THE AFRO-LATINO PRESENCE IN THE AMERICAS
There are approximately 52,000 Afro-Latin Americans in Argentina.
African descendants in Bolivia account for about 3% of the population. They were brought in during the Spanish colonial times and the majority live in the Yungas.
Around 46% of Brazil’s 188 million people are Afro-Brazilians (39% either African and European ancestry and African, European and Amerindian ancestry, 7% African ancestry). Around 80% of the northeast state of Bahia is of African descent.
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 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.
One of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans is the Brazilian footballer Pelé.
Chile enslaved about 6,000 blacks, 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 0.1% can be estimated from the 2006 population.
Mario Rojas, a Chilean musician dedicated to reviving the traditional cueca in Chile believes that this traditional dance has its roots in Africa in part for the 6/8 rhythm which passed from Arabia through to Nigeria, and also its syncopated lyrics.
Available estimates range from 4.4 to 10.5 million Afro-Colombians. Afro-Colombians make up approximately 21% (9,154,537) of the population, according to a projection of the National Administration Department of Statistics (DANE), most of whom are concentrated on the northwest Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast in such departments as Chocó, although considerable numbers are also in Cali, Cartagena, and Barranquilla. Colombia is considered to have the third largest Black/African-descent population in the western hemisphere, following Brazil and the U.S.
It has been estimated that some 4.4 million Afro-Colombians actively recognize their own black ancestry, while many other Afro-Colombians do not, as a result of inter-racial relations with white and indigenous Colombians. Afro-Colombians may often encounter a noticeable degree of racial discrimination and prejudice, as a socio-cultural leftover from colonial times. 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.
In 2006 Ecuador had a population of 13,547,510 with 8%, or 1,083,801 descendants from Spanish and African people.  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 Quito and Guayaquil. The best known cultural influence known outside of Ecuador is a distinctive kind of marimba music. Bao is a fusion of native rhythms and Caribbean rhythms including candombe, salsa, merengue, reggae and calypso. From the Chota Valley there is Bomba (Ecuador) music which is very different from marimba from Esmeraldas.
Black Paraguayans are descended from African slaves brought to Paraguay by the 16th century. They became a significant presence in the country, and made up 11% of the population in 1785. Today, there are an estimated 63,000 blacks Paraguayans, or 1% of the population. 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-Peruvians make up about 3-4% of the population (close to a million).
Afro-Peruvian music was little known even in Peru until the 1950s, when it was popularized by the performer Nicomedes Santa Cruz.
African slaves and their descendants figured prominently in the founding of Uruguay. In the late 1700s 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 Joaquin Lezina, 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.
Black Venezuelans are descendants from African slaves brought to Venezuela from the 17th to the 19th century for the coffee and cocoa crops. Most of the African-Venezuelans live in the North-central Region: coastal towns in the area called Barlovento (Miranda State), Northern Yaracuy, Carabobo and Aragua States, and Eastern Vargas State; but there are areas in South Lake Maracaibo (Zulia State) and Northern Merida State in the Andes, among others with several towns and villages. 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. Adding to this new information about genetic diseases and characteristics associated with people from Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Native Americans reveals that approximately 5% of the population is of African descent and 29% of the Venezuelans are mulattos (mixed African and European), but no further data about the amount of pardos (mixed black and Amerindian) is provided. This information reveals that at least 32% of the Venezuelan of population is, to some extent, of Afro-Venezuelan descent..
Nevertheless, 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 don’t describe themselves as Afro-Venezuelan, but as Latinos or Hispanics or simply Venezuelans. Afro-Venezuelans have also stood out in arts, especially music. In 2006 both Miss Universe Venezuela and Miss World Venezuela were mulatto, but generally black people are rarely seen in the local media.
One of the most famous and controversial Afro-Latinos, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated in an interview while visiting the United States, “When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa… Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is—indeed, has a lot to do with racism–no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African.” 
The Afro-Latin Americans of Central America mostly live in or near Caribbean coast. The blacks of Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua, are both of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean, Mestizo, and/or Miskito heritage whereas those of Costa Rica and Panama are mostly of African-Caribbean heritage. Many Afro-Caribbean islanders came to Panamá to help build the Panama Canal and to Honduras to get work in the banana plantations.
Three per cent of the population is of black African descent (called Afro-Costa Ricans) and are English-speaking descendants of nineteenth century black Jamaican immigrant workers. The indigenous population numbers around 1%, 41,338 individuals. In Guanacaste Province, a significant portion of the population descends from a mix of local Amerindians, Africans and Spaniards. Most Afro-Costa Ricans are found on the Caribbean coast.
The declining native American population influenced a Royal Ordinance issued in 1541 that gave the Spanish land owners and miners permission to import African slaves into El Salvador. The New Laws did not officially come into effect in El Salvador until 1548 when the president of the “Jurisdiction of Los Confines” (which included El Salvador) freed all native slaves in the country and recommended that more Africans be brought to El Salvador to take the place of those who had been freed. Over the next seventy-five years upwards of 10,000 Africans were brought to work on the haciendas and in the mines of El Salvador. In 1635 the town of San Vicente was established by Spanish colonists and became an important center for the indigo trade. African slaves were brought here to work on nearby plantations. Several other towns also had African communities: Zacatecoluca (south of San Salvador), Chinameca (west of San Miguel), and Ahuachapan and Sonsonate (both west of San Salvador) all had sizable African populations at one time.
With the mixing of Spanish, African and native there arose free “mulatto” and “zambo” communities in a number of towns. Zambos are persons of mixed native American and African ancestry. Some slaves attempted to gain their freedom by marrying into the native population. Laws were passed by the Spanish to prevent such Afro-Amerindian unions, but the mixing of the two groups could not be prevented. Slaves continued to marry natives with the idea that they might gain freedom, if not for themselves, then for their racially mixed offspring. The children of such unions were free under Spanish law. It’s said that among Africans and natives during the colonial period, Indian women would rather marry Negroes than Indians; and neither more or less, Negroes prefer to marry Indian women rather than Negresses, so that their children will be born free.  This resulted in the creation of the zambo population group. Mullatos, mestizos and zambos eventually came to mix with each other creating the so called mestizo population of today. At the end of the colonial era the mixing of the various races in the country was well on its way in creating a population that no longer had strong ethnic identities as native, African or European.
In 1625 a planned slave rebellion in San Salvador was narrowly averted. As a result, Spanish colonial authorities became more reluctant to import any more slaves into the country then absolutely necessary. Throughout all of Central America there were growing free mestizo and mulatto populations. Together with cheap native labor, fewer slaves were brought to El Salvador and Central America after 1625 then during the previous century. A process of the mixing together in El Salvador of “mulatto”, “zambo” and “mestizo” resulted in a population that was 31% of mixed ancestry by 1779. The census that year recorded “mulattos” and “mestizos” (together) as persons of mixed racial ancestry. This census reported 25,000 “mulattos and mestizos” living in the San Salvador area in that year.
At the time of independence (1821), the population of El Salvador was over 50% of mixed racial ancestry. Today the figure is over 90%. There are really only various “shades of brown” in the country with few extremes in color variation.
General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez instituted race laws in 1930 that prohibited blacks from entering the country, this changed during the 1980s and the law was removed.
In the area of folk and popular music, the influences of Africa on El Salvador become very apparent. 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, African and European influences in both form and style. Salvadoran popular music, as well as its social dances, show strong connections to the rhythms of western and central Africa. The most popular social dances in El Salvador are those that have been adopted from the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and dances. The Cumbia came from Colombia, the Rumba-Bolero from Cuba and the Merengue from the Dominican Republic. No Salvadoran social event is complete without the playing of these Afro-Caribbean dances. They are so completely integrated into Salvadoran life that they are today the most typical expressions of the popular musical traditions of the country. In their Salvadoran form they take on a style that is similar, yet different, from that which they originated. 
Latin-American historian Hubert Herring wrote in his History of Latin America (1969) “ In the nations of Latin America the white man, the red man, and the black man have met and merged with one another to form a new kind of people: Jose Vasconcelos called it the raza cosmica – the cosmic race.” Perhaps in no other Latin American nation did the “merging” of these three racial groups become so complete.
Guatemalan culture is a mix of European, Mayan Indian, and African, but only 2% of the population is considered black or mulatto. The main community of African descent are the Garifuna, concentrated in Livingston and Puerto Barrios. The rest of the community is of Afro-Caribbean stock and mulattos. Izabal, on the Caribbean coast, is the center of African culture in Guatemala, with its population being of mixed African, Mayan Indian, and European.
Also many of African decent are located in Jutiapa, Guatemala which are primarily of European and African extractions. In this region of the country there are still many of African decent present today. Although many may not recognize most of those that are due to loss of culture in Jutiapa, Fact of the matter is that people learn in Guatemala’s history that there was once slaves in Guatemala.
Many of the slaves brought from Africa came to Guatemala to work on cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, and coffee plantations. 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. 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, African and European influences in both form and style.
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. This 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.” 
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. Certainly a large part of the modern Honduran population today identified as mestizo has at least some black ancestry, but they do not self-identify as black.
The self-identifying black population in Honduras is mostly of West Indian (Antillean origin), descendents of indentured laborers brought from Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean Islands. The Garifuna (or Black Caribs), a people of mixed Amerindian and African ancestry, 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 Honduras, Belize, 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. Today the Miskito consider themselves to be purely indigenous, denying this African heritage.  Today there are a sizable number of people in the department of Olancho (a center of gold mining and cattle ranching) that would be considered black by U.S. standards. They do not, however, identify as such but rather as mestizo.  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. 
All these circumstances led to a denial by many Hondurans of their 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.” 
About 9% of Nicaragua’s population is black, or Afro-Nicaragüense, and mainly reside on the country’s sparsely populated Caribbean or Atlantic coast. 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 the Caribbean coast and islands. Nicaragua has the largest population of blacks in Central America.
Afro-Nicaraguans are mainly found on the autonomous regions of RAAN and RAAS on the Caribbean Coast of the country.
Black laborers from the British West Indies, mainly Jamaica, came to Panama by the tens of thousands in the first half of the twentieth century. While most were involved in the effort to build the Panama Canal, many also came to work on Panama’s banana plantations. By 1910 the Panama Canal Company employed more than 50,000 workers, three-quarters of whom were Antillean blacks. They formed the nucleus of a community separated from the larger society by race, language, religion, and culture.
According to a 2001 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1.1 million Cubans described themselves as Black, while 2.8 million considered themselves to be “mulatto” or “mestizo” or “javao” or “moro”. 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.
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 nineteenth 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.
Some of the most famous Afro-Cubanos are Salsa Legend Celia Cruz and Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club.
73% are mixed (mostly mulatto), 11% are Black, and 16% are White, with no fewer than nine ethnic mixes including: mestizos, mulattoes, zambos, grifos, quadroon Indians, quadroon mulattoes, puchelas, saltaras, and cabras.
There is also a significant presence of black Haitian immigrants in the country up to a million Haitians live in the Dominican Republic. There are also immigrants from other Latin American countries including Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Dominican culture is a mixture of Taino Amerindian, African, and European origins. While Taino influences are present in many Dominican traditions, the European and African influences are the most noticeable.
The population of Haiti is 8.7 million, of which 95% are of African descent and the remaining 5% is mulatto and white.
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 supposed Amerindian descent are assumed to also possess African ancestry. Several other terms exist for the marabou racial mixture in other countries (see Cafuzo, Zambo).
Haiti is an Afro-Latin nation with strong African contributions to the culture as well as its language, music and religion. To a lesser degree French, Spaniard, and in rare occasions (food, art, and folk religion) Taino and Arab customs are present in society.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census taken in Puerto Rico, 80.5% of Puerto Ricans identified as White, 8% of the population as Black and 10.9% as of mixed or other race.  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.  On the other hand, the Y chromosome evidence showed Puerto Ricans’ patrilineage to be approximately 75% European, 20% African, and less than 5% indigenous. The combined results reveal a mostly mestizo (Taino and European) population with important European and African elements (Demographics of Puerto Rico)
Certain critics consider census figures to be skewed since they are based on self-definition and acute physical observation of census-takers. 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 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”. 
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. In all, about 31 African tribes have been recorded in Puerto Rico. 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 so-called “pure” blacks in Puerto Rico are found in the coastal areas, areas traditionally associated with sugar cane plantations (especially in the towns Loiza, Guayama, Ponce, and Carolina). 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 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 African and Caribbean origin respectively and danced to during parties and African-derived festivals. Many Boricuas who claim West/Central African ancestry are descendants of enslaved Congo, Igbo and Yoruba tribes from Africa. After the abolition of slavery in 1873 and invasion by the United States a number of African Americans have also migrated and settled in Puerto Rico.
One of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans is the Puerto Rican Boxer Felix “Tito” Trinidad.
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.
- the song ‘La Bamba’, a traditional folk song and dance, was originally a song sung by African slaves in Veracruz as they worked. Bamba is the name of an African tribe in Angola.
- Veracruz, Campeche, Pánuco and Acapulco were the main ports for the entrance of African slaves.
- In the past, offspring of 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.
- Madison Pettis a well-known actress mother is Mexican and her father is African American.