Afro-Latin Americans
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil 14,517,961[1]
 Haiti 8,583,759 [2]
 Colombia 4,689,000 [3]
 Mexico 1,386,556 [4]
 Peru 1,200,000[5]
 Cuba 1,126,894 [6]
 Venezuela 1,087,427[7]
 Dominican Republic 1,029,535 [8]
 Ecuador 1,041,559 [9]
 Nicaragua 700,000[10]
 Panama 477,494 [11]
 Puerto Rico 461,998 [12]
 Uruguay 300,000[13]
 Honduras 150,000[14]
 Argentina 149,493[15]
 Chile 100,000[16]
 Costa Rica 100,000[17]
 Guatemala 100,000[18]
 Bolivia 40,000[19]
All other areas

Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, and several creoles.


Afro-American religions, Christianity (mainly Roman Catholicism, with a minority of Protestants), or irreligious.

Related ethnic groups

Africans, Afro-American peoples of the Americas, Black Hispanic and Latino Americans, Afro-Caribbeans

Afro-Latin Americans or Black Latin Americans refers to Latin American people of significant African ancestry. The term may also refer to historical or cultural elements in Latin America thought to have emanated from this community.[20]

The term Afro-Latin American refers specifically to people of African ancestry and not to European ancestry, such as Sub-Alpine European white.[21][22] The term is not widely used in Latin America outside academic circles. Normally Afro-Latin Americans are called black (Spanish: negro; Portuguese: negro or preto; French: nègre or noir). More commonly, when referring to cultural aspects of African origin within specific countries of Latin America, terms carry an Afro- prefix followed by the relevant nationality. Notable examples include Afro-Cuban,[23] Afro-Brazilian,[24] and Afro-Haitian.[25]

The accuracy of statistics reporting on Afro-Latin Americans has been questioned, especially where they are derived from census reports in which the subjects choose their own designation, because in various countries the concept of African ancestry is viewed with differing attitudes.[24][26]

History[edit | edit source]

In the 15th and 16 centuries, many people of African origin were brought into the Americas with the Spanish and Portuguesese. Pedro Alonso Niño, traditionally considered the first of many New World explorers of African descent[27] was a navigator in the 1492 Columbus expedition. Those who were directly from West Africa mostly arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as agricultural, domestic, and menial laborers and as mineworkers. They were also employed in mapping and exploration (for example, Estevanico) and were even involved in conquest (for example, Juan Valiente.) The Caribbean and Latin America received 95 percent of the Africans arriving in the Americas with only 5 percent going to Northern America.[28][29][30][31]

Countries with significant African, Mulatto, or Zambo populations today include Brazil (57 million, if including the pardo Brazilian population with Mulatto phenotype), Haiti (8.7 million), Dominican Republic (8.5 million), Cuba (7 million), Colombia (5 million), Venezuela (4 million) and Ecuador (1.1 million).

Traditional terms for Afro-Latin Americans with their own developed culture include garífuna (in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize), cafuzo (in Brazil), and zambo in the Andes and Central America. Marabou is a term of Haitian origin denoting a Haitian of multiracial ethnicity.

The mix of these African cultures with the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and indigenous cultures of Latin America has produced many unique forms of language (e.g., Palenquero, Garífuna, and Creole), religions (e.g., Candomblé, Santería, and Vodou), music (e.g., kompa, salsa, Bachata, Punta, Palo de Mayo, plena, samba, merengue, cumbia) martial arts (capoeira) and dance (rumba, merengue).

As of 2015, Mexico and Chile are the only two Latin American countries yet to formally recognize their Afro-Latin American population in their constitutions.[32] This is in contrast to countries like Brazil and Colombia that lay out the constitutional rights of their African-descendant population.

Map of Latin America

18th-century painting showing a family of free blacks

Racial and ethnic distinctions[edit | edit source]

Terms used within Latin America used in reference to African heritage include mulato (African – white mixture), zambo/chino (indigenous – African mixture) and pardo (African – native – white mixture) and mestizo, which refers to an indigenous – European mixture in all cases except for in Venezuela, where it is used in place of "pardo".[33][34] The term mestizaje refers to the intermixing or fusing of ethnicities, whether by mere custom or deliberate policy. In Latin America this happened extensively between all ethnic groups and cultures, but usually involved European men and indigenous and African women.

Representation in the media[edit | edit source]

Afro-Latin Americans have limited media appearance; critics have accused the Latin American media of overlooking the African, indigenous and multiracial populations in favor of over-representation of often blond and blue/green-eyed white Latin Americans rather than they look like white Latin Americans of typical Southern European features, especially in the popular telenovelas.[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

South America[edit | edit source]

Argentina[edit | edit source]

According to the Argentina national census of the year 2017, the total Argentine population is 40,117,096,[43] from which 149,493[44][45] are of African ancestry. Traditionally it has been argued that the black population in Argentina declined since the early 19th century to insignificance. However, the pilot census conducted in two neighborhoods of Argentina in 2006 on knowledge of ancestors from Sub-saharan Africa verified that 5% of the population knew of Black African ancestry, and another 20% thought that it was possible but were not sure. Given that European immigration accounted for more than half the growth of the Argentine population in 1960, some researchers argue that, rather than decrease, what occurred was a process of overlaying, creating the "invisibility" of the population of Afro-Argentinians and their cultural roots.

Bolivia[edit | edit source]

Black African descendants in Bolivia account for about 10% of the population. They were brought in during the Spanish colonial times and the majority live in the Yungas. There are about 500,000 people of Black African ancestry living in Bolivia.

Brazil[edit | edit source]

Brazilian Quilombolas during a meeting in the capital of Brazil, Brasília.

Around 7% of Brazil's 190 million people reported to the census as Black, and many more Brazilians have some degree of African descent.[46]

Brazil experienced a long internal struggle over abolition of slavery and was the last Latin American country to do so. In 1850 it finally banned the importation of new slaves from overseas, after two decades since the first official attempts to outlaw the human traffic (in spite of illegal parties of Black African slaves that kept arriving until 1855). In 1864 Brazil emancipated the slaves, and on 28 September 1871, the Brazilian Congress approved the Rio Branco Law of Free Birth, which conditionally freed the children of slaves born from that day on. In 1887 army officers refused to order their troops to hunt runaway slaves, and in 1888 the Senate passed a law establishing immediate, unqualified emancipation. This law, known as Lei Áurea (Golden Law) was sanctioned by the regent Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, daughter of the emperor Pedro II on 13 May 1888.

African contribution to the genetic composition of Brazilians[edit | edit source]

European ancestry has primarily contributed to the formation of Brazil, along with African and Native American ancestries.

An autosomal study from 2013, with nearly 1300 samples from all of the Brazilian regions, found a predominant degree of European ancestry combined with African and Native American contributions, in varying degrees: "Following an increasing North to South gradient, European ancestry was the most prevalent in all urban populations (with values up to 74%). The populations in the North consisted of a significant proportion of Native American ancestry that was about two times higher than the African contribution. Conversely, in the Northeast, Center-West and Southeast, African ancestry was the second most prevalent. At an intrapopulation level, all urban populations were highly admixed, and most of the variation in ancestry proportions was observed between individuals within each population rather than among population".[47]

Region European African Amerindian
North Region 51% 17% 32%
Northeast Region 56% 28% 16%
Central-West Region 58% 26% 16%
Southeast Region 61% 27% 12%
South Region 74% 15% 11%

A recent autosomal DNA study (2011), with nearly 1000 samples from all over the country ("whites", "pardos" and "blacks") found a major European contribution, followed by a high African contribution and an important Native American component.[48] "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South".[49] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[50]), and also public health institutions personnel and health students. The study showed that Brazilians from different regions are more homogenous than previously thought by some based on the census alone. "Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilian regions".[51]

Region[48] European African Amerindian
Northern Brazil 68.80% 10.50% 18.50%
Northeast of Brazil 60.10% 29.30% 8.90%
Southeast Brazil 74.20% 17.30% 7.30%
Southern Brazil 79.50% 10.30% 9.40%

According to a DNA study from 2010, which used samples from the five regions of the country "on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%." The study by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília and published by the scientific magazine American Journal of Human Biology, show that "in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies (regardless of census classification)."[52] The study used ancestry informative SNPs to estimate individual and population biogeographical ancestry. It found the "Brazilian population is characterized by a genetic background of three parental populations (European, African, and Brazilian Native Amerindians) with a wide degree and diverse patterns of admixture" and estimated the major contribution being European ancestry (77.1%) followed by African (14.3%) and Amerindian contributions (8.5%).[53] It is important to note that "the samples came from free of charge paternity test takers, thus as the researchers made it explicit: "the paternity tests were free of charge, the population samples involved people of variable socioeconomic strata, although likely to be leaning slightly towards the ‘‘pardo’’ group".[54]

Region[54] European African Amerindian
North Region 71.10% 18.20% 10.70%
Northeast Region 77.40% 13.60% 8.90%
Central-West Region 65.90% 18.70% 11.80%
Southeast Region 79.90% 14.10% 6.10%
South Region 87.70% 7.70% 5.20%

An autosomal DNA study from 2009 similarly found that "all the Brazilian samples (regions) lie more closely to the European group than to the African populations or to the Mestizos from Mexico".[55]

Region[56] European African Amerindian
North Region 60.6% 21.3% 18.1%
Northeast Region 66.7% 23.3% 10.0%
Central-West Region 66.3% 21.7% 12.0%
Southeast Region 79.1% 14.9% 7.0%
South Region 81.5% 9.3% 9.2%

A 2015 autosomal genetic study, which also analysed data of 25 studies of 38 different Brazilian populations concluded that: European ancestry accounts for 62% of the heritage of the population, followed by the African (21%) and the Native American (17%). The European contribution is highest in Southern Brazil (77%), the African highest in Northeast Brazil (27%) and the Native American is the highest in Northern Brazil (32%).[57]

Region[57] European African Amerindian
North Region 51% 16% 32%
Northeast Region 58% 27% 15%
Central-West Region 64% 24% 12%
Southeast Region 67% 23% 10%
South Region 77% 12% 11%

According to another autosomal DNA study from 2008, by the University of Brasília (UnB), European ancestry dominates in the whole of Brazil (in all regions), accounting for 65.9% of heritage of the population, followed by the African contribution (24.8%) and the Native American (9.3%).[58]

São Paulo state, the most populous state in Brazil, with about 40 million people, showed the following composition, according to an autosomal study from 2006: European genes account for 79% of the heritage of the people of São Paulo, 14% are of African origin, and 7% Native American.[59] A more recent genetic study, from 2013, showed that people in São Paulo have 61.9% European, 25.5% African and 11.6% Amerindian ancestries, respectively.[60]

Chile[edit | edit source]

Chile enslaved about 6,000 Africans, about one-third of whom arrived before 1615; most were utilized in agriculture around Santiago. Today there are very few Afro-Chileans, at the most, fewer than 0.001% can be estimated from the 2006 population.

An autosomal DNA study from 2014 found out Chile to be 44.34% (± 3.9%) Native American, 51.85% (± 5.44%) European and 3.81% (± 0.45%) african.[61][62]

A 2015 autosomal DNA study found out Chile to be 42.38% Native American, 55.16% European and 2.44% African (using LAMP-LD) and 43.22% Native American, 54.38% European and 2.40% African (using RFMix)[63]

Colombia[edit | edit source]

Afro-Colombians make up 10.6% of the population, almost 4.9 million people, according to a projection of the National Administration Department of Statistics (DANE).[64] most of whom are concentrated on the northwest Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast in such departments as Chocó, although considerable numbers are also Cartagena, Barranquilla San Andres Isla.

Approximately 4.4 million Afro-Colombians actively recognize their own black ancestry as a result of inter-racial relations with white and indigenous Colombians. They have been historically absent from high level government positions. Many of their long-established settlements around the Pacific coast have remained underdeveloped. In Colombia's ongoing internal conflict, Afro-Colombians are both victims of violence or displacement and members of armed factions, such as the FARC and the AUC. Afro-Colombians have played a role in contributing to the development of certain aspects of Colombian culture. For example, several of Colombia's musical genres, such as Cumbia, have African origins or influences. Some Afro-Colombians have also been successful in sports such as Faustino Asprilla, Freddy Rincón or María Isabel Urrutia.

San Basilio de Palenque is a village in Colombia that is noted for maintaining many African traditions. It was declared a Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005.[65] The residents of Palenque still speak Palenquero, a Spanish/African creole.[66]

Ecuador[edit | edit source]

File:Stamps of Ecuador, 2012-44.jpg

Nelson Estupiñán Bass, afro-Ecuadorian poet in an Ecuadorian stamp

In 2006, Ecuador had a population of 13,547,510. According to the latest data from CIA World Factbook, the ethnic groups represented in Ecuador include mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white; 71.9%), Montubio (7.4%), Amerindian (7%), white (6.1%), Afroecuadorian (4.3%), mulato (1.9%), and black (1%).[67] The Afro-Ecuadorian culture is found in the northwest coastal region of Ecuador and make up the majority (70%) in the province of Esmeraldas and the Chota Valley in the Imbabura Province. They can be also found in Ecuador's two largest cities, Quito and Guayaquil. The best known cultural influence known outside Ecuador is a distinctive kind of marimba music. From the Chota Valley there is Bomba (Ecuador) music which is very different from marimba from Esmeraldas.

Paraguay[edit | edit source]

Black Paraguayans are descended from enslaved West African brought to Paraguay by the 16th century. They became a significant presence in the country, and made up 11% of the population in 1785. Most Afro-Paraguayans established communities in towns such as Areguá, Emboscada, and Guarambaré. Many achieved their freedom during the Spanish rule. In the capital Asunción, there is a community of 300 Afro-Paraguayan families in the Fernando de la Mora municipality.

Peru[edit | edit source]

Afro-Peruvian man in El Carmen near Chincha

Afro-Peruvians make up about 3–4% of the population (close to two million).

Over the course of the slave trade, approximately 95,000 slaves were brought into Peru, with the last group arriving in 1850. Today, Afro-Peruvians reside mainly on the central and south coast. Afro-Peruvians can also be found in significant numbers on the northern coast. Recently, it has been verified that the community with the greatest concentration of Afro-Peruvians is Yapatera in Morropón (Piura), made up of around 7,000 farmers who are largely descended from African slaves of "malagasy" (Madagascar) origin. They are referred to as "malgaches" or "mangaches".

Afro-Peruvian music and culture was popularized from the 1950s by the performer Nicomedes Santa Cruz.[68] Since 2006, his birthday, 4 June, has been celebrated in Peru as a Day of Afro-Peruvian Culture. Another key figure in the revival of Afro-Peruvian music is Susana Baca.

Afro-Peruvian music was actually well known in Peru since the 1600s but oppressed by the Peruvian elite, as was Andean religion and language. Afro-Peruvian culture has not only thrived but influenced all aspects of Peruvian culture without any acknowledgement from mainstream media or history. Luis Miguel Sanchez, Peru's 71st President, was the first Afro-Andean President (1930–1933).

Uruguay[edit | edit source]

A 2009 DNA study in the American Journal of Human Biology showed the genetic composition of Uruguay as primarily European, with Native American ancestry ranging from one to 20 percent and sub-Saharan African from seven to 15 percent (depending on region).[69]

Enslaved Africans and their descendants figured prominently in the founding of Uruguay.

In the late 18th century, Montevideo became a major arrival port for slaves, most brought from Portuguese colonies of Africa and bound for the Spanish colonies of the New World, the mines of Peru and Bolivia, and the fields of Uruguay.

In the 19th century, when Uruguay joined other colonies in fighting for independence from Spain, Uruguayan national hero Jose Artigas led an elite division of black troops against the colonists. One of his top advisors was Joaquín Lenzina, known as Ansina, a freed slave who composed musical odes about his commander's exploits and is regarded by Afro-Uruguayans as an unheralded father of the nation.

Venezuela[edit | edit source]

The late President Hugo Chávez was the first afrodescendiente to serve as head of state of Venezuela.

African Venezuelans are mostly descendants of enslaved Africans brought to Venezuela from the 17th to the 19th century to work the coffee and cocoa crops. Most of the African-Venezuelans live in the North-central region, in the coastal towns Barlovento, Northern Yaracuy, Carabobo and Aragua States, and Eastern Vargas State; but also in several towns and villages in areas in South Lake Maracaibo (Zulia State) and Northern Merida State in the Andes, among others. They have kept their traditions and culture alive, especially through music.

Venezuela is a very racially mixed nation, which makes it difficult to individually identify and/or distinguish their ethno-racial background with precision. Research in 2001 on genetic diversity by the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, IVIC) in which the population was compared to the historical patterns of the colonial castes. According to the last population census in Venezuela conducted by the National Institute Estadististica (INE), 2.8% of the country's population identifies as afrodescendientes of the national total, which is 181 157 result in the number of Venezuelans with African racial characteristics.[70] However, most Venezuelans have some Sub-Saharan African heritage and are pardo, even if they identify as white.

Afro-Venezuelans have stood out as sportsmen, many of them in the Major League Baseball and other sports (e.g. former NBA/Houston Rockets forward Carl Herrera), however, most of them do not describe themselves as Afro-Venezuelan, but as Latinos or Hispanics or simply Venezuelans. Afro-Venezuelans have also stood out in the arts, especially in music, for example: Magdalena Sánchez, Oscar D'León, Morella Muñoz, Allan Phillips, Pedro Eustache, Frank Quintero, and many others. Miss Venezuela 1998, Carolina Indriago, Miss Venezuela Universe 2006, Jictzad Viña, and Miss Venezuela World 2006, Susan Carrizo are mulatto.

Central America[edit | edit source]

The Afro-Latin Americans of Central America come from the Caribbean coast. The countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, are of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean and/or Mestizo heritage, as well as of Miskito heritage. Those of Costa Rica and Panama are mostly of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Many Afro-Caribbean islanders arrived in Panama to help build the Panama Canal and to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to work in the banana and sugar-cane plantations.

Belize[edit | edit source]

Note: Common definitions of Latin America do not include Belize

Belizean culture is a mix of African, European, and Mayan but only 21% of the population is considered to be of African descent. The main community of African descent are the Creoles and Garifuna concentrated from the Cayo District to the Belize District and Stann Creek District (Dangriga) on the Caribbean Sea. Belize City, on the Caribbean coast, is the center of West African culture in Belize, with its population being of mixed Black African, Maya, and European.

Costa Rica[edit | edit source]

About 8% of the population is of African descent or Mulatto (mix of European and black) who are called Afro-Costa Ricans, English-speaking descendants of 19th century black Jamaican immigrant workers. The indigenous population numbers around 2.5%. In the Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. Most Afro-Costa Ricans are found in the Limón Province and the Central Valley.

El Salvador[edit | edit source]

Only 0.13% are blacks in El Salvador. A total of 10,000 African slaves were brought to El Salvador. The African population, creating Afro-Mestizos in the certain areas where the Africans were brought. El Salvador has no English Antillean (West Indian), Garifuna, and Miskito population, largely due to laws banning the immigration of African into the country in the 1930s, these laws were revoked in the 1980s.

Guatemala[edit | edit source]

Only 2% of the Guatemalan population is considered black or mulatto. The main community of African heritage are the Garifuna, concentrated in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. The rest are Afro-Caribbean and mulattoes who lives in Puerto Barrios and Morales. All these places belong to Izabal department, on the Caribbean coast. Sadly, because of unemployent and lack of opportunities, many Garifuna from Guatemala had left the country and move to Belize and the United States. Also many people of African descent are located in different regions of the country but most notable are in Amatitlán, San Jerónimo, and Jutiapa, although most of them may not recognize it because the loss of culture in these places.

Many of the slaves brought from Africa in colonial times came to Guatemala to work on cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, and coffee plantations. Most were brought as slaves and also servants by European conquistadors. The main reason for slavery in Guatemala was because of the large sugar-cane plantations and haciendas located on Guatemala's Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Slavery didn't last too long during those times and all slaves and servants brought were later freed. They spread to different locations, primarily Guatemala's north, south and east. It is said that these freed slaves later mixed with Europeans, Native Indigenous, and Creoles (Criollos) of non-African descent.

The national folk instrument, the marimba, has its origins in Africa and was brought to Guatemala and the rest of Central America by African slaves during colonial times. The melodies played on it show Native American, West African and European influences in both form and style.

Among the notable Garifuna from Guatemala are social leaders (Mario Ellington and Dilia Palacios Cayetano), musicians (Sofía Blanco, Silvia Blanco and Jursino Cayetano), poets (Nora Murillo and Wingston González), athletes (Teodoro Palacios Flores and Mario Blanco), soccer players (Guillermo "la Pantera" Enríquez Gamboa, Tomás Enríquez Gamboa, German Trigueño Castro, Clemente Lalín Sánchez, Wilson Lalín Salvatierra, Carlos Delva, Norman Delva, David Suazo, Tomás Suazo, Braulio Arzú, Ricardo Trigueno Foster, Guillermo Ramírez "el Pando", Florencio Martínez, Renato Blanco and Marvin Avila), basketball players (Juan Pablo Trigueño Foster), a wrestler (El Cadete del Espacio) and a model (Deborah David).

From the Afro-Caribbean community come doctors (Henry Stokes Brown and his son, Wilfredo Stokes Baltazar; Arla Cinderella Stokes), psychologists (Elizabeth Stokes), deacons (Sydney Samuels), a poet (Alan Mills), a journalist (Glenda Stokes Weatherborn), athletes (Roy Fearon, Salomón Rowe, Octavio Guillespie and Lidia Graviola Ewing), soccer players (Ricardo Clark, Jorge Lynch, Jerry Slosher, Royston Hall, David Stokes, Tony Edwin, Oscar Sims, Willie Sims, Vicente Charles, José A. Charles, Martín Charles, Selvyn Pennant, Douglas Pérez McNish, Mynor Pérez McNish, Carlos Pérez McNish, Leonardo McNish, Arturo McNish, Alfredo McNish, Julio César Anderson, Hermenegildo Pepp Castro, Stanley Gardiner, David Gardiner, Kenneth Brown, Mario "la Gallina" Becker, Freddy Thompson, Elton Brown and Jonny Brown), basketball players (Jeremías Stokes, Tomás Guillespie and Peggy Lynch), and a former Miss Guatemala (Marva Weatherborn).

Today, the Garifuna and Afro-Caribbean people of Guatemala are organized in a group called Organización Negra Guatemalteca (Onegua). According to its website, Onegua is "a non-governmental organisation established in 1995 with a mandate to promote the interests and fight for the rights of Guatemala's Garifuna and Afrodescendant populations". There is also an association called Asociación Raíces Afrodescendientes Guatemaltecas.

On 26 November 2009 Afro descendants mostly of Garifuna heritage and all mixes came to the Catedral Metropolitana located in Guatemala City for a church event organized by Garifunas from Izabal, Guatemala to prove that after 200 years of Garifuna existence in Guatemala they are not considered part of the population of Guatemala. The main reason for this event was to prove a point to stop discrimination against Afro descendants and other ethnic groups in Guatemala. According to the 2002 census of Guatemala only 5,040 people identified themselves as Afro descendants during that time, which was 0.04% of the country's population.

Those numbers have gradually increased during the years after this 2009 event, which caused a huge controversy all over the country when it was aired on TV. After Many different regions of Guatemala have since identified some inhabitants as Afro descendants with some mixed ancestry.

Honduras[edit | edit source]

The official census of Honduras indicates that 2% of the population, or about 150,000 individuals, self-identified as black during the last official census. A more recent and accurate estimate indicates that there are around 600,000 Garifuna Afro-Hondurans (8% of the population) which is closer to the estimate given by the National Assembly of Afro-Honduran Organizations and Communities. The census number is based on self-identification and does not use the American definition of blood quantum to identify "blackness" as Henry Gates does in his estimate of the black population of Honduras: "Estimates of people of African descent in Honduras vary widely, from 100,000 to 320,000 (1.8 to 5.8 percent of the country's 5.8 million people in 1994)."[71] The actual number of Hondurans of African descent may be much larger, but they often get classified as "mestizo."[72]

If one uses the blood quantum definition of blackness, then blacks came to Honduras early in the colonial period. One of the mercenaries who aided Pedro de Alvarado in his conquest of Honduras in 1536 was a black slave working as a mercenary to earn his freedom. Alvarado sent his own slaves from Guatemala to work the placer gold deposits in western Honduras as early as 1534. The earliest black slaves consigned to Honduras were part of a license granted to the Bishop Cristóbal de Pedraza in 1547 to bring 300 slaves into Honduras.

The self-identifying black population in Honduras is mostly of West Indian (Antillean origin), descendants of indentured laborers brought from Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean Islands or of Garifuna (or Black Caribs) origin, a people of Black African ancestry who were expelled from the island of Saint Vincent after an uprising against the English and in 1797 and were exiled to Roatan. From there they made their way along the Caribbean coast of Belize, mainland Honduras and Nicaragua. Large Garifuna settlements in Honduras today include Trujillo, La Ceiba, and Triunfo de la Cruz. Even though they only came to Honduras in 1797, the Garifuna are one of the seven officially recognized indigenous groups in Honduras.

Slaves on the north coast mixed with the Miskito Indians, forming a group referred to as the Zambo Miskito. Some Miskito consider themselves to be purely indigenous, denying this Black African heritage.[73] They do not, however, identify as such but rather as mestizo.[74] The Black Creoles of the Bay Islands are today distinguished as an ethnic group for their racial difference from the mestizos and blacks, and their cultural difference as English-speaking Protestants.There has been practically no ethnographic research conducted with this population.[75]

All these circumstances led to a denial by many Hondurans of their Black African heritage which reflects in the census even to this day. "Blacks were more problematic as national symbols because at the time they were neither seen to represent modernity nor autochthony, and their history of dislocation from Africa means they have no great pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas to call upon as symbols of a glorious past. Thus Latin American states often end up with a primarily "Indo-Hispanic" mestizaje where the Indian is privileged as the roots of the nation and blackness is either minimized or completely erased."[76]

Nicaragua[edit | edit source]

About 9% of Nicaragua's population is African and mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean coast. Afro-Nicaraguans are found on the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS. The African population is mostly of West Indian (Antillean) origin, the descendants of indentured laborers brought mostly from Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands when the region was a British protectorate. There is also a smaller number of Garífuna, a people of mixed Carib, Angolan, Congolese and Arawak descent. The Garífuna live along in Orinoco, La Fe and Marshall Point, communities settled at Laguna de Perlas. Nicaragua has the largest population of blacks in Central America.

From these regions come artists, writers and poets such as June Beer, Carlos Rigby, David McField (current Nicaraguan ambassador in Jamaica), Clifford Glenn Hodgson Dumbar, Andira Watson and John Oliver, and diplomants and politicians like Francisco Campbell (current ambassador in the USA) and Lumberto Campbell. Among the musicians are Caribbean All Stars, Atma Terapia Arjuna Das, Osberto Jerez y Los Gregorys, Caribbean Taste, Spencer Hodgson, Philip Montalbán, Grupo Gamma, Anthony Matthews and Dimension Costeña, Charles Wiltshire (also known as "Carlos de Nicaragua", who played with Mano Negra in its 1994 record Casa Babylon) and dancer Gloria Bacon. Miss Lizzie Nelson is a cultural promoter, Altha Hooker is the dean of the Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe, Neyda Dixon is a well known journalist and Scharllette Allen was elected as Miss Nicaragua in 2010.

Panama[edit | edit source]

Blacks in Panama are the descendants of West African slaves but later on blacks from the Caribbean islands arrived. The Afro Colonials are the group of Hispanics, while the Antillanos are those of West Indian descent.

Caribbean[edit | edit source]

Cuba[edit | edit source]

According to a 2001 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1.1 million Cubans described themselves as Black, while 5.8 million considered themselves to be "mulatto" or "mestizo" or "javao" or "moro".[77] Many Cubans still locate their origins in specific African ethnic groups or regions, particularly Yoruba, Congo and Igbo, but also Arará, Carabalí, Mandingo, Fula and others, as well as a small minority of people who migrated in from surrounding Caribbean countries like Haiti and Jamaica.

An autosomal study from 2014 has found out the genetic ancestry in Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African and 8% Native American.[78]

Among the most famous Afro-Cubanos are writers Nicolás Guillén, Gastón Baquero, Nancy Morejón, Alberto Guerra Naranjo and; salsa legend Celia Cruz; Compay Segundo, Rubén González, Orlando "Cachaito" López, Omara Portuondo and Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club; jazz musicians including Mario Bauzá, Mongo Santamaría, Chucho Valdés, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Alfredo Terry, Anga Díaz, Orlando Valle "Maraca", Jorge Varona and Jorge Alfonso "el Niño"; songwriters like Carlos Alfonso, X Alfonso, Pablo Milanés and Gerardo Alfonso; other musicians such as Bebo Valdés, Israel "Cachao" López, Orestes López, Richard Egües, Dámaso Pérez Prado, Rolando Laserie, Miguelito Cuni, Christina Milian and Tata Güines; and politicians Juan Almeida and Esteban Lazo.

Dominican Republic[edit | edit source]

According to the recent sources, 11% of the Dominican population is black, 16% is white and 73% is mixed from white European and black African and Native American ancestry.[79][80] Other sources give similar figures,[81][82] but also without naming a specific study.

Some Afrocentric commentators and race/ethnicity scholars have been harshly critical of Dominicans of mixed racial background for their reluctance to self-identify as "Black".[81][82] However, this reluctance is shared by many people of multiracial background, who find inappropriate to identify with only one side of their ancestry.[83][84] Those people refuse to express a preference for any of the races that make up their background, and resent being ascribed to any single race.

Dominican culture is a mixture of Taino Amerindian, Spanish European, and West African origins. While Taino influences are present in many Dominican traditions, the European and West African influences are the most noticeable.

Afro-Dominicans can be found all over the island, but they makeup the vast majorities in the southwest, south, east, and the north parts of the country. In El Cibao one can find people of either European, Mixed, and African descent.

Most Afro-Dominicans descend from the Bantu tribes of the Congo region of Central Africa (Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo), and as well as the Ga people of west Ghana.

Notable Dominicans whose physical features suggest full or predominant Black African ancestry include bachata singer Antony Santos, baseballer Sammy Sosa and salsa singer Jose Alberto, and basketballer Al Horford, among others. However, there is no reliable procedure to ascertain the degree, if any, to which their ancestry is Black African.

A system of racial stratification was imposed on Santo Domingo by Spain, as elsewhere in the Spanish Empire.

Guadeloupe[edit | edit source]

Note: Popular definitions of Latin America do not include Guadeloupe.

The population of Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France, is 405,739 (1 January 2013 est.); 80% of the population has African and African-white-Indian mixture which emphasizes its diversity. Their West African ancestors were imported from the Bight of Biafra, West Central Africa and the Guinean Coast for sugar cane plantation labor during the 17th and 18th centuries.[85]

Antillean Creole, which is a French-based creole, is the local language widely spoken among the natives of the island and even the immigrants who have been living on the island for a couple of years. French, the official language, is still the most common language used and heard on the island. Used during more intimate/friendly conversations, Guadeloupean people switch to French, which is their first and native language, when in public.[86]

Haiti[edit | edit source]

Note: If Haiti is considered a Latin American country, Haiti is the first Latin American country to gain independence.

The population of Haiti is 9.9 million, of which 80% are of African descent while 15-20% is mulatto and white.[87] Slavery in Haiti was established by the Spanish and French colonialists. Many Haitians are descendants of Taino or Caribs who cohabited with the African descendant population.

Haiti is an Afro-Latin nation with strong African contributions to the culture as well as its language, music and religion with a fusion of French and Taino, with a sizeable degree of Spaniard; all relate but are not limited to its food, art, music, folk religion and other customs. Arab customs are also present in their society today.[88]

Puerto Rico[edit | edit source]

According to the 2010 U.S. Census taken in Puerto Rico, 75.8% of Puerto Ricans identified as being white, 12.4% of the population as being black or African American and 11.1% as mixed or of another ethnicity.[89] An island-wide mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) study conducted by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez revealed that 61% of Puerto Ricans have maternal Native American ancestry, 26.4% have maternal West or Central African ancestry, and 12.6% have maternal European ancestry.[90] On the other hand, the Y chromosome evidence showed Puerto Ricans' patrilineage to be approximately 75% European, 20% African, and less than 5% indigenous.

An interesting anecdote to consider was that during this whole period, Puerto Rico had laws like the Regla del Sacar or Gracias al Sacar by which a person of African ancestry could be considered legally white so long as they could prove that at least one person per generation in the last four generations had also been legally white descent. Therefore, people of African ancestry with known European lineage were classified as "whites", the opposite of the "one-drop rule" in the United States.[91]

These critics maintain that a majority of Puerto Ricans are ethnically mixed, but do not feel the need to identify as such. They argue, furthermore, that Puerto Ricans tend to assume that they are of African, Native American, and European ancestry and only identify themselves as "mixed" if parents visibly "appear" to be of some other ethnicity. It should also be noted that Puerto Rico underwent a "whitening" process while under U.S. rule. The census-takers at the turn of the 20th Century recorded a huge disparity in the number of "black" and "white" Puerto Ricans (both, erroneous skin classifications) between the 1910 and 1920 censuses. The term "black" suddenly began to disappear from one census to another (within 10 years' time), possibly due to redefinition. It also appears that the "black" element within the culture was simply disappearing possibly due to the popular idea that in the U.S. one could only advance economically and socially if one were to pass for "white".[92]

Misinformation of ethnic populations within Puerto Rico also existed under Spanish rule, when the Native American (Taino) populations were recorded as being "extinct". Biological science has now rewritten their history books. These tribes were not voluntary travelers, but have since blended into the mainstream Puerto Rican population (as all the others have been) with Taino ancestry being the common thread that binds.

Many persons of African descent in Puerto Rico are found along coastal areas, areas traditionally associated with sugar cane plantations, especially in the towns Loiza, Carolina, Fajardo, and Guayama. However, due to the DNA evidence that is being presented by UPR at Mayaguez, many African bloodlines have been recorded in the central mountains of the island, though not written in the Spanish history books of the time. Consequently, Taino bloodlines have begun appearing in the coastal towns. All of this suggests that escaped enslaved Africans ran off to the mountains to escape the slaveowners, while some Tainos remained close to their main staple food, fish.

The Puerto Rican musical genres of bomba and plena are of West African and Caribbean origin, respectively; they are danced to during parties and West African-derived festivals. Most Puerto Ricans who have African ancestry are descendants of enslaved Congo, Yoruba, Igbo and Fon from West and Central Africa. After the abolition of slavery in 1873 and the Spanish–American War of 1898, a number of African Americans have also migrated and settled in Puerto Rico.

Three of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans are Puerto Rican Boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente and Bernie Williams, New York Yankees outfielder and jazz guitarist.

North America[edit | edit source]

Mexico[edit | edit source]

Afromestizos in Punta Maldonado, Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero

The vast majority of contemporary Afro-Mexicans inhabit the southern region of Mexico; those who migrated north in the colonial period assimilated into the general population, making their existence in the country less evident than other groups. Some Afro-Mexican facts:

  • Mexico's second president, Vicente Guerrero, an Afro-Mexican, issued a decree abolishing slavery and emancipating all slaves in 1829, during his short term as president.
  • Race was considered for the first time by the Encuesto Intercensal in 2015, which revealed that 1.2% of Mexicans identify as Afro-Mexican. Over half of these individuals also identified as indigenous.
  • Gaspar Yanga founded the first free African township in the Americas in 1609.
  • A Black man named Esteban el Negro (Steven the Black), a North African Moor from Spain, searched for the fabled city of Cíbola with Cabeza de Vaca.
  • Veracruz, Campeche, Pánuco and Acapulco were the main ports for the entrance of African slaves.
  • In the past, offspring of Black African/Amerindian mixtures were called jarocho (wild pig), chino or lobo (wolf). Today jarocho refers to all inhabitants of the state of Veracruz, without regard to ancestry.

United States[edit | edit source]

Many Afro-Latino immigrants have arrived, in waves, over decades, to the United States, especially from the Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Central America and to a lesser extent from Mexico too. In the state of California, the dominant population consisted of people of color but as the years progressed the percentage has declined severely or at least the way Californian residents claim to identify themselves has shifted towards a White population. A Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America. This is the first time a nationally representative survey in the U.S. has asked the Latino population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latino.[93]

Afro-Latino populations in the Americas[edit | edit source]

Region / Country Country population[94] Afro-descendants population*
Haiti 11,151,363 95%[95] 10,593,795
Dominican Republic 10,917,079 11% [96] 1,200,879
Cuba 11,451,652 35% [97] 4,008,078
Puerto Rico 3,725,789(2010 Census Numbers) 12% [98] 447,095
Central America
Guatemala 13,550,440 (July 2010 est.) 1% [99] 110,000
El Salvador[100] 6,052,064 (July 2010 est.) N/A[101] N/A
Honduras[102] 7,989,415 2.0% 159,788
Nicaragua 6,277,413 (Worldometers 2018 est.) 9.0% [103] 600,000
Costa Rica[104] 4,516,220 (July 2010 est.) 8.0% 179,877
Panama[105] 3,410,676 (July 2010 est.) 14.0% [106] 477,494
South America
Brazil 198,739,269 27%[107] 14,517,961
Colombia[108] 46,736,728 (July 2015 est.) 10.6% [109] 4,311,757
Uruguay[110] 3,494,382 4.0% [111] 350,000
Ecuador[112] 14,790,608 (July 2010 est.) 7.2% [113] 1,041,559
Chile[114] 16,601,707 4.0% [115] 665,000
Peru[116] 29,907,003 (July 2010 est.) 4.0% [117] 1,200,000
Venezuela 27,227,930 2.8% [70] 181.154
Bolivia 9,775,246 0.5% [118][119] 35,000
Argentina[120] 40,117,096 0.3% [121] 149,493
Paraguay[122] 6,375,830 (July 2010 est.) N/A[101] N/A
North America
United States 299,398,485 0.4% [123] 1,243,471
Mexico 119,530,753 1.2% [4] 1,381,853

* Note - Population includes those who self-identify as black on census documents while Afro-descendants indicates having African ancestry regardless of how one identifies.

Notable Afro-Latin people[edit | edit source]

Pelé, one of the best football players in history, is an Afro-Brazilian.

See also[edit | edit source]

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