Racism in Latin America: What’s the cultural cost to pay?

Ironically, Latin America is racist. History ignorance, global influence, causes are endless. Let’s take a look at the price Latin American society pays for racism. 

Experts estimate that one-third of the Latin American population is Afro-Latin, but at the same time they account for half of the poorest. In Colombia, 80% of blacks live in extreme poverty; And in Brazil 14.5% of the poor and 80% of the young people killed are black, according to the World Bank.

All of them are also only half as likely to reach high school, and this series of disadvantages are also exposed in black representation capacity within political parties.

According to Germán Freire, a specialist in social development at the WB, "Afro-descendants are among the least present in political positions. With few exceptions, such as Colombia, the region is reluctant to give them leadership positions and party membership" .

Freire adds that the scenario is so worrying that outside the arts and sport, blacks living in Latin America still did not have the opportunity to have many spaces for expression. "The consequence of this is that they remain in poverty, which is why the region is throwing a huge cultural legacy in the garbage," he says.

One modality that also plays against the possibilities for Afrodescendants in the region is that with the exception of Brazil, in the rest of Latin America it is still difficult to know the size and geographical distribution of this population, since in the censuses Most countries do not map by race.

Nations like Peru and Guatemala, in which the indigenous heritage has a great influence in the daily life of its inhabitants, also count on a part of its population of black race. But in both cases the figures that surround this sector of their community are also unknown.

A partial exception to the rule is that of Colombia, whose 2005 census registered 10% of the population as black. And some progress has also been made in Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.

This worrying scenario of exclusion has led to the emergence of a consensus among the experts that only if the people of African descent are taken into account can poverty be overcome, one of the main problems in the region and according to ECLAC at the end of 2013, 164 million people in Latin America, equivalent to 27.9% of its population.

"Among the most urgent needs is to find out why racial inequality increases, and exactly how much this is costing Latin America. And for that, it is necessary to design policies and strategies to involve Afro-descendants in the regional development agenda," says Fabio Pittaluga, World Bank senior specialist in social development for Latin America and the Caribbean.


Although Afro-descendants at present have little chance of real progress in Latin America, many Africans still prefer to move to the region before continuing to endure the famines and persecutions suffered by a large part of that continent.

The preferred destination is Brazil, whose image of emergent power led him to be considered by the Africans of the poorest places as the country of the future and of dreams. In addition they have the greatest facility for immigration procedures and job search in comparison to the increasingly restrictive Europe.

According to the numbers of the Brazilian Federal Police (PF), between 2000 and 2012 the number of African residents and refugees in the South American giant grew more than 30 times. Although this can be greater if the undocumented are considered.

The PF report notes that in 2000 there were 1,054 regularized Africans from 38 nationalities in Brazil, but the figure jumped in 12 years to 31,866 legalized citizens from 48 of the continent's 54 nations.

Immigration routes are mainly by air, although they are also carried out by sea and in some cases by land, mainly through the northern border after previous stops in neighboring Amazonian countries. Most of these immigrants come from Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola and Cape Verde, although many also come from Nigeria.

However, xenophobia and other evidence of racism, such as some prejudices against Africans in the various modes of public transport and by security agents, are also admitted by some immigrants already established in Brazil. 

Although the majority of Afro-descendants with little or no progress in Latin America are those who suffer from discrimination in different areas, other people with the same roots but that are successful also, do not escape xenophobic criticism and mocking.

Another prejudice that leaves Latin America again in the middle of nothing. Latin America is full of blends, cultures, languages, religions, and still we are intolerant, xenophobic and racist even when we were all part of the same process.

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