Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

The important African contribution arrived in the continent mainly with slavery and gave place to very rich cultural interactions that have not had fair consideration in the sub-region. The brutal clash of cultures resulting from one of the most deplorable episodes in the history of humanity, paradoxically also generated a valuable and original dialogue which brought about the exceptional multicultural dimension of our present-day societies. Hence the need to discuss the said subject matter to shed light and to bear witness to the different contributions in order to forge a common memory and to pay - at least partly - the debt with the main protagonists.

Regarding the historic exclusion of the African contribution in the construction of the present-day societies, Marta Goldberg pointed out: "Westernism” was implemented within the European practice of the 19th century, and this implied making peoples and cultures disappear from the collective memory for the sake of building a "national being" that excluded them. ” And she went on saying: "In the building of "a civilized Argentina", the African and indigenous roots were removed along with every tangible or intangible element reminiscent of them. In that way we can talk about the presence of an absence ..."

Such course of action was not different from the one followed by other countries of the region, among them, Paraguay and Uruguay, nor is it different from the reality nowadays, hence, the need for scientific research and to disclose its results to sensitize, raise awareness and redress.

With regard to this matter Rebeca Medina wrote “For its importance, the complex (Estancia de Alta Gracia) joins the recognition of the system of works that the Jesuit order built in the province and the nation, declared MHN (Historic National Monument) since 1941, and declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO on year 2000. However, the society in general does not identify the significant participation of the slave in the construction and production of the estancia, since their contribution was practically erased, situation that the afro community in Córdoba has begun to vindicate.[1][2]

Ignacio Telesca on his part underlined something similar in relation to Paraguay: “In the Paraguayan society the theme of the afro descendants is not a part of the national imagery or of its history[3], making clear that the denial and systematic exclusion is not only a historic problem but a present reality.

Chagas, Stalla and Borucki have pointed out that “Currently, Colonia del Sacramento is a tourist attraction, frequently visited both by Uruguayans and foreigners. Even though the historic centre of Colonia is one of the most visited sites of Uruguay due to its heritage values, it is not associated with the slave trade and slavery[4].

Despite the previous observations, there is interest and constant and increasing will in the three countries to reverse the injustices inherited from the past, and this is reflected in public policies, legislations, recognitions and reparations in general, directed to the afro descendant population.

The support offered for the implementation of the present research effort shows the will to testify to the various dimensions in which slave trade and slavery were involved and what it implies nowadays, since there is no awareness without knowledge. The information here presented is the result of the contribution of numerous experts and scholars, academicians, the civil society and the governmental institutions, from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as the support and backing of the corresponding National Commissions for UNESCO.

In Argentina we worked with a number of partners appointed by the National Division of Cultural Assets and Sites, from the Ministry of Culture, as well as with other persons who could provide references and had been involved in certain moments in the project Memory Sites of the Slave Route in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Likewise, in Paraguay and Uruguay we had the committed and selfless contribution of the experts that took part in the above mentioned project. Likewise, in Paraguay the General Division of Diversity, Cultural Rights and Processes belonging to the National Secretariat of Culture, through the National Paraguayan Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, supplied information and in Uruguay the National Commission of Uruguay for UNESCO indicated the names of persons involved.

In the three countries in total 63 elements were identified, 36 in Argentina, 3 in Paraguay and 24 in Uruguay.

Nevertheless, despite the considerable collaboration received and the hard work undertaken, we must say that the present work could not approach everything that must be revealed in full. On the one hand, the lack of knowledge on certain elements makes impossible to identify them clearly. The case, for example, of three places in Paraguay with obvious presence of afro descendants ( Areguá, Tavapy - today San Roque González - and Tevegó ) where it would be necessary to put forward a deep and coordinated investigation to throw light upon reality. In general, the aforementioned undertakings are not many times given priority in the different spheres of action, either for lack of financial and/or technical resources as for the absence of agreements and decisions, getting continuously laid-aside over time.

On the other hand, the multiplicity of stakeholders and referents on the subject matter in recent times makes it very difficult to contact all of them in a single approach. As a conclusion we could say that this is a matter of relatively recent treatment in the region and that there is still much to investigate, reach consensus, coordinate, divulge and assume. Undoubtedly there will be future approaches that will allow us to complete, update and deepen what the present investigation has already shown.

To conclude I would like to thank each and every person, organizations and institutions[5] who offered their qualified and selfless support, for the sake of the construction of a more authentic, fair and inclusive description of reality.

[1] Reference from the original text: Afrodescendientes de y en Córdoba. Initial document: «de pronto nos ven»: (…) Acknowledgement that together with the native peoples, many of the churches and buildings that today are historical, were built by enslaved labour. Cordoba: October 11th, 2010.

[2] Medina, R. Manzanas y estancias jesuíticas de Córdoba. In: TOMO I HUELLAS E IDENTIDADES. Sitios de Memoria y culturas vivas de los afrodescendientes en Argentina, Paraguay y Uruguay. UNESCO. Montevideo. Uruguay. 2012. p.50.

[3] Telesca, I. Paraguay. In: TOMO I HUELLAS E IDENTIDADES. Sitios de Memoria y culturas vivas de los afrodescendientes en Argentina, Paraguay y Uruguay. UNESCO. Montevideo. Uruguay. 2012. pp. 84 and 96.

[4] Chagas K., Stalla N., Borucki A. Casco histórico de Colonia del Sacramento. In: TOMO I HUELLAS E IDENTIDADES. Sitios de Memoria y culturas vivas de los afrodescendientes en Argentina, Paraguay y Uruguay. UNESCO. Montevideo. Uruguay. 2012. p. 137.

[5] List of acknowledgements attached.