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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
8/6/2015
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Latin America and the Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), more than 20 percent of the population of Latin America, around 120 million people, are of African descent. Countries with the greatest population of Afro-descendants are Brazil and Cuba (between 35 percent and 45 percent), followed by Colombia and Ecuador with 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Nevertheless, the Afro-descendant communities have suffered the deprivation of their economic, social and cultural rights due to racism and discrimination. Poverty, socio-economic inequality and marginalization are common in the majority of societies of African descent, originating in the social hierarchies imposed since the colonial period in which white people and mestizos are established at the top of the social hierarchy and enjoy social privileges, while the indigenous and African slaves and their descendants are placed in an inferior position, states ECLAC. Diverse studies have presented a discouraging picture about the achievement and satisfaction of the rights of Latin American people of African descent, which impedes achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

In the framework of the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024, declared by the United Nations General Assembly, an International Symposium “Listen to My Voice and Convey My Feelings,” a scientific and cultural event of cooperation for development, that brought together approximately 150 women of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, was held in Carchi, Ecuador, on July 22-25. During the symposium, whose goal was to strengthen the inclusion of women of African descent, themes such as exclusion, cultural history, social movements, the integral formation of the black woman, politics, the arts, film and body image, were discussed. “Women of the black community are much more than that, we can do science, occupy public and professional positions in decision-making jobs, we only wish to awaken the desire to keep educating ourselves in order to contribute to society,” said the Ecuadorian representative, Olga Maldonado.

With a population of about 8,500 people, Arica, in northern Chile, has the highest number of people of African descent in the country, constituting 4.7 percent of the inhabitants of this region, according to a survey done by the National Institute of Statistics. Recognition of the presence of people of African descent in Chile has been slow. The first organizations, such as Oro Negro, Lumbanga and Tumba Carnaval, appeared only in the year 2000. However, the request to add the Afro-descent variable in the 2012 census was denied and it seems unlikely to be considered in the census of 2017. Since 2009 the Parliament has a bill to recognize the ethnic category of African descent, granting guarantees to the Afro-Chilean community, without any advance towards its approval.

The first specialized study of people of African descent in Peru was released on July 31 by the Ministry of Culture. In a sample of 3,101 homes, the study, carried out in November 2013 throughout the Peruvian coast, measured the socio-economic condition and the exercise of rights of this population, finding that besides the problems of access, permanence and completion of basic education, only 33 percent of young Afro-Peruvians have the possibility of going on to higher education and scarcely 13 percent of them finish their studies. Also, the study revealed that more than a third of the Afro-Peruvian population receives a salary of less than minimum wage, and 60 percent of those interviewed said that they had suffered discrimination. Although official statistics are not available, some studies calculate that 4 percent of the population in Peru is of African descent.

The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) of Uruguay announced on July 25, International Day of the Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, that unemployment among Afro-Uruguayan women is at 14 percent, more than double the 6.1 percent unemployment rate of the nation. Ana Karina Moreira, responsible for the Afro-Uruguayan division of MIDES clarified that Afro-Uruguayan workers occupy the lower ranks in the hierarchies; one out of five are domestic workers. Moreira added that “women of African descent living in poor homes are 21.1 percent, while non-African women in the same situation represent 8.5 percent.” Also, 20.2 percent of the Afro-Uruguayan population are found in category of poor, contrasted with 9.7 percent of the total population. According to the organization Inmujeres, 11.5 percent of the total population of the country is of African descent.


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