By Ryan Velez
Whether they participate in activist movements, are supporters, or are simply trying to live their lives in peace, it’s no secret that African-Americans have gone through both historical and current struggles. It can be easy to forget that Black people in other countries are fighting their own issues of discrimination and inequality, some of which may be very similar—some that take their own form. EURWeb has shed light on one such movement in Columbia and it’s Afro-Columbian population.
Similar to African-Americans, Afro-Columbians are descended from African slaves, imported by the Spanish to replace decline Native populations to work in gold mines, sugar cane plantations, and cattle ranches. Slavery was abolished in 1851 in Columbia, but Afro-Columbians still had their share of struggles. Today, the majority of Afro-Columbians live in coastal cities, their culture having been an essential contributor to Columbian culture, including several musical genres.
In the modern day, though, Afro-Columbians still suffer from a lack of rights and visibility among the population, which now comprises 30% of Colombia’s 50 million people and 95% of those who live in the lower classes. On May 20th, a march was held across seven key cities in Columbia to protest poor living conditions and discrimination against Columbia’s Black population.
Part of the issue stems from mestizaje, or miscegenation. Starting shortly after the end of slavery, it was a state policy to try and “whiten” the Black population in Columbia. As a result, many Afro-Columbians are not aware of their own history, and some do not even self-identify as Black.
What some call “forced amnesia, an assisted assimilation” has played into some of the conditions that modern Afro-Columbians face. 15% of the population lives in absolute poverty, with the risk of going at least one day without eating. In addition, blackface was still used on Columbian television up until six months ago, and there is also a nationwide version of the Stop N’ Frisk program that disproportionately targets black people.
In addition to starting the march, Carlos Hinestroza, one of the struggle’s leaders, has worked together to create a list of demands, having been inspired by the Black Panthers of Oakland. Some of the demands include “putting an end to hostile acts of racism in all its farm that harm our integrity and rights as citizens of Columbia” and “equal access to employment opportunities, industry and professional development.” The full list is available on the movement’s Facebook page.
Along with welcoming local support, Hinestroza has also opened the door for international support as well, asking those interested to upload their own videos as well as use the hashtag #PorEsoMarchamos (this is why we march).