboriginal groups to the acculturation and especially the high rate of mortality caused by the type of work, and diseases introduced by Europeans resulted in the decline of the native population. This led the Spaniards to supplement the manpower that the aboriginals provided with slaves from sub-Saharan Africa. Mexico and Peru alone lost nearly 90-percent of their indigenous population in the first 50 years after the Conquest.citation needed

Well into the 19th century, mining and agriculture accounted for the bulk of economic activity in America. African slave labor held the advantage of having already been exposed to European diseases through geographical proximity, and African laborers readily adapted to the tropical climate of the colonies. In the case of Argentina, the influx of African slaves began in the colonies of the Rio de la Plata in 1588. Africans arrived in the colonies as a direct result of European human traffickers forcibly kidnapping Africans, and smuggling them from West Africa to the Americas, and throughout the Caribbean. Trafficking flourished through the port of Buenos Aires when the city granted the British the privilege of importing a share of slaves through it. To provide slaves to the East Indies, the Spanish crown granted contracts known as Asientos to various companies from other countries, mainly Portuguese, British, Dutch and French.9 In 1713 England, victorious in the War of Spanish Succession, had the monopoly on this trade. The last Asiento was drawn up with the Royal Society of the Philippines in 1787. Until the 1784 ban, African slaves were measured and then branded.citation needed

Before the 16th century slaves had arrived in relatively small numbers from the Cape Verde islands. Thereafter the majority of Africans brought to Argentina were from ethnic groups speaking Bantu languages, from the territories now comprising Angola, The Gambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Guinea and the Republic of the Congo. The importation of Yoruba and Ewe was limited in Argentina; larger numbers of these groups were taken to Brazilcitation needed

It is estimated that 30 million Africans were shipped to the Americas, and the 6 million who survived the journey entered mainly through the ports of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Valparaiso and Rio de Janeiro.10

The slaves were forced to work in agriculture, livestock, domestic work and to a lesser extent crafts. In urban areas, many slaves made handicrafts for sale, while revenues went to their masters. The Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Telmo and Monserrat housed a large quantity of slaves, although most were to sent to the interior provinces. The 1778 census conducted by Juan José Salcedo of Vértiz showed very high concentration of Africans in provinces where agricultural production was greatest: 54% in Santiago del Estero Province, 52% in Catamarca Province, 46% in Salta province, 44% in Córdoba Province, 64% in the Tucuman Province, 24% in Mendoza Province, 20% in La Rioja Province, 16% in San Juan Province, 13% in Jujuy Province and 9% in San Luis Province. An important part of the African population also inhabited other provinces. Today one of the slums of the city of Corrientes is still known as Camba Cuá, from the Guarani kamba kua, meaning "cave of the Blacks".citation needed

In 1806-1807 the city of Buenos Aires had 15,708 Europeans, 347 indigenous and cholos (mestizos), and 6,650 Africans and mulattoes, while in 1810 there were 22,793 whites, 9,615 Africans and mulattoes, and only 150 indigenous and cholos. The area most densely populated by Africans was located in the neighborhood of Monserrat, also known as Barrio del Tambor (Drumtown), just a few blocks from the current Congress.citation needed

The Nations

The Casa Mínima, built by freedmen following the 1812 abolition of slavery in Argentina.

Slaves would group themselves in societies they called nations, some of which were Conga, Cabunda, African Argentine, Mozambique, etc.citation needed

The commonalities among the meeting places of the nations included artificially flattened and sanded opened spaces for dancing; others were closed in with interior free space. In some cases the rooms were carpeted, and curtained, having been provided these items by the slave owner. The nation had its king and queen, previously chosen by democratic election, and a throne was erected where the flag of a particular nation was displayed. Every nation had a flag. There was also a platform, or dais, which among other things was used to receive great dignitaries such as Juan Manuel de Rosas, his wife, and his daughter, as portrayed in a painting by Martín Boneo. The headquarters was the site of social gatherings and dances.citation needed

Often the Afro-Argentine societies centered around the barrios, such as the del Mondongo nation or the del Tambor society. The Mondongo nation was one of the most important in Buenos Aires and was composed of 16 blocks in the barrio of Monserrat. Its name derived from the large quantity of tripe (mondongo) consumed by its members. The name Tambor was quite common in many towns, as the drum was the favored African instrument for dances and songs.citation needed

Sometimes slaves were purchased individually from abroad through an agent. For example, a letter sent from Rio de Janeiro says:citation needed

My dear sir: on behalf of the schooner Ávila I send you the negro girl that you charged me with purchasing here. She is thirteen or fourteen years old, was born in the Congo, and is called María. I will put on record that I have received the five hundred peso price. Greetings to you.

Africans in the Formation of Argentina

Despite widespread slavery, testimonies of the time argued that in Buenos Aires and in Montevideo slaves were treated with less cruelty than elsewhere. José Antonio Wilde, in Buenos Aires during Argentina's early independence period (1810–1880) said that:citation needed

the slaves had been treated with genuine affection by their masters, having no point of comparison with the treatment given to other colonies.

However, Wilde goes onto acknowledge that:citation needed

the tormented love more or less at this hapless fraction of the human genus (and that) between us were usually very badly dressed.

Testimony regarding the treatment of Argentine slaves in contrast to that of other European colonies is most likely that of foreigners. For example, Alexander Gillespie, skipper of the British army during the British invasion of 1806, wrote in his memoirs that he was surprised how well African slaves were treated as opposed to those enslaved by British planters in the Caribbean, and in Guyana. He goes on to state:citation needed

"When these unhappy exiles from their country are bought in Buenos Aires, the first care was to instruct the master's lead slave in the native language of the place, and the same in the general principles and beliefs of their faith" "The masters, as I have observed, were equally attentive to their morals. Every morning before they were to leave to Mass, they congregated in a black circle on the floor, young and old, giving them work of needle and fabric, each according to their abilities. Everyone seemed jovial and I have no doubt that the reprimand also entered the circle. Before and after lunch and dinner in one of the latter was presented to ask for blessings and give thanks, what we were taught to regard as prominent duties and always complied with solemnity.

—Alexander Gillespie, Captain of the British Army, 1998

In 1801 the first Afro-Argentine militias were organized and regulated in the Company of the Grenadier Brown and Brown as a military corps segregated from the rest.

The British Invasion of 1806 originated with an uprising of Argentine's slave population in Buenos Aires encouraged by the rise of abolitionism of slavery in England. Afro-Argentines believed that the British expedition came mainly to give them their independence. But the British General William Carr Beresford, had no sympathy with this movement. The spokesman for the Creoles in Buenos Aires, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón argued that the country's economic base would be ruined if slavery were quickly eliminated. He demanded action on behalf of their estates, and thus General Beresford issued a directive in which he ordered that it be announced to make the slaves understand that the British were not there to change the current situation. "It is the shortcut to time," wrote Pueyrredón in July 1806, in a letter to his stepfather in Cadiz. This measure would contribute to the defeat of the British occupation, because it drove the slaves to fight against them.

Following the defeat of the British, the Cabildo de Buenos Aires declared its main objective to "see how to banish slavery from our soil." In 1812, Bernardo de Monteagudo was prevented from assuming membership of the First Triumvirate, due to his "questionable mother," referring to his African ancestors. Paradoxically, Bernardino Rivadavia was one of the objectors. He was also a descendant of Africans.11 The Assembly of the Year XIII, the first constituent body of Argentina, ordered the release of slave children, but did not recognize the existing right to the emancipation of the slaves. Many blacks were part of militias and irregular troops that eventually would shape the Argentine Army, but always in segregated squadrons. Blacks could however, if they were not complying with their masters, ask to be sold and even find themselves a buyer.

Until the abolition of slavery in 1853, the Rescue Law forced slave owners to cede 40-percent of their slaves to military service. Those who had completed five years of service would obtain manumission, but that was rarely the case. The Northern Army commanded by José de San Martín and Manuel Belgrano, freed blacks made up to 65-percent of the troops. San Martin came to the conclusion that there were 400,000 Afro-Argentines who could be recruited into the homeland armies. The armies of Independence recruited large numbers of slaves who lived in conquered territories, offering them freedom in exchange. Many of them included the Battalion Number Eight, which was part of the front line at the Battle of Chacabuco that recorded large numbers of casualties.

During the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas the black population of Buenos Aires rose to 30-percent. This period saw the introduction of the Argentine Carnival (similar to that of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the development of rhythms such as Candomblé and milonga that would become an integral part of Argentine folklore. Rosas was known for his great appreciation of the black population, and his frequent attendance at the Candomblés. Many of the gauchos who developed tasks in the field at the time were Afro-Argentines. In 1837, Roses passed a law expressly prohibiting the purchase and sale of slaves in Argentina, and in 1840 issued a decree for the total abolition of the slave trade in Rio de la Plata in all forms. The National Constitution of 1853 abolished slavery, but legally only with the reform of the Constitution of 1860 was complete freedom granted to all slaves brought by their foreign masters to Argentine territory.

Domingo F. Sarmiento's term as President of Argentina from 1868 to 1874 happens to be one of the two factors that traditional history assigns to have attributed to the cause of the mass death of Afro-Argentines: the Paraguayan War (1865–1870) and the yellow fever epidemic in Buenos Aires of 1871.

After the abolition of slavery Afro-Argentines lived in miserable conditions and faced widespread discrimination. The proof is that of the fourteen schools in Buenos Aires in 1857, only two black children were admitted, despite the fact that 15-percent of students that year were of color. Similarly, in 1829, in Cordoba only those Afro-Argentines entering secondary school could be there for two years instead of the four years for white Argentines. Universities did not allow Blacks into their alumni until 1853.

Afro-Argentines began to publish newspapers and to organize for the common defense. One of the newspapers, "The Unionist", published in 1877 a statement of equal rights and justice for all people regardless of skin color was published. In one of its statements read:

The Constitution is a dead letter and the Counts and Marquises abound, which, following the old and odious colonial regime intended to treat their subordinates as slaves, without understanding that among the men who humiliate there are many who hide under their clothes a coarse intelligence superior to that of the same outrage.

Other newspapers were "The African Race", the "Black Democrat" and "The Proletarian", all published in 1858. By the 1880s there were about twenty such Afro-Argentine-published newspapers in Buenos Aires; and some researchers consider these social movements integral to the introduction of socialism and the idea of social justice in Argentine culture.

Some Afro-Argentines entered politics. For example, José María Morales, an active colonel in the militias, became a deputy provincial constituent and then provincial senator in 1880, while Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Sosa became deputy twice and a constituent in 1853.

Decline of the Afro-Argentine population

The bloody War of Paraguay (1865-1870) and the Yellow Fever Epidemic have been attributed to the drastic diminution of the Afro-Argentine population.

Causes of Reduction

  • Heavy casualties caused by constant civil wars and foreign wars: Blacks formed a disproportionate part of the Argentine army in the long and bloody War of Paraguay (1865–1870), in which the loss of lives on both sides were high.
  • Epidemics, especially of yellow fever in 1871: the traditional history holds that the epidemics had greater impact in areas where the poorest people lived.
  • Emigration (meaning movement of a population out of one country to another, as opposed to immigration: movement of people into a country from another). Large numbers of Afro-Argentines emigrated particularly to Uruguay and Brazil, where black populations had historically been larger and had a more favorable political climate;
  • Massive immigration from Europe between 1880 and 1950,12 boosted by the Constitution of 1853, that quickly multiplied the country's population. Like Australia in the 1950s to 1980s, European immigrants were encouraged while non-Europeans were virtually excluded.
Afro Argentine upper middle class women

Slavery was officially abolished in Argentina in 1813, although many Afro-Argentine were still held as slaves, and were only granted their freedom as a condition of fighting in Argentina's wars. For this reason, African males had disproportionate numbers in the war against Spain for Argentina's independence. A huge number of African descended males were killed in the war compared to the Spanish Argentines.

Unfortunately, a free Afro-Argentine had less chance of survival than an enslaved Afro-Argentine. Enslaved Afro-Argentines were seen as investments, and so were taken good care of. On the other hand, free Afro-Argentines were left with menial jobs for low pay, or forced to become beggars in the streets. For this reason, poverty in the Afro-Argentine community was prevalent at the time. In fact, many Afro-Argentines died from disease because they could not afford proper medical care. Many Afro-Argentines were decimated by frequent plagues like yellow fever.13


Today in Argentina, the Afro-Argentine community is beginning to emerge from the shadows. There have been black organizations such as "Grupo Cultural Afro," "SOS Racismo," and perhaps the most important group "Africa Vive" that help to rekindle interest into the African heritage of Argentina. There are also Afro-Uruguayan and Afro-Brazilian migrants who have helped to expand the African culture. Afro-Uruguayan migrants have brought candomble to Argentina, while Afro-Brazilians teach capoeira, orisha, and other African derived seculaIt has been well over a century since Argentina has reflected the African racial ancestry in its census count. Therefore, calculating the exact number of Afro-descendents is very difficult; however, Africa Vive calculates that there are about 1,000,000 Afro-descendents in Argentina.14 The last census, carried on October 27, 2010, introduced the African ancestry survey.1516

African influence in Argentine culture


Perhaps the most lasting effect of black influence in Argentina was the Tango, which charges some of the characteristics of the festivities and ceremonies that slaves developed in the so-called tango, meeting houses in which they are grouped with permission from their masters. Although not yet clearly demonstrated, it is considered that even the milonga (and dance) and chacarera draw on its influence, and the minstrel song, besides the fictitious dark Martín Fierro, the minstrels were famous Gabino Ezeiza and Higinio D. Cazón. The pianist and composer Rosendo Mendizabal, author of "El Entrerriano", was black, as well as Carlos Posadas, Enrique Maciel (author of the music of the waltz "La Pulpera de Santa Lucía"), Cayetano Silva, born in San Carlos (Uruguay) and author of the San Lorenzo march music, and Zenón Rolón, who wrote numerous academic music, funeral march as the Great in 1880 was run in honor of the Liberator José de San Martín to be repatriated the remains.

Colonial racial categories

During colonial times the local population unofficially described different mixtures resulting from the union of Black African people with people of other ethnic origins as: All of these racial groups created by racist white people, to cause division within the African descent people of the world.

  • Mulatto: Black and White parents.
  • Morisco: Mulatto and White parents, although in the early phase of Spanish colonization the term "morisco" also denoted a Muslim who had converted to Catholicism.
  • Albino: Morisco and White parents.
  • Quadroon: one-quarter Black ancestry/three-quarter White ancestry.
  • Octoroon: one-eighth Black ancestry/seven-eighth White ancestry.
  • Tercerón: White/Mulatto mixed, an octoroon.
  • Quinterón: fifth-generation Black ancestry/one parent who is an octoroon and one White parent.
  • Hexadecaroon: sixth-generation Black ancestry.
  • Zambo: Black/Amerindian mixed.
  • Zambo Prieto: Black/Amerindian mixed with predominant Black.

Socially, possess a "crossing" in the family tree was a macula. These classifications, and other common in the colonial culture, as "mestizo" or cholo, were used to stigmatize people and prevent their social advancement. In some cases, well-known historical personalities were found in this situation, as Bernardo de Monteagudo and Bernardino Rivadavia, were described as "mulatto".

Immigration after the nineteenth century

Immigrants from Cape Verde

Between 12,000 and 15,000 descendants of immigrants from Cape Verde living in Argentina, of whom about 300 are native to the African country.

This immigration began in the late 19th century and became important from the 1920s. The busiest periods were between 1927 and 1933 and the third, after 1946.17 These migrations were mainly due to droughts in the African country that originated famine and death.

They were expert sailors and fishermen, which is why most places settled in ports such as Rosario, Buenos Aires, San Nicolás, Bahía Blanca, Ensenada and Dock Sud. 95% of them got jobs in the Military Navy, in the Merchant Navy in the Fluvial Fleet of Argentina and in YPF dockyards or the ELMA.17

Expelled from Africa

In Buenos Aires

In the popularly-called Barrio del Once there are Africans who have come to escape the conditions of their countries, particularly Senegal. According to the Agency for Refugees in Buenos Aires, they came by seeking asylum or getting a visa to travel to Brazil and then Argentina, sometimes traveling as stowaways on ships. When denied a residence permit, the African refugees remain in the country without status and become lawful targets of human trafficking network. On Sunday some of the Senegalese community comes together to eat traditional dishes of their country. Some places already have African food recipes.18

In Rosario

In recent years, Africans who were exploited in their home countries have arrived as stowaways to Argentina, particularly the port of Rosario in the province of Santa Fe. Although figures are inadequate the numbers increase every year: in 2008 landed 70 people seeking refuge, against some 40 of the previous year, but only 10 remained, the rest were repatriated. Many are children.18

They usually get on the ships without knowing where they go, or believing they are going to a developed country in the northern hemisphere. They come from Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea.18

The first Africans to migrate in this way arrived in Rosario in 2004. They were adopted by a family, but most are not. Children have been housed in temporary homes and many adults live in rented rooms and earn money as street vendors. Some family formed and settled. Others became offenders.


In the early 1990s until the 2001 economic crisis as a result of a policy of peso-dollar conversion, there was an influx from poor countries who came to Argentina to work to earn high wages measured in dollars and return home with it. Then they began to get Dominican women of African descent into prostitution either voluntarily or from falling into a network of trafficking.

A second wave of immigrants of this class started in 2008: Dominican requests to settle in the country rose from 663 in 2007 to 1,168 in 2008 according to statistics from the Directorate of Immigration. It imposed controls in order to detect "fake tourists" and fight the gangs that brought them.

Racism in Argentina related to skin tone

In Argentina, as in other countries of America, racism-related skin tone or the people of African origin dates back to the days of colonial rule. In the caste system imposed by Spain, the descendants of people from black Africa occupied a place still lower than the descendants of persons belonging to aboriginal peoples.

The racist colonial went some way to the Argentine culture, as shown by some racist comments of the president Domingo F. Sarmiento. During the mid-19th century, were common to the death duels between gauchos and mestizos afroargentinos. In Argentine literature, these disputes are represented with a racist tinge in a famous passage from the book by José Hernández, Martín Fierro (The way), published in 1870, in which the main character is a bat with a gaucho black mourning after insulting his girlfriend and insult to the following verse:

For the whites did God,
mulattos to San Pedro,
Blacks made to the devil
for blight of hell.

Several years later, in 1878 Hernandez publishes the second part of his famous book, which holds a famous Fierro payada in that debate philosophical topics (such as life, creation, existence, etc.). With another who is black gaucho be the son of former literate and unique character of the famous book. Showing the evolution of the character and probably of Argentine society in the process of receiving millions of European immigrants, this time Martín Fierro avoids the duel when it seemed inevitable.

The invisibility of deliberate Afro Argentines and culture, is another striking manifestation of racism in Argentina, related to the tone of the skin or African origins.

In 2006 the president of the National Institute to Combat Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) recognized the invisibility of Afro Argentine with the following words:

The afros in Argentina have been "invisible" and today unseen continue. This is the result of a process of diaspora caused by slavery and its transformation into servitude. The current social stratification places them in poverty.


On October 9, 2006, created the Forum of African descent and Africans in Argentina, with the aim of promoting social and cultural pluralism and the fight against discrimination of a population in the country to reach the two million inhabitants.

The National Institute to Combat Discrimination (INADI) is the public body responsible for combating discrimination and racism.

Notable Afro-Argentines

See also

Further Reading

Andrews, George Reid. 1980. The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299082903 9780299082901.


External links

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