Why the huge population of Africans in Colombia are invisible

Jamitah Fari

51-image074Cartagena of the Indies, famous tourist city known since 1984 as a historical heritage of mankind, was the principal slave port in the era of colonization. Today it is one of the places in Colombia where the majority of the population who are of African descent, refuse to recognize themselves as “black.”

This paragraph gives some idea of what I intend to discuss in the following.

Colombia is undoubtedly one of the most important countries in the history of the trading and of enslaved Africans in the Americas. It was a gathering place for the enslaved for distribution across the continent.

Colombia is one of the places where people of African descent suffer the worst living conditions.

The initial problem is the zero development of identity in a multiethnic and multicultural country. There is still denial of the African origins of most of the current population in the country.

In Colombia the Africans are still just black. They are historically non-existent and participation in the development of the country is virtually nil.

Officially 10.5% of the population is of African origin. But this is a figure which remains in constant debate as unofficial organizations argue that biologically and culturally the African origins of Colombians is much greater.

But there are no specific studies to ratify these statements, because on one hand the government is the leading opponent of the need to recognize the importance of ethnicity in their demographic, which makes one of the manifestations of structural racism in the country is precisely the statistical invisibility.

The level and accessibility of basic necessities is lower in the African population compared to the national average. The quality of education is the lowest in the areas of mostly African population.

Discrimination is an issue that is not monitored or protected by any law effectively. Only until 2008 was a draft law against racism and discrimination that raised penalties from two to five years in prison and fines between U.S. 2700 dollars and U.S. 6,600 dollars, but so far this law has had little social impact.

The main victims of violence and armed conflict in the country are people of African descent who represent almost 30% of the rural population, a proportion that has declined due to forced displacement caused by violence.

The result of this is the increase in urban poverty, since the marginal areas of cities are stuffed with displaced people, which mostly come from black communities. The situation further adds to the status of social exclusion of Africans, creating marginalization based on race.

Among ourselves, the picture is much worse. We African descendants in Colombia know almost nothing about ourselves. We are completely disconnected from our African ancestry.

Moreover, Africa is seen through the eyes of the whites and mestizos and what they have allowed us to see. Education in the country remains totally Eurocentric, and although there are supposedly favorable laws in this respect, these laws are nothing but a dead letter. So we are never taught about our origins.

As mentioned above, Colombia was one of the major ports for the distribution of slaves, which represented a large majority of Africans within the territory serving primarily in service work, especially in the domestic area.

We have been exposed to more than 500 years of brainwashing or mental whitening, because the situation has changed very little. Because of this ignorance,we still can find black domestic servants satisfied with their current conditions.

This conformity is found at all levels of society, from public servants to the private world .

The Maroons are a chapter of our history of which we can be proud. Benkos Bioho was the leader of a major uprising of slaves, who established free settlements known as Palenques or Kilombo.

Today, near Cartagena, one such Palenque exists. It is the only province which remained free for years and retained African cultural traits. It’s also a world heritage site, Palenque de San Basilio, a place where Spanish is not the spoken language but the Palenquera language and ancestral African practices are still observed.

However, it is one of the poorest populations in the country. Meanwhile, Colombian blacks, ignore and sometimes refuse to accept white power as the main cause of the situation of impoverishment and backwardness.

We have become accustomed to conformity, to be seen as poor, ugly and ignorant, inept, stallions, criminals and prostitutes.

The black population in Colombia does not fight, does not make demands. It begs for charity and is satisfied with crumbs. They want light skin, straight hair, thin noses and do not want to hear talk of African pride. Africa will only mean poverty and backwardness. They see in the white man, salvation to their problems and have let him and other local cultures displace them and take control of their own territories.

We have learned to live in poverty, lack of water and sewage, labor exploitation and sexual prejudice. We are fervently Catholic and reject any denial of religion, we are the leading proponents of the presence of the church in our communities and to remain as their pawns.

We have completely lost the notion of the greatness of our origins and keep our heads down,. And if a black rebels, and demands respect or reacts to an insult against himself or against his people, he/she is doomed to rejection and noted as racist or with a complex.

In this way, each time the cycle becomes more vicious. Redemption and liberation are not the utopia of a few. The escape is the denial, apathy and into submission.

The fight continues with education.

The only real tool is useful and should be education. We must have a liberating education that raises the awareness of who we are and help us to discover the greatness of our history. This education would prepare us to live dignified with our true identity. So the struggle continues and must not stop, hence the education should be a main strategy.

A self-determined education is what is needed to cope with the official lie. If we educate ourselves and continue exposing the tricks of brainwashing of the system,our education should be oriented towards a real liberation project whose ultimate goal goes far beyond getting the same advantages enjoyed by the real beneficiaries of the system.

A project of freedom itself should be the true goal of our struggle. Our cause is not only free from the oppressive system, but physically and intellectually beat him, so we can rebuild ourselves as an autonomous people, strong and capable of tracking and tracing our own destiny.

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