Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Bolivia

I plan my vacation to two or more Latin-American countries every year, and have been thinking about Bolivia. Since Perú, is always my main stop, I thought it might be a good idea to stop in neighboring Bolivia on my way home for a few days and explore its African heritage. Afro-Bolivans are found in all of Bolivia's major cities. In La Paz, the nation's capital, black Bolivians live on the outskirts of town. After some research, however, I learned that Bolivia is one of the few countries that require US citizens to get a visa. the cost is more than 100 dollars along with another fee adding up to a total of almost 200 dollars. This would not be worth the money if I'm only going to be staying a few days. All I can do is research now and visit later.


Gustavo Pinedo, Afro-Bolivian soccer player


The history of Blacks in Bolivia dates to the 1600s, when Africans slaves were brought in to work in the silver mines, and under horrific and toxic conditions. Such conditions killed as many as eight million Africans and Natives (the Aymara people). Africans were also brought in to work coca-leaf plantations. The slaves were emancipated by legislation in 1827, but due to political debates, the emancipation was not enforced until more than 20 years later.

The African legacy in Bolivian culture is Saya music, which is gaining in popularity even though the music is very misunderstood. Only the black Bolivians can understand and explain the message in Saya music. It involves instruments of the Aymara people along with African percussion instruments. A very important aspect of Afro-Bolvian life is social activities, which involves music. Saya is the traditional music, which serves to maintain and communicate black Bolivian oral history. The greatest part of Afro-Bolivian music is singing.

Jorge Medina broadcasts Afro-Bolivian issues on his radio show


Because Bolivian census figures do not include race, the exact black Bolivian population is debatable. For example, some sources argue that the Afro-Bolivians population is as low as 6,000, and if you count the one-drop rule, the population can be as high as 158,000 or better. Although black Bolivians speak mostly Spanish, the Spanish spoken by those living in rural areas are includes a small vocabulary of African languages. Blacks in Bolivia take such pride in their history and culture that they are take extensive measures to preserve it.
Black Bolivia