María Elena Lamadrid
When Maria Lamadrid went to the immigration counter with her new Argentine passport in preparation for her trip to Panamá, the immigration officer began to screaming that her passport was fake, and María was detained. The only reason they could give, they said, is that there are no blacks in Argentina. Argentina has been a country that not only denies having an Afro-descended community, but has done everything to erase Africa from its past. The Afro-Argentine community currently faces issues of high unemployment racist immigration policies, as well as denial about their existence. However, there seems to be some hope for Afro-Argentines.
In the late, 1990s, María founded a group called Africa Vive (Africa Lives), which emerged on a mission to fight discrimination, and raise awareness of their place in Argentina’s history. She struggled in her youth to receive an education since she was both black and poor. For this reason, she ended up cleaning other people’s houses to make a living. Although Maria encounters racism and discrimination on a daily basis, it has done nothing but inspire her and her Africa Vive foundation to push forward towards equality. In 1999, Africa Vive organized a very well publicized conference at the University of Buenos Aires, and was invited to attend the Durban UN Conference on Racism. where they made a presentation about the socio-economic situation of the Afro-Argentines.
Recently, there has been a growing interest into Argentina’s African heritage. In 2001, Afro-descended groups like “Grupo Cultural Afro”, "SOS Racismo", and of course "Africa Vive" came together to convince a national deputy to organize a ceremony in memory of the black soldiers who died fighting for Argentina’s independence. In this ceremony, the national deputy spoke in honor of the great fallen soldiers. For Argentina to have an event that not only acknowledges the African contributions to the country, but also puts the Afro-Argentines in the spotlight, is truly a very remarkable thing. This event was certainly a huge step for Afro-Argentines toward reaching their goal for equality, however needless to say, they still have many more miles to walk.