Afro-Bolivian saya Dancer in traditional attire and hat.

Afro-Bolivian saya Dancer in traditional attire and hat.

Afro Bolivians are Bolivians of African ancestry.Afro-Bolivians. Most, if not all, were brought as slaves to work for European colonizers. African slaves may even have been a part of Francisco Pizzaro’s expeditions in Upper and Lower Peru. They originated in different areas of Africa, including Congo, Angola, Senegal, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, and in most cases were brought to Upper Peru from Lima or Buenos Aires, cities that did a lively trade with slave merchants. Afro-Bolivians have always had a strong sense of being negros (their preferred term), and of possessing cultural and linguistic values that set them apart from the remainder of their compatriots, indigenous and mestizo.

The history of Blacks in Bolivia dates from colonial-era Peru, when Africans were imported as slaves to labor in the silver mines of the Peruvian viceroyalty. By the turn of the seventeenth century hundreds of thousands of Africans had been imported into Spanish America (Bowser 1974, 37), and by 1611 some 6,000 Black and Mulato slaves worked the upper Peruvian mines of Potosí (Klein 1986, 32). Africans were also imported as slave labor to work coca-leaf plantations in the semitropical provinces of Nor Yungas and Sud Yungas (M. Léons 1978). Emancipation was legislated in Bolivia's constitution of 19 December 1827; political debates delayed its enforcement until 1851.
Afro-Bolivians typically refer to themselves as "Negros" (Blacks). Black intellectuals introduced the term "Afro-Boliviano" in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and by the early 1990s the term has found its way into usage among Black urban migrants living in La Paz and more generally among Bolivia's intelligentsia. "Negrito" (Little Black) and "Moreno" (Brown) are the terms most commonly used by Bolivians when referring to Blacks; however, Blacks find the diminutive offensive. Afro-Bolivians use the term "Mulato" to refer to a Black of a lighter skin color. "Mulato" in its more common usage in Bolivia refers to the the offspring of Whites or Hispanics and Black people. "Zambo" refers to someone of mixed Indian and Black parentage; it is mainly used derogatorily.
Location. There are Afro-Bolivian communities throughout Bolivia, especially in the semitropical climates of the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Beni, and Cochabamba. The largest concentrations of Blacks are found in the lowland provinces of Nor Yungas and Sud Yungas in the department of La Paz. Several communities of Black agriculturists are located in each of these provinces, such as Chicaloma and Chulumani in Sud Yungas and Mururata and Tocaña in Nor Yungas. The Bolivian Yungas are characterized by heavy rainfall and a mean temperature of 23°C.

BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah

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