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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ecuador to Include Black History in Textbooks



When I first crossed the border from Perú into Ecuador, my intentions were to connect with Ecuador's black community like I did in Perú; get a feel for their black experience, and learn more of Ecuador's black history. Thus obviously not knowing anyone, I headed towards a black community up in the Andes cold and unannounced. As it took an hour or too for me to overcome their initial suspicion, I was eventually invited to a party. However, my greatest Afro-Ecuadorean connection was with my late lady friend, Gloria, and her family whom I met through Facebook.


Alonso de Illescas was a successful slave rebel in Ecuador's 
predominately black province of Esmeraldas

Black Ecuador has relatively made significant gains in their country, but like the rest of us in the African diaspora, they still have a long way to go. Quito, Ecuador's capital, reminded me so much of home as I was often racially profiled by cab drivers. One evening while trying to get to a friend's house on the other side of town, taxi cab after taxi cab zoomed past me ignoring my signals to stop. It came as no surprise when one cab driver stopped 25 feet from where I was signaling to pick up a white couple.


 Afro-Ecuadorean Cultural Center in Quito, Ecuador

Finally, I noticed a taxi that had just stopped as passengers stepped out. When I tried to enter, the driver wagged his finger in utter defiance. Facetiously, I waved my American dollars at him. I don't know if this would have worked in the U.S., but this cabby had me laughing with his sudden change of heart. Once in his cab, however; he became even more relaxed and cordial when he learned that I am American, and not Afro-Ecuadorian. This sounds so familiar as to how foreign blacks living in the U.S. are perceived as less of a threat to White America than we home-grown black folks.

 The black region of Valle de Chota, which produces Ecuador's major soccer stars, such as Agustín Delgado (below), the Shaquille O'Neil of Ecuadorian soccer.


A week ago, Ecuador had just celebrated National Day of Afro-Ecuadorean People. This celebration lasted a whole week. And with the historical struggle and incremental gains blacks in Ecuador made, one more victory was scored. The article below describes this gain in greater detail. 



Former slave María Chinquiquirá took her master to court and won her freedom. 
This photo is in a museum in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city.



On Sunday, October 4, 2015, Afro-Ecuadoreans celebrated what they have gained, but also recognized there are still challenges. To mark “National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People,” Ecuador’s National Congress passed a resolution Saturday that ensures the history of the country’s racial minority will be included in school textbooks starting next year. “After various years of constant struggle, it has been agreed together with the Ministry of Education to include in textbooks the history of Black people in Ecuador, its importance and participation in the main historical events of the nation,”

Assembly Member Zobeida Gudiño told state news agency El Telegrafo. The historic move comes as Afro-Ecuadoreans across the country celebrated their heritage Sunday to honor the historic achievements the racial minority has made, while highlighting the challenges of racism and discrimination they continue to face today. In the upcoming days, Afro-Ecuadoreans turn the public spotlight on the importance of their lives, historical legacy and culture through an array of parades, musical performances, marches and academic panels to mark the 11th year of the “National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People.”

Every first Sunday of October, Ecuador’s Afro-Ecuadorean community celebrate this day after it became a hallmark in 1997 following a national mobilization that pushed Congress to declare the “National Day of the Black Ecuadorean,” the recognition of Alonso Illescas as national hero, and the inclusion of Afro-Ecuadoreans into national history. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuador-to-Include-Afro-Ecuadorean-History-in-Textbooks--20151004-0014.html

For Victor Zambrano, an Afro-Ecuadorean student and activist from the coastal province of Esmeraldas, this day is bitter-sweet; a reason to celebrate what Afro-Ecuaodoreans have gained, but also to remember the challenges ahead for the 604,000-strong racial minority. The National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People is an achievement because through this decree of Congress we have been recognized and made visibile, recognizing our struggles and contributions to Ecuadorean society,” Zembrano told teleSUR English. RELATED:

Piedad Cordoba Says Afro-Latinos are ‘Totally Invisible’ “On this day we have to remember all the contributions we have made as a people and bring it, together with our history, to the rest of the people because many don’t know it, which enables a lot of forms of discrimination,” he added. Zembrano sees this discrimination manifested in everyday life, but also in the labor market. “When walking through the streets at night you become ‘suspicious.’ People change streets and prefer to walk very fast to avoid getting robbed.

The same work opportunities don’t exist because they prefer people ‘that are presentable,’ that is to say, that they sell a stereotyped mestizo image. A lot of us don’t fit that image,” the 24-year-old activist for Afro-Ecuadorean and LGBTI rights said. This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ecuador-to-Include-Afro-Ecuadorean-History-in-Textbooks--20151004-0014.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english

Black Bolivians Jam to their Own Form of Rhythm & Blues



Black Boliva has been on my list of places to visit for quite a few years. The closest I came to entering Bolivia was during my trips to Ecuador and Perú where all I had to do was cross the border. As a budget traveler, I find ways to visit nearby countries of the countries I'm visiting, usually for a few days. 

However, Bolivia is a challenge because of their high visa fees. Why pay nearly $200 to cross the border and only stay a few days? However, thanks to my Afro-Bolivian Facebook friends, I will find a way, and once I do, I will have some friendly contacts who can show me the ropes.

The black music of Bolivia is known as Saya. It is inspiring how the Afro-Bolivian community uses their traditional music, their own cultural form of rhythm and blues, as a manner of resistance and empowerment in a racist society. 

There is a film coming out that explores what is rarely told in history books of how black Bolivia's African ancestors came to the colonial region as slaves, and goes on to explore the resilience of Bolivia's black community today, and their culture and their tradition of Saya music and dance. It is their movement for recognition in the world.

The Saya music of Afro-Bolivians comes from the word, “nsaya.” It is from the Kikongo (Kongo) language in the are of the African continent now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. It is an art form of traditional Andean and Afro-Bolivian music and dance which originated in the jungles of the predominately black Yungas areas of Bolivia's Department (State) of La Paz.

Today, Afro-Bolivians have use Saya music and dance in their struggle to reclaim their rights within Bolivian society. In this movement, the Saya has functioned both as a way of expressing and solidifying black Bolivians, and as a way to express their identity in the context of national social movements based on ethnic identities.

Solidarity in Saya: An Afro-Bolivian Music Movement - TrailerHD