Sunday, March 25, 2012

Colombia's First Black General

 Luis Alberto Moore Perea 

Born September 1, 1959 in Bogotá, Colombia, Luis Moore is one of the few blacks who have made it to the top in Latin America. For black people in Latin America, as in other places around the world, race define their identities. However, in Moore's case, he became the first black Brigadier General of the Colombian National Police and assumed command of the Cali, Colombia Police Department. Prior to his police career, Moore was a med student at a local university and was persuaded by a friend to drop out and join the National Police.

Without telling his parents, Luis entered the police academy and graduated with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. He also became the first Afro-Colombian to train as a helicopter pilot in National Police Aviation. Luis Moore received many commendations, such as the one he received for actions during a Colombian guerrilla siege of a government building in 1985. Moore also supported air rescue operations, flying a helicopter during numerous combat operations against guerrilla groups, such as the notorious Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

General Luis Moore Perea, greets citizens in 
the gang-infested area of Cali, Colombia 

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During the 1980s' War on Drugs, and in partnership with the United States, Moore was involved in numerous crops eradication operations. He later became a helicopter instructor in the police academy, and was promoted to the rank of Colonel then being assigned to the Metropolitan Police in Colombia's capital of Bogotá. Finally, Luis Moore became a General working in the Colombian Embassy in London, England. Upon return to Colombia, he was given command of the Cali Police Department, a city troubled by violence.

Moore was fortunate as he grew up in a mostly white, middle class community where his parents instilled in him a sense of purpose, honor and respect.  His father is a mathematician from the city of Santa Marta on Colombia's northern coast, and his mother is a former governor of the predominately black state (department) of Chocó. He has three brothers who is a medic, lawyer, and ondontotolgist . He is married to Graciela de Moore with whom he has three children. 

As a black man, his success was not easy as he often heard bigoted remarks that Afro-Colombians were lazy and not smart enough to hold his position. One of his fellow officers told him to his face how he disliked black people, and others did what they could to try to stop his upward mobility. In Colombia, as in other Latin American countries, people with darker skins tend to be less educated, lower paid, and live in the poorest areas.

Luis Moore experienced racism in his personal life as well, especially when he began dating his future wife Graciela, a white woman from a small, conservative town. A lot of people took issue with this relationship, however, Graciela points out that she never thought about it. For her, he was a gentleman, and after 22 years, he still is. She adds, that her black husband has more class than any white man she has ever met. Her exact words,. "he still opens the car door for me."
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Read more here:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Feelings About Ecuador

R1- 7A

I've been getting quite a few e-mails from African-Americans people reading my blog posts on Ecuador and wanting to travel to there for either vacation, to learn Spanish, or to teach English. They all ask my opinion and advice based on the things I've posted, mostly about the Afro-Ecuadorian experience and racism. The question that always pops into my mind when I receive these e-mails is why Ecuador? Of all the different Latin American countries to visit, to learn Spanish, or teach English, why Ecuador?

OK, let's forget the racism because that is everywhere, some places are more subtle than others, but it's there. Being American and spending your U.S. dollar will greatly lesson the impact of racism. In Perú, like Ecuador, blacks are limited to certain types of jobs. As a general rule, you won't see black people working in office buildings or in shops, even though the average Peruvian (and other Latin Americans as well) will swear up and down that there is no racism in their country. It's just that I find people of other countries, like Panamá, Perú, Cuba, Venezuela, and hell, even Colombia generally warmer than Ecuadorians, especially Quiteños (people from Quito, the nation's capital). Quito is congested, and the people are relatively aloof, which has more to do with the culture than anything else..

 R1- 2A

Don't get me wrong, I've met some lifetime friends in Quito. For me, they were exceptions. However, I felt more warmth from people outside of Quito and Guayaquil, another large city in Ecuador, in places like Ibarra to the north and the predominately black Esmeraldas on the west coast. There was one all-black town Ecuador's state of Imbabura called Valle de Chota, where the people were very suspicious of me until we began to chat. One lady even went to get the cops, and the cops even felt better about my presence only after I explained my motive for being there. I'm a fan of Ecuador's international soccer team because their star player Augustin Delgado is from Valle de Chota. Those cops.were even happier when I later hopped on the bus headed back to Quito.

On a positive note, Ecuador is one of the better places, outside of Mexico, to study Spanish because Ecuadorians, generally speak slower, and  don't chop and slur their words like so many Venezuelans, Peruvians, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Also, your dollar will go a long way in Ecuador. A cab ride within reasonable distance is $2.00. A bus ride is 15 cents. On my last trip to Ecuador, I took a couple of friends to lunch for a nutritious meal on a university campus. The cost... $6 for the three of us.


I'm always willing to answer any questions about my personal experience. Just remember, my thoughts are solely based on my own personal experience, perceptions and observations. It would behoove you to seek other opinions, as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Godfather of Afro-Peruvian Music and Dance


Don Amador Ballumbrosio Mosquera

While planning my first trip to Perú back in October 2005, I was reading Moons Handbook Perú (a travel guide) where I found the information I was looking for; how to connect with Peru's Black community of El Carmen in the Province of Chincha. This is where I learned about the Godfather of Afro-Peruvian music and dance, Amador Ballumbrosio, a popular, well-known violinist and dancer. 


This CD, The Soul of Black Perú, inspired my trip to Perú
and wanting to connect with Perú's Black Community.

The passion of Black Peruvian music rests in the Ballumbrosio's comfortably cramped home where he and his wife Adelina raised more than 12 children. Many of their children are now musicians and dancers themselves; taking after their father in Peru’s black heartland, which gained international notoriety with the 1990s world music breakthrough of the Afro-Peruvian sound. There is no violin that animates the counterpoint of Afro-Peruvian tap dancing known as zapateo as that of Don Amador who is affectionately known as ”Champita.”  



Adelina Ballumbrosio, widow of Amador on her birthday.

To my very pleasant surprise, the travel book even published the address and phone number of the Ballumbrosio home. My motive for traveling to Perú in the first place was my love for a relatively new genre of music brought to my attention--Afro-Peruvian music. This was several years after I was introduced to the CD The Soul of Black Perú.

Some of the members of the Ballumbrosio family. I'm standing in the back (middle)

I picked up the phone and dialed the number listed in the travel guide because I wanted to be immersed in the language and culture. Amador's daughter Maribel picked up and I asked to speak with Amador, not knowing that he was wheelchair-bound and in bed getting his rest. Maribel spoke on his behalf as her demeanor was that of a long lost relative inviting me home. As we exchanged e-mails, she also gave me directions to her family's home.

Don Amador 

When I arrived at the Ballumbtosio home, I understood why Don Amador could not come to the phone. He was not only wheel-chair bound suffering from paralysis, but could barely speak as his committed and loving wife was taking care of him. We often shook hands and had dinner together along with the rest of the family, obviously, there was not much in terms of conversation. Just as everyone else who visits the Ballumbrosio home, I was made to feel like a very special guests. I was always invited to parties and social affairs in the community. However, I may be one of the few who felt such a strong attachment that I returned almost annually. Unfortunately, that was the last I saw of Amador. It was another four years, November 2009, when I returned to the Ballumbrosio home in El Carmen again, and I learned of his passing in June 2009 through his sons who became my Facebook friends. That's when I immediately wired some money to his widow Adelina as they made me feel like a part of the family.

Don Amador's performance

If you are interested visiting this humble community of El Carmen, please contact me by e-mail and I will give you the details and the contact person. They charge $10.00 per day for a modest room, breakfast, and dinner. English is not spoken here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Boricuas Africanas: Afro-Puerto Ricans

Museo de Nuestra Raíz Africa
(Museum of our African Roots)
Plaza San Jose, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-4294

Open 8:30 – 4:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday
Boricua was the name of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, and Borinquen was the name of the island before the Spanish invasion.
I recently read a travel review by a man from the U.S. state of Minnesota who happens to be of Puerto Rican ancestry. As he  bragged about his Spanish/Corsica roots, he expressed disappointment in a museum that celebrated Puerto Rico's African heritage and not Puerto Rico's Spanish or French heritage.

Of course, I found it necessary to remind him that Puerto Rico, like every other Latin-American country that I have visited, have enough museums that exclude people of color, let alone people of African ancestry. Many people are unaware of Puerto Rico's African heritage as the island's emphasis is placed on Spanish and indigenous heritage while Puerto Ricans of African heritage are ignored. 

This is why I'm happy to learn of the El Museo de Nuestra Raiz Africana (Museum of Our African Roots) constructed and supported by young, highly conscious Puerto Ricans of all colors who recognize the diversity of their island's heritage. This museum is located near the main tourist attraction in an area of Old San Juan next to the entrance of El Morro, a fortress built by African slaves. This is the place to learn about the African cultural influence of Puerto Rico.

Afro-Puerto Rican (or Afro-Boricua) heritage in the Museum of our African Roots is celebrated through paintings, artifacts, documents and photographs. The purpose is to tell what Puerto Rican history books don't tell. It preserves and promotes the history and culture of the island based on the Black experience, including the arrival of African slaves to their encounter with the native population, the Tainos, and the Spaniards. 

The museum also addresses the African influence on the island making it the lively and vivid place that it is today with its hot salsa, bomba and plena music; festivals, cuisines, and customs.

As one who enjoy traveling and exploring black heritage in Latin-America, Borinquen, better known as the Enchanted Isle of Puerto Rico, is on my list of places to visit, and this museum that the Minnesota-Puerto Rican brought to my attention with his negative review, will be at the top of my visitor's list, along with the Afrocentric town of Loiza, not far from the capital, San Juan.