2010-11-18

African influence in Argentina

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By Andrew Kahan For a city of 3 million people, there is marginalized diversity for Africans.  This is in stark contrast with other major cities in the Americas and Western Europe.  Yet, this wasn’t always the case.  In the early 1800’s, Afro-Argentineans made up as much as one third of the population.  After doing some research, I found a few plausible explanations for their disappearance.  One, is the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1871.  The other is that the government sent a disproportionately large number of blacks to fight in the 19th century wars, most notably the War of the Triple Alliance.  Other explanations span from low birthrates to high mortality.  It is also possible that the African population gradually blended into the increasing Caucasian one during the wave of European immigration. Duro de Domar is a comedy show that remains very popular in Argentina.  Although comedians often walk the fine line between comedy and unacceptable discourse, this is the source of their material.  Racism recently appeared on this show in the form of two overtly racist jokes against African-Americans.  This is interesting because occurrences of racism in popular culture in the United States often is taken very seriously, por ejemplo, Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) or Mel Gibson who both took very serious hits to their careers after public racist rants.  It seems to be that this type of rhetoric is voices more openly here than in the US.  This doesn’t mean that Argentineans are more racist than Americans, but maybe that racial pejoratives (pertaining not to blacks but to Bolivians, Paraguayans, Peruvians, and Jews) are voiced with a nonchalance that is less prevalent in the US. “Argentina is not a racist country.  We don’t even have black people.  How could we be racist?”

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