Thursday, February 11, 2016

People of Chile, South America Celebrate Their African Roots

Oro Negro (Black Gold), an Afro-Descendants Foundation in Chile, operates in the city of Arica carrying out cultural courses and workshops, and working to solve social problems of Chile's African descendants.

It was a black Peruvian woman I met in her nation's capital of Lima who enlightened me to the black history in Northern Chile's city of Arica, not far south from the Peruvian border. And today, although I have not yet visited Arica, I have friends there with whom I correspond through social media, and who will show me the ropes when I finally arrive for a visit.

The city of Arica, Chile was founded in 1541 and was part of PerĂº in 1880 when it was taken by Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific. At the beginning of the Colonial era, PerĂº was one of the frequent destinations for blacks that had settled at the coast to work in rural and domestic occupations. Most of the blacks that came to this area had roots from the regions of the Congo and Angola.

The black majority made itself felt since the beginning of 1620, when a free black man was elected as mayor of Arica. The response came six months later when an order by Peru's viceroy declared this elections void.

The Chilean national dance, the cueca, had black elements originating from the Afro-Peruvian zamacueca dance. It has been also documented that 13% of the Spanish explorers that came to Chile long before the slave trade were black.

A specific group of blacks in Chilean history were members of the 8th Regiment of The Liberation Army that fought the Spaniards for Chilean independence. This Army was organized in Argentinian territory. Black slaves were desired because of their fighting ability, and of course, were freed thereafter. Naturally, they were exposed to higher risks during the battle. 

 Although today, as a result of centuries of interracial marriage, the visible black population has been dissolved, but the people of Arica, Chile work daily to promote and celebrate their African history, traditions, and culture.

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