In the United States, many of us are familiar of the different ways that racism has manifested itself in our country's history. We have seen racism rear its ugly head with the creation of discriminatory legislation, intimidation, denying people of color access to services and public goods, and violence. The past decade has seen the emergence of a new form of racism in the United States that's a little subtler than past forms of racism, covert racism. This can be the use of code words or other micro-aggressions. While talking to our Afro-Argentine cultural exchange partners I learned about a form of racism that is prevalent in Argentina: The denial of the existence of Argentine of African descent.
Both the government and Argentine citizens deny their existence. Our Afro-Argentine friends all had stories where their fellow, native Porteños (people who live in Buenos Aires) looked at their skin color and assumed they were from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or another Latin American country with a larger Black population. Additionally, they told us how the Argentine government denies that there is an Afro-Argentine population.
The denial of African heritage can also be found within Afro-Argentine families. Our Afro-Argentine friends also shared with us a few personal stories about how some of them weren't always aware of their African heritage. Liz was one of our new friends that shared her personal story. She told us that she wasn't aware that she was of African descent until she was twelve years old! This was a very defining moment for her. She said that before she discovered this, she always struggled with being different from her classmates and would try to find ways to fit in. However, learning that her difference stemmed from being of African descent, she was finally able to embrace the physical features that set her apart from her classmates.
Judging from the experiences of our Afro-Argentine friends, I can imagine that there are more people in Argentina that are unaware of their African heritage. In the coming years, I would love to see a movement that encourages people to look deeper into their family history. I think this would help other people discover their African roots. From there, all of the people of African descendant can rally together and act as a collective force to demand that the government and other Argentine people recognize their existence. This could help bring an end to Argentina's denial of the existence of an Afro-Argentine population.