How to find Africa in Latin America 

in collaboration with Chocolate Gringa

The trend in virtually all of Latin America is to look to the coasts or in some cases the mountains (such as in Bolivia) of the respective country for African descended populations.  The coasts were the point of entries including slave ports and where English and Creole-speaking Caribbean and American (United States) populations came to work the land or build the country’s infrastructure. Enslaved people also worked in the mines in mountainous regions.

Garifuna populations (descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people) are in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Roatan island.  Latin America has different groups of people of African descent, the Afro-colonials descendants of enslaved Africans and immigration from people from the Caribbean islands and the U.S.A. They were fleeing enslavement from their home country, revolution, were deported, were shipwrecked, were newly freed or were seeking work. This is seen in Panama, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Countries with the largest population of people of African descent,(20% and more of the total population) Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.  

Countries with notable populations of African-descent (10% or more of the total population) Uruguay, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua and Belize.  Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic had ‘reverse one-drop rules’ in place. If you had any White European heritage in your family, no matter how much or little, you were considered White. During the 19th and 20th centuries some Latin American governments enacted whitening practices; blanqueamiento, toward a “superior” state of increasing “whiteness.”

They were used in El Salvador, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay. They restricted or eliminated immigration for people of color while welcoming and making entry easy for White European immigration, race mixing was encouraged. The following are cities and locales where you will find African-descended populations, along with the traditions they preserved. Each country is broken up by provinces or departments, the equivalent of USA ‘states.’ The province or department is listed as well as the city or municipality within the province or department where applicable.

Argentina- For most of the colonial period the port of Buenos Aires served as the exclusive entry point for enslaved Africans. Whitening practices, huge European immigration, mainly Italian, concentrated efforts in genocide, sending Blacks to war and epidemics account for a decline in people of African descent. A pilot census conducted in two Argentine neighborhoods show 5% of people knew of African ancestry while 20% thought it was possible but unsure. [Resource: Minority Voices]

Chile- Santiago de Chile

Colombia- Barranquilla, Santa Marta, San Basilio de Palenque, San Andres Island, Isla Baru, Cartagena (major slave port), Cali (my personal favorite) Palmira, El Choco department- Quibdo is the capital, El Valle de Cauca- Buenaventura is the capital.

Costa Rica- Limon Province, immigration of 19th century Jamaicans to build railroads.

Cuba- Over 70% of the Cubans inside Cuba are of African descent. Large populations of Haitians in Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces where the population still maintains Kreyol as their mother tongue.

Belize- Cayo District, Belize District, Stann Creek District, Belize City, Belmopan

Bolivia- La Paz and the Yungas a stretch of forest in the Andes.

Brazil-Salvador de Bahia, Palmares (or Quilombdo dos Palmares), Rio de Janeiro [Resource: Bahia, Black Women of Brazil]

Dominican Republic- 90% of Dominicans inside the Dominican Republic of African descent. Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris, (Majority of MLB players are from this town) and Puerto Plata, both had an immigration of English-speaking Caribbean people. Samana had an influx of freed Afro-American enslaved people.

Ecuador- Quito, Guayaquil, Chota Valley (Players from Chota Valley historically led the national soccer team to two World Cups) the Esmeraldas on the Pacific coast

El SalvadorSan Miguel and Santa Ana. Santa Ana is called “La Cuidad Morena,” San Salvador, San Vicente, Zacatecoluca, Chinameca, and Ahuachapan

Guatemala- Izabel department in the cities of Livingston, Puerto Barrios, Morales, Amatitlan, San Jeronimo, Jutiapa

Haiti- 90-95% of the population are of African descent.

Honduras- Trujillo, La Ceiba,Triunfo de la Cruz and Roatan island. 

Mexico- The Chica Coast (on the Pacific Coast) the municipalities of Oaxaca, and Guerrero. Yanga, a municipality in Veracruz was the first free Black town in the Americas. (Veracruz was a major slave port.) Campeche, Pánuco and Acapulco were the main ports for the entrance of African slaves. [Resource: AfroMexico]

Nicaragua- Autonomous regions of RAAN (Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic) capital Puerto Cabezas and RAAS (Autonomous Region of the Southern Atlantic) the capital is Bluefields. Laguna de Perlas in the communities of Orinoco, La Fe and Marshall Point

Panama- There was an influx of immigration of English-speaking Caribbean people (Antillanos) to build the canal and railroads as well as the colonial african-descendants who were already in Panama. Panama City, the Canal area, Colon the interior region: Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro, Veraguas, Península de Azuero and Coclé. 

Paraguay- Ascunsion the capital-in the Fernando de la Mora municipality. Cambacua, Aregua, Emboscada, Guarambare

Peru- Chincha , Cañete, Victoria, Lima, Chorillos, Yapatera, Zaña, and Ingenio, a small village in northern Peru, in the province of Morropón, and in the state of Piura is 85% African-descendant  [Resource: AfroPeru] 

Puerto Rico- Loiza, Carolina, Humacao, Mayaguez,  Fajardo, Guayama, San Juan, Poncé

Uruguay- Montevideo

Venezuela- Barlovento, Curiepe, Northern Yaracuy, Crabobo, Aragua, Eastern Vargas State, South Lake Maracaibo in the Zulia State, Northern Merida State.

Recommended Links:

Chocolate Gringa

Afro-Latin@ Forum

African-American Latino

Being AfroLatino

AfroLatinos: The Untaught Story