Tag Archives: PBS

Latin America’s African Roots Explored

22 Apr

Latin America’s African Roots Explored

An article in UrbanMecca.com announced http://urbanmecca.net that Black in Latin America, a new four–part series “on the influence of African descent on Latin America”, is the 11th and latest documentary film from renowned Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 I’m impressed with the ideas brought out in the PBS series concerning the African presence in Latin America, as they are in line with content of my newly released book Born in the Land of the Tango: A Memoir About Identity, Family, and Healing. It’s interesting that scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr. covers six Latin American countires and explores how each country acknowledges or denies their African roots, and how African descended individuals live and are perceived in their native countries.  I’m surprised that Argentina is not one of the countries profiled, and yet it is clear they still categorically tend to deny the African past- despite the presence of many “enlightened” black Argentines.

The article went on to say “Latin America is often associated with music, monuments and sun, but each of the six countries featured in Black in Latin America including Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Peru, has a secret history.” 

Fast Facts:

  •   12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage.
  •   While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States.  The rest—over ten and a half million—were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America and kept in bondage far longer than the slaves in the United States.
  •   This astonishing fact changes the entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact.
  •   These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish influences.
  • Despite their great numbers, the cultural and social worlds that they created remain largely unknown to most Americans, except for certain popular, cross-over musical forms.


According to Urban Mecca.com   in his new series,  “Professor Gates  sets out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now, and how the countries acknowledge—or deny—their African past; how the fact of race and African ancestry play themselves out in the multicultural worlds of the Caribbean and Latin America”

The article in UrbanMecca.com pointed out, “ Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Professor Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries through art, music, cuisine, dance, politics and religion, but also the very palpable presence of anti-black racism that has sometimes sought to keep the black cultural presence from view.”