Do you know that Argentina used to have a large population of Africans in the past? The total population of Argentina amounted to 44.78 million, of whom 149,493 are Afro-Argentine, according to the 2019 National Census of Argentina. It is fascinating to note that, throughout the 18th to the 19th century, the Argentines of African descent played a pivotal role in the national culture of Argentina. For centuries, Argentina has been home to many Black people, not only the population of enslaved people and their descendants, but also economic immigrants. They were the majority of the population at that time, as compared to the European descendants who were a minority. During the 1930s and 1940s, Cape Verdeans migrated to Argentina with their Portuguese passports in order to find work as dockworkers and mariners.
When the Spanish colonialists arrived and started the enslavement and colonization of the Afro-Argentines, the situation completely changed, and this progressively increased the continuous influx of Europeans in Argentina.
As I write, 97 percent of the population of Argentina is composed of European descendants. Considering that as of the early 1700s, close to 50 percent of Argentines were of African descent and between 30 and 40 percent in mostly Buenos Aires were either black or mulatto, this current figure may seem confusing. So, what really happened to Afro-Argentine’s, and why are they now the disadvantaged minority?
According to Spain’s Wikipedia, slavery was abolished in Argentina around 1853. However, this did not change the fortunes of the Afro-Argentines, as it only ushered in more suffering for them. Argentina’s leaders emphasized modernization, citing Europe as the cradle of civilization and progress. Their thoughts were similar to those of other white European nations, who thought anything dark skin to be backward. They believed that to join the ranks of other ‘civilized nations’ like Germany, France and England, Argentina would have to physically and culturally destroy its Black population.
Most of the Afro-Argentines died from war (keep in mind that most recruits in the Paraguayan War were predominantly Afro-Argentine blacks with very minimal military training), systemic controlled poverty, government mistreatment, or other causes. Because of the racist treatment they received, most of the Afro-Argentines had to leave their country and move to Uruguay.
Other contributing factors to their rapid decline were unfavourable government policies aimed at disenfranchising them, high infant mortality rates, and a limited number of married couples in their ethnic group. Some were faced with the challenge of fighting the cholera epidemics in 1861 and 1864, as well as the yellow fever epidemic in 1871. These tragic events led to a huge decline and a huge exodus of Afro-Argentinians from Argentina to other parts of South America or, sadly, some to their deaths.
This barbaric practice was not only unique to Argentina, but also to other countries. Brazil, Cuba, and other places in Latin America tried out the whitening process. Argentina has a unique story in this context because it was successful in building its image as a Pre-dominant White country.
Once the Argentine white-controlled government realized that the country was experiencing a significant decline in its population of true Argentine citizens, they devised a plan to increase the number of white people living in Argentina. The plan was to get other white Europeans from other parts of the world to live and work in Argentina with added incentives. One of the incentives was the promise of citizenship and social assistance benefits.
In the 1850s, Juan Bautista Alberdi, an Argentine political theorist and diplomat, who was probably best known for his saying “to govern is to populate,” played a big part in encouraging White European immigration to Argentina. Alberdi’s ideas were supported by the Argentine president Justo José de Urquiza, who incorporated them into the country’s first constitution. Click here to find the 25th amendment.
This resulted in a massive migration of white settlers from Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and Belgium. This was the beginning of the decline of the Afro-Argentines. The plan was to make the indigenous people in Argentina disappear and replace them with European immigrants. This is Argentina, which you see today.
The majority of Argentines with European ancestry deny the impact made by the Afro-Argentines, but their first president, Bernardino de la Trinidad González Rivadavia, nicknamed the “Chocolate Dictator” by his political opponents, was of African ancestry. He was awarded the honours of a respected captain-general. Today, his remains are buried in a mausoleum on Plaza Miserere, next to Rivadavia Avenue, which is named after him.
One of the founding fathers of the apartheid policies against the Afro-Argentines was Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. He was an Argentinian activist, intellectual, writer, and statesman. He was also the seventh president of Argentina. He was one of the people who thought that the country should be more European than African or Amerindian. Toward the end of the 19th century, ex-president Sarmiento remarked: “Twenty years hence, it will be necessary to travel to Brazil to see Blacks.” Although he was aware that Black Argentines existed, he suggested that the country would not recognize them for long. While in exile in Chile, Domingo Sarmiento made a damning statement against the Afro-Argentines, and I quote:
“We must be reasonable with the Spaniards,” he wrote, “by exterminating a savage people whose territory they were going to occupy, they merely achieved what all civilized people have done with savages, what colonization did consciously or unconsciously: absorb, destroy and exterminate.”Sarmiento wrote “Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism” (1845)
Domingo Sarmiento was responsible for the economic and other forms of genocide that wiped out the Afro-Argentinian population until there was a small population of black Argentinians in the early 1900s. Under Sarmiento’s watch, the Argentine government ignored calls to include Afro-Argentinians in the national population census. This was a plan to make the Argentine population mostly white. Sarmiento’s apartheid policies included the separation of blacks from European descent, and the placement of blacks in abandoned communities that rarely had medical facilities. When cholera was prevalent, the Sarmiento government deliberately halted medical treatment for the Afro-Argentines, leading to the deaths of many Blacks, mostly males.
Sarmiento was also responsible for the massive incarceration and extrajudicial murder of Afro-Argentinean men. Black Argentine males were punished with a stiffer penalty for any crime they committed. This discriminatory practice affected the Afro-Argentinean women so severely that they had no other option than to have children with white-Argentinean men.
Black women in Argentina were forced to pass as white or Amerindian to get the benefits of whiteness for their children and themselves because of years of racial apartheid policies. Many black women in Argentina had no choice but to take advantage of various legal policies to improve their lives. Black women were victims of an oppressive regime that dictated everything.
Due to economic hardship, Black and other indigenous people in Argentina began to identify as “White” if they could pass or settle into more equivocal racial and ethnic categories. Unfortunately, these categories were morphed into criollo (a pre-immigrant background often affiliated with Spanish or Amerindian ancestry), morocho (tan coloured like), pardo (brown skin coloured). These labels helped to dissociate them from their blackness at a time when that was a state imperative, even though they ultimately cast them as “others.”
The population of Afro-Argentina was in a negative decline and the genocide continued. Carlos Sal Menem, the former president of Argentina, found it easy to incorrectly state that blacks do not exist in Argentina and that this is a Brazilian issue.
Carlos Menem’s illegitimate claim has been supported by distorted historical books in Argentina that forget the true inhabitants of the land of Argentina and all over South America. Argentina is home to many people of African descent, and more people of African descent are migrating there. Approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Cape Verdeans immigrants and their descendants live in the Buenos Aires area. As Europe tightened its immigration laws, West Africans began to migrate to Argentina in larger numbers. The number of African descendants from other Latin American countries entering Argentina has increased over the past 10 years, seeking economic opportunities.
Argentina’s football team, their most prized national asset, wear a look that reflects their apartheid past. Even though Argentina’s original inhabitants are still alive, the national football team still presents players of European descent. It is clear that there is a lack of racial diversity on the football team.
As you can see, Argentina’s history is more diverse than you think. The era of the Internet has brought to light atrocities against Afro-Argentinians. I am curious as to why the media didn’t give much attention to this compared to the Jewish holocaust. Furthermore, it illustrates that there was a plan to eradicate the melanated people of the earth and make their story as extinct as possible.
Over the past 600 years, European colonialists have wiped out close to 100 million black people from the face of the earth to gain control of their land. It appears that the genocide against black people was justified and meant to be forgotten. Many European leaders in the past considered this to be a way to modernize a country. For them, a country without Melanated people meant progress, and it did not just happen in Argentina, it also happened in almost every nation, most notably, America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and many more. I want to conclude this article by saying, As always, it’s my opinion.