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Afro-Latin American

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Afro-Latin American

Afro-Latin American
"Latinoamericano negro"
Total population
c. 155.93 million
Estimate includes population with partial African ancestry
*Figure excludes Belize, Guyana, Suriname, or non-Romance-speaking areas of the Caribbean
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil 100M[1][2] (if including the pardo population)
 Haiti 9M[3]
 Colombia 8M[4]
 Dominican Republic 7.9M[5]
 Cuba 4M[6]
 Peru 1.8M[7]
 Puerto Rico 1.7M[8]
 Ecuador 0.8M[9]
 Nicaragua 0.7M[10]
 Panama 0.5M[11]
 Mexico 0.4M[12]
 Argentina 0.3M[13]
 Uruguay 0.3M[14]
 Honduras 0.2M[15]
 Venezuela 0.18[16]
 Chile 0.1M[17]
 Costa Rica 0.1M[18]
 Guatemala 0.1M[19]
 Bolivia 0.04M[20]
Portuguese, Spanish, French, English , and several creoles.
Predominantly Christian (mainly Roman Catholic, with a minority of Protestants) or nonreligious.
Related ethnic groups
Sub-Saharan, Afro-American peoples of the Americas, US Black Hispanic population

An Afro-Latin American (also Afro-Latino in the United States) is a Latin American person of native Sub-Saharan African ancestry; the term may also refer to historical or cultural elements in Latin America thought to emanate from this community.[21] The term can refer to the mixing of African and other cultural elements found in Latin American society such as religion, music, language, the arts and social class.

The term Afro-Latin American, as used in this article refers specifically to Sub-Saharan African ancestry and not to European colonial or North African/Middle Eastern ancestry, such as White South African or Arab/Berber Moroccan ancestry.[22] The term is not widely used in Latin America outside academic circles. Normally Afro Latin Americans are called "black" (in Spanish negro, in Portuguese negro or preto, in French negre 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] and Afro-Brazilian;[24] and Afro-Haitian,[25] however, usage varies considerably from nation to nation.

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 black ancestry is viewed with differing attitudes.[26][27][28]


Many people of Black African origin arrived in the Americas with the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. Pedro Alonso Niño, traditionally considered the first of many New World explorers of Black African descent[29] 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). They were mostly brought from West Africa and Central Africa in what are now the nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Angola, and Congo.

There are six major groups: the Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ewe, Akan, and the Bantu (mostly Zulu). Most of the slaves were sent to Brazil, and the Caribbean, but lesser numbers went to Colombia and Venezuela. Countries with significant black, mulatto, or zambo populations today include Brazil (c, 100 million, if including the pardo Brazilian population), Haiti (8.7 million), Dominican Republic (up to 10 million), Cuba (up to 7 million), Colombia (5 million) and Puerto Rico. Recent genetic research in UPR Mayaguez has brought to light that 26.4% of Puerto Ricans have Black African heritage on the X chromosome and 20% on the Y chromosome, thus between 20%–46% of the Puerto Rican population has African heritage.[30] (For more on this see Demographics of Puerto Rico).

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 term describes the offspring of a Black African/European or mulatto and an Amerindian, specifically the native Taíno, born in Haiti (formerly Saint-Domingue). The heavy population of Africans on the island established by the French and Spanish diluted the generations of so-called "marabous" over the decades, and virtually all Haitians today of Amerindian descent are assumed to also possess Black African ancestry. Several other terms exist for the "marabou" racial mixture in other countries.

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, Abakuá, Santería, Lucumi and Vodou), music (e.g., konpa, salsa, Bachata, Punta, Palo de Mayo, plena, samba, merengue, cumbia) martial arts (capoeira) and dance (rumba, merengue). Many of these cultural expressions have become pervasive in Latin America.

Map of Latin America
18th-century painting showing a family of free blacks

Racial and ethnic distinctions

Terms used within Latin America which pertain to black heritage include mulato (black – white mixture), zambo/chino (indigenous – black mixture) and pardo (black – native – white mixture) and mestizo, which refers to an indigenous – white mixture in all cases except for in Venezuela, where it is used in place of pardo.[31][32] The term mestizaje refers to the intermixing or fusing of races, whether by mere custom or deliberate policy. In Latin America this happened extensively between all the racial groups and cultures, but usually involved European men and indigenous and Black African women. Unions of white females and non-white males were taboo.

South America


According to the Argentina national census of the year 2010, the total Argentine population amount is 40,117,096,[33] from which 149,493[34][35] are from 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 Subsaharan Africa verified that 5% of the population knew of Black African ancestry, and another 20% thought that was possible but 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 they had was a process of "invisibility" of the population Afro Argentine and their cultural roots.

Other researchers have argued that there was a deliberate policy of genocide against the Afro Argentinian, which was openly expressed by many Euro-Argentines as Domingo F. Sarmiento and was probably implemented by using repressive policies during epidemics and wars as a tool of mass destruction. The theories argue that genocide may have been used to explain the decline in the population. Experts were pursuing similar arguments, but differ on the attribution of intent that was first attributed to the ruling classes.


Black African descendants in Bolivia account for about 2% 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.


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.[36]

Brazil experienced a long internal struggle over abolition of slavery and was the last Latin American country to adopt it. 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 till 1855). In 1864 Brazil emancipated the slaves, and on September 28, 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 May 13, 1888.

Genetic composition of Brazil, African contribution

Diahan Alpha Bennett representing English Creole speakers in Honduras at a conference at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras.

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".[37]

Region European African Native American
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 [38] "In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South".[39] The 2011 autosomal study samples came from blood donors (the lowest classes constitute the great majority of blood donors in Brazil[40]), 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".[41]

Region[38] European African Native American
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)."[42] 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%).[43] 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".[44]

Region[44] European African Native American
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".[45]

Region[46] European African Native American
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%

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%).[47]

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.[48] 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.[49]


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.[50][51]


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).[4] 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, and Barranquilla.

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.[52] The residents of palenque still speak Palenquero, a Spanish/African creole[53]


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 makeup of the population is: "mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%".[54] 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.


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.


Afro-Peruano 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.[55] Since 2006, his birthday, June 4, has been celebrated in Peru as a Day of Afro-Peruvian Culture.[56] 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).


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).[57]

Enslaved African 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 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.


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

Black Venezuelans are mostly descendants of enslaved African 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. 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), the population in the country afrodescendienten represents 2.8% of the national total, which is 181 157 result in the number of Venezuelans with black racial characteristics.[58]

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

The Afro-Latin Americans of Central America mostly live in or near the Caribbean coast. The Blacks of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, are of African, 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.


Note:Common definitions of Latin America do not include Belize

Belizean culture is a mix of African, European, and Mayan but only 70% 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

About 8% of the population is of Black 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

A total of 10,000 African slaves were brought to El Salvador. The African population completely mixed into the general Mestizo 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 blacks into the country in the 1930s, these laws were revoked in the 1980s.[59][60] Karla Cubias is a singer and Semi-Final 2 of the fourth season of the television program Latin American Idol.


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 The 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 in different locations in Guatemala primarily on Guatemala's North, South and East areas. It is said that these freed slaves later mixed with Europeans, Native Indigenous, and Creoles (Criollos) of non African descend. 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 comes 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.

Most recent on November 26, 2009 Afro descendants mostly of Garifuna heritage and all mixes came to The Catedral Metropolitana located in Guatemala City for an event described as "an event like no other" which was 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. 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, making it 0.04% in total of the Country's population.

Those numbers have gradually increased during the years after the afro descendant event which took place in 2009 by the Garifunas which caused a huge controversy all over the Country when it was aired on T.V. After that event many different regions of Guatemala have identified some habitants as afro descendant with some mixed ancestry.


The official 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)."[61] The actual number of Hondurans of African descent may be much larger, but they often get classified as “mestizo.”[62]

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 Cristobal 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.[63] They do not, however, identify as such but rather as mestizo.[64] 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.[65]

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."[66]


About 9% of Nicaragua's population is black and mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean coast. Afro-Nicaraguans are found on the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS. The black 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 comes writers and poets such as Carlos Rigby, David McField (current Nicaraguan ambassador in Jamaica), Clifford Glenn Hodgson Dumbar, (also a painter), 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.


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 Caribbean descent.



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".[67] Many Cubans still locate their origins in specific African ethnic groups or regions, particularly Yoruba, Igbo and Congo, but also Arará, Carabalí, Mandingo, Fula and others.

An autosomal study from 2014 has found out the genetic ancestry in Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African and 8% native American.[68]

There is also a significant presence of black Haitian immigrants in the country. Creole language and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the 19th century. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791–1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantanamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations. By 1804 some 30,000 French were living in Baracoa and Maisi, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province. Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as brazeros (hand workers, from the Spanish word brazo, meaning "arm") in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island many Haitians suffered discrimination. But since 1959 the Castro regime claims that discrimination against Cubans of Haitian descent has stopped. After Spanish, Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba. Over 400,000 Cubans either speak it fluently, understand it but speak with difficulty, or have at least some familiarity with the language. It is mainly in those communities, where Haitians and their descendants live, that Creole is most spoken. In addition to the eastern provinces there are also communities in Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces where the population still maintains Creole, their mother tongue. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program.

Among the most famous Afro-Cubanos are: writers 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 and Tata Güines; and politicians Juan Almeida and Esteban Lazo.

Dominican Republic

According to the recent sources, 18% of the Dominican population is black, 14% is white and 68% is "mixed" from white European and black African ancestry.[69][70] Other sources give similar figures,[71][72] but also without naming a specific study.

Some commentators and race/ethnicity scholars have been harshly critical of Dominicans of mixed racial background for their reluctance to self-identify as Black.[71][72] However, this reluctance is shared by many people of multiracial background, who find inappropriate to identify with only one side of their ancestry.[73][74] 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, West African, and European 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 as they are the majority, but they makeup the vast majorities in the southwest, south, east, and the north parts of the country. In El Cibao you 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, Gabon, Cameroon, 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.


Note: Haiti is the first Latin American country to gain independence.

The population of Haiti is 8.7 million, of which 95% are of African descent and the remaining 5% is mulatto and white.[75] Slavery in Haiti was established by the Spanish and French colonialist. 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 lesser degree of Spaniard; all relating but not limited to its food, art, music, folk religion and other customs. Arab customs are also present in their society today.[76]


Note: Popular definitions of Latin America do not include Martinique

The population of Martinique, an overseas region of France, is 397,730 (January 1, 2007 est.); 90% of the population has African and African-white-Indian mixture which emphasizes its diversity.[77] Their West African ancestors were imported from the Guinean Coast for sugar cane plantation labor during the 17th and 18th centuries.[78]

Antillean Creole - which is a French-based creole, is widely local language 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, Martiniquean people switch to French - which is their first and native language, when in public.[79]

Puerto Rico

According to the 2010 U.S. Census taken in Puerto Rico, 75.8% of Puerto Ricans identified as White, 12.4% of the population as Black and 11.1% as of mixed or other race.[80] 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.[81] On the other hand, the Y chromosome evidence showed Puerto Ricans' patrilineage to be approximately 75% European, 20% Black African, and less than 5% indigenous. The combined results reveal a mostly mestizo (Taino and European) population with important Black African elements (Demographics of Puerto Rico).

An interesting anecdote to consider was that during this whole period, Puerto Rico had laws like the Regla del Sacar or Gracias al Sacar where a person of black 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. Therefore people of black ancestry with known white lineage were classified as white, the opposite of the "one-drop rule" in the United States.[82][83]

These critics maintain that a majority of Puerto Ricans are racially mixed, but that they do not feel the need to identify as such. They argue, furthermore, that Puerto Ricans tend to assume that they are of Black African, American Indian, and European ancestry and only identify themselves as mixed if having parents "appearing" to be of separate "races". 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 between the 1910 and 1920 censuses. "Black" suddenly began to disappear from one census to another (within 10 years' time), possibly due to redefinition of the term. 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".[84]

Misinformation of ethnic populations within Puerto Rico also existed under Spanish rule, when the Native Amerindian (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 blacks in Puerto Rico are found in the coastal areas, areas traditionally associated with sugar cane plantations, especially in the towns Loiza, Carolina, Fajardo, and Guayama. Although, 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 this suggesting that escaped enslaved Black 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 American

United States

Many Afro-Latino immigrants have arrived, in waves, over decades, to the United States, especially from the Caribbean, Cuba, Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico. Central America and to a lesser extent from Mexico too.


The vast majority of contemporary Afro-Mexicans inhabit the southern region of Mexico; those that 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 is not considered for any official purpose, including the census.
  • 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.

Afro-Latino populations in the Americas

Region / Country Country population[85] Afro-descendants population*
Haiti*[86] 9,648,924 >95%[87] 8,583,759
Dominican Republic[70][88] 9,650,054 84% 8,106,054
Cuba[89] 11,451,652 69.9% 7,899,626
Puerto Rico[90] 3,706,690(2010 Census Numbers) 43.5% - 74% 1,873,170 - 2,290,315
South America/Central America
Guatemala[91] 13,550,440 (July 2010 est.) N/A[92] N/A
Belize*[93] 314,522 (July 2010 est.) N/A[92] N/A
El Salvador[94] 6,052,064 (July 2010 est.) N/A[92] N/A
Honduras[95] 7,989,415 2.0% 159,788
Nicaragua[96] 5,995,928 (July 2010 est.) 9.0% 539,633
Costa Rica[97] 4,516,220 (July 2010 est.) 3.0% 179,877
Panama[98] 3,410,676 (July 2010 est.) 14.0% 477,494
Colombia[4] 47,072,915 (2012 est.) 10.52% 4,944,400
Venezuela[99] 27,227,930 2.8% 181.154
Brazil[100] 198,739,269 7.61% 14,517,961
Ecuador[101] 14,790,608 (July 2010 est.) 3.0% 443,718
Peru[102] 29,907,003 (July 2010 est.) <3.0% 2,000,000
Bolivia[103] 9,775,246 <3.0% 725,000
Chile[104] 16,601,707 N/A N/A
Paraguay[105] 6,375,830 (July 2010 est.) N/A[92] N/A
Argentina[106] 40,913,584 N/A N/A
Uruguay[107] 3,494,382 4.0% 209,662
North America
United States[108] 299,398,485 12.2% 36,526,615
Mexico[109] 117,000,000 <1% 450,000

(*)Note that population statistics from different sources and countries use highly divergent methods of identifying race, ethnicity, or national or genetic origin of individuals, from observing for color and racial characteristics, to asking the person to choose from a set of pre-defined choices, sometimes with an "other" category, and sometimes with an open-ended option, and sometimes not, which different national populations tend to choose in divergent ways. Color and visual characteristics were considered an invalid way to determine the genetic "racial" branch in anthropology (the field of science that original conceived of race, as a genetic branch of people who could have a relative success together compared with other branches, now considered invalid) as of 1910. It is likely these numbers do not fully reflect the percentage of the population that is of Black African heritage if you use any method of identification other than that of self-identification such as; the blood quantum definition, identification based on physical characteristics and identification by cultural traces. Self-identification also fails to identify those who would consider themselves of Black African heritage if the option were given in the national census. Furthermore, the categorization of people of mixed racial background is controversial. Should a person of mostly non-Black African background be categorized as if his or her ancestry was 100% Black African? What percentage of this person's ancestry needs to be Black African in order for him/her to be considered of Black African descent?

See also


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External links

  • Joshua Project – Afro-American, Hispanic
  • Oro Negro (Afrodescendants Foundation in Chile)
  • Virginia Rioseco, "Oro Negro Foundation: Afro descendants organize themselves," (Chilean Cultural Heritage Site).
  • Black Latin America
  • Afro Mexico or Bobby Vaughn's The Black Mexico website
  • Latin American Network Information Center's (LANIC) webpageAfrican Diaspora with links to various websites (LANIC is affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin)
  • Young Lords origins web site
  • Cowater International Inc of Ottawa's preliminary report (1996) for the Inter-American Development Bank entitled: "Poverty Alleviation Program for Minority Communities in Latin America—Communities of African Ancestry in Latin America: History, Population, Contributions, & Social Attitudes (Social and Economic Conditions with Partial Bibliography)". This report is 188 pages long and contains history of Spain and Latin America, the African contributions to Latin America and (pp. 46–61 in Acrobat; or pp. 31–46 in the document) is entitled "Analysis of Social Attitudes Towards Afro-Latin Americans".
  • Clare Ribando, CRS Report for Congress: Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Considerations for U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress (January 4, 2005).
  • The Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America (IAC) (archived from the original on 2007-05-07)
  • English version of Judith Morrison's Presentation to the Inter-American Dialogue's Working Group session (held on September 23, 2005) in Microsoft Word format. (archived from the original on 2008-06-25) Morrison is the Executive Director or the Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America.
  • Judith Morrison, "The High Cost of Discrimination in Latin America" (2005).
  • Jere R. Behrman, Alejandro Gaviria, & Miguel Székely's "Social Exclusion in Latin America: Introduction and Overview" report for the Inter-American Development Bank.
  • " from 2001 and not updatedAfro-Latin AmericansThe World Bank Group's website, "
  • The World Bank's Latin American and Caribbean Social Development Unit's newsletter "La Ventana" Webpage contains links to three editions of newsletters detailing World Bank activities toward the social inclusion of Afro-Latin American and indigenous peoples.
  • The World Bank's Publications on Afro-Latin Americans (see column on right side for Acrobat documents available for download).
  • David de Ferranti's (former Regional Vice President of the World Bank, Latin America & the Caribbean) remarks of June 18, 2002 to the Annual Meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America: "Advancing Public Policy for Afro-Descendents in Latin America: Social and Economic Development, Legal Issues and Human Rights"
  • Josefina Stubbs, "Afro-descendants in Latin America: Poverty, Inequality and Discrimination".
  • Tanya K. Hernández' (Professor of Law & Justice, Frederick Hall Scholar, Rutgers University School of Law) speech given November 28, 2005, Washington, DC: "Discrimination and Education in Latin-America" The speech was given at the Special Meeting to Examine and Discuss the Nature of a Future Inter-American Convention Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
  • The World Bank's website: "The World Bank and Afro-Latins – Overview"
  • World Bank webpage announcing their report entitled: "Inequality in Latin America & the Caribbean: Breaking with History?" (archived from the original on 2007-06-15)The webpage includes links to specific report chapters, including Chapter 3, which considers racial factors involved in inequality.
  • The multiple author publication "Race and Poverty: Interagency Consultation on Afro–Latin Americans (LCR Sustainable Development Working Paper No. 9)" published November 2000 by the Inter-American Dialogue, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank of their roundtable's proceedings held June 19, 2000 in Washington, D.C. (archived from the original on 2007-08-09).
  • Ivan Briscoe, "The time of the underdog: rage and race in Latin America," Open Democracy (19 December 2005).
  • Mayra Buvinic and Jacqueline Mazza with Ruthanne Deutsch, eds. ,Social Inclusion and Economic Development in Latin America (Inter-American Development Bank, 2004) (by various authors and with considerable parts dealing with Afro Latin Americans).
  • Peggy A. Lovell, "Gender, Race, and the Struggle for Social Justice in Brazil," Latin American Perspectives (November 2000), pages 85–103.
  • Omar Arias, Gustavo Yamada, & Luis Tejerina, "Education, family background and racial earnings inequality in Brazil," (Abstract) the International Journal of Manpower, Volume 25, Number 3/4 (2004), pp. 355–374.
  • Maria do Carmo Leal, Silvana Granado Nogueira da Gama and Cynthia Braga da Cunha, "Racial, sociodemographic, and prenatal and childbirth care inequalities in Brazil, 1999–2001," Revista de Saúde Pública, vol. 39, no. 1 (São Paulo, February 2005).
  • "Palenque San Basilio, Bolivar, Maroon Community in Colombia" (CNN video of Afro-Colombian community).
  • Colombian 2005 Census Television Commercial Orgullosamente Afrocolombiano
  • The World Bank's Sector Report "The Gap Matters: poverty and well-being of Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples" Click here for the report
  • Law 70 of Colombia (1993): In Recognition of the Right of Black Colombians to Collectively Own and Occupy their Ancestral Lands. English Translation (April 2007)

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