Total population
149,493 (2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly Rioplatense Spanish
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Argentine family of Buenos Aires, 1908.

At the Argentine national census of 2010 the total population was 40,117,096,[1] of whom 149,493[2][3] (0.37%) identified as Afro-Argentine.

The Afro-Argentine population resulting from the slave trade during the centuries of Spanish domination of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata had a major role in Argentine history. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries they comprised up to fifty percent of the population in some provinces, and had a deep impact on national culture. In the 19th century the Afro-Argentine population declined sharply due to several factors, such as the Argentine War of Independence (c. 1810-1818), high infant mortality rates, low numbers of married couples in this ethnic group, the Paraguayan War, cholera epidemics in 1861 and 1864, and a yellow fever epidemic in 1871. By the late 19th century the Afro-Argentine population consisted mainly of women, who mixed with the large numbers of European immigrants.[4][5]

Over 5% of Argentines state they have at least 1 black ancestor, and a further 20% state they do not know whether or not they have any black ancestors.[6][7] Genetic studies carried out in 2005 showed that the average level of African genetic contribution in the population of Buenos Aires is 2.2%, but that this component is concentrated in 10% of the population who display notably higher levels of African ancestry.[8] Today there is still a notable Afro-Argentine community in the Buenos Aires districts of San Telmo and La Boca. There are also quite a few African-descended Argentines in Merlo and Ciudad Evita cities, in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

Importation of African slaves during colonial period

Statue of "Slavery" also known as "The Slave", Francisco Cafferata, Sicily in the square, Parque 3 de Febrero, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

As part of the process of conquest, the economic regimes of the European colonies in America developed various forms of forced labor exploitation of the American aboriginals. However, the relatively low population density of some of the South American territories, resistance by some aboriginal groups to acculturation, and especially the high rate of mortality caused by the type of work, and diseases introduced by Europeans caused the decline of the native population. This led the Spaniards to supplement aboriginal manpower with slaves from sub-Saharan Africa. Mexico and Peru alone lost nearly 90% of their indigenous population in the first 50 years after the Conquest.

Well into the 19th century, mining and agriculture accounted for the bulk of economic activity in America. African slave labor held the advantage of having already been exposed to European diseases through geographical proximity, and African laborers readily adapted to the tropical climate of the colonies. In the case of Argentina, the influx of African slaves began in the colonies of the Rio de la Plata in 1588. Slave traders kidnapped Africans, who were then sold and shipped from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Trafficking flourished through the port of Buenos Aires when the city allowed English traders to import slaves through it. To provide slaves to the East Indies, the Spanish crown granted contracts known as Asientos to various companies from other countries, mainly Portuguese, English, Dutch and French.[9] By 1713 Britain, victorious in the War of the Spanish Succession, had the monopoly of this trade. The last Asiento was drawn up with the Royal Society of the Philippines in 1787. Until the 1784 ban, African slaves were measured and then branded.

Before the 16th century slaves had arrived in relatively small numbers from the Cape Verde islands. Thereafter the majority of Africans brought to Argentina were from ethnic groups speaking Bantu languages, from the territories now comprising Angola, The Gambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guinea and the Republic of the Congo. Relatively few Yoruba and Ewe were taken to Argentina; larger numbers of these groups were taken to Brazil

It is estimated that 12 million African slaves reached Latin America, mainly arriving at the ports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, with many transshipped to other regions through Valparaíso and Rio de Janeiro. Five Africans are estimated to have perished on the voyage for each arrival.[10]

The slaves were forced to work in agriculture, livestock, domestic work and to a lesser extent crafts. In urban areas, many slaves made handicrafts for sale, while revenues went to their masters. The Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Telmo and Monserrat housed a large quantity of slaves, although most were sent to the interior provinces. The 1778 census conducted by Juan José Salcedo of Vértiz showed very high concentration of Africans in provinces where agricultural production was greatest: 54% in Santiago del Estero Province, 52% in Catamarca Province, 46% in Salta Province, 44% in Córdoba Province, 64% in the Tucumán Province, 24% in Mendoza Province, 20% in La Rioja Province, 16% in San Juan Province, 13% in Jujuy Province and 9% in San Luis Province. An important part of the African population also inhabited other provinces. Today one of the slums of the city of Corrientes is still known as Camba Cuá, from the Guarani kamba kua, meaning "cave of the Blacks".

In 1806-1807 the city of Buenos Aires had 15,708 Europeans, 347 indigenous and cholos (mestizos), and 6,650 Africans and mulattoes, while in 1810 there were 22,793 whites, 9,615 Africans and mulattoes, and only 150 indigenous and cholos. The area most densely populated by Africans was located in the neighborhood of Monserrat, also known as Barrio del Tambor (Drumtown), just a few blocks from the Congressional Palace.

The Nations

The Casa Mínima, built by freedmen following the 1812 abolition of slavery in Argentina

Slaves would group themselves in societies they called nations, some of which were Conga, Cabunda, African Argentine, Mozambique, etc.

The commonalities among the meeting places of the nations included artificially flattened and sanded opened spaces for dancing; others were closed in with interior free space. In some cases the rooms were carpeted, and curtained, having been provided these items by the slave owner. The nation had its king and queen, previously chosen by democratic election, and a throne was erected where the flag of a particular nation was displayed. Every nation had a flag. There was also a platform, or dais, which among other things was used to receive great dignitaries such as Juan Manuel de Rosas, his wife, and his daughter, as portrayed in a painting by Martín Boneo. The headquarters was the site of social gatherings and dances.

Often the Afro-Argentine societies centered around the barrios, such as the del Mondongo nation or the del Tambor society. The Mondongo nation was one of the most important in Buenos Aires and was composed of 16 blocks in the barrio of Monserrat. Its name derived from the large quantity of tripe (mondongo) consumed by its members. The name Tambor was quite common in many towns, as the drum was the favored African instrument for dances and songs.

Sometimes slaves were purchased individually from abroad through an agent. For example, a letter sent from Rio de Janeiro says:

My dear sir: on behalf of the schooner Ávila I send you the negro girl that you charged me with purchasing here. She is thirteen or fourteen years old, was born in the Congo, and is called María. I will put on record that I have received the five hundred peso price. Greetings to you.

Africans in the independence and early history of Argentina

Despite widespread slavery, testimonies of the time argued that in Buenos Aires and in Montevideo slaves were treated with less cruelty than elsewhere. José Antonio Wilde, in Buenos Aires during Argentina's early independence period (1810–1880) said that:

the slaves had been treated with genuine affection by their masters, having no point of comparison with the treatment given to other colonies.

However, Wilde goes onto acknowledge that:

the tormented love more or less at this hapless fraction of the human genus (and that) between us were usually very badly dressed.

Testimony regarding the treatment of Argentine slaves in contrast to that of other European colonies is most likely that of foreigners. For example, Alexander Gillespie, skipper of the British army during the British invasion of 1806, wrote in his memoirs that he was surprised how well African slaves were treated as opposed to those enslaved by British planters in the Caribbean, and in Guyana. He goes on to state:

"When these unhappy exiles from their country are bought in Buenos Aires, the first care was to instruct the master's lead slave in the native language of the place, and the same in the general principles and beliefs of their faith" "The masters, as I have observed, were equally attentive to their morals. Every morning before they were to leave to Mass, they congregated in a black circle on the floor, young and old, giving them work of needle and fabric, each according to their abilities. Everyone seemed jovial and I have no doubt that the reprimand also entered the circle. Before and after lunch and dinner in one of the latter was presented to ask for blessings and give thanks, what we were taught to regard as prominent duties and always complied with solemnity.
Alexander Gillespie, Captain of the British Army, 1998

In 1801 the first Afro-Argentine militias were organized and regulated in the Company of the Grenadier Brown and Brown as a military corps segregated from the rest.

The British invasion of the Río de la Plata of 1806 followed an uprising of Argentine's slave population in Buenos Aires encouraged by the rise of the movement for abolition of slavery in Britain. Afro-Argentines believed that the British expedition came mainly to give them their independence, but the British general, William Carr Beresford, had no sympathy with this movement. The spokesman for the Creoles in Buenos Aires, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón argued that the region's economic base would be ruined if slavery were immediately abolished. He demanded action on behalf of their estates; General Beresford announced that slaves would not be freed, and Pueyrredón said "they were stopped in time"[11] in July 1806, in a letter to his father-in-law in Cádiz. This measure contributed to the defeat of the British invasion, because it drove the slaves to fight against them.

Following the defeat of the British, the Cabildo (administrative council) of Buenos Aires declared its main objective was to "see how to banish slavery from our soil." In 1812 Bernardo de Monteagudo was not allowed as a member of the First Triumvirate, due to his "questionable mother"—i.e., African ancestry. Bernardino Rivadavia, also of African descent, was one of the objectors.[12] The Assembly of the Year XIII, called to establish the new independent state of Argentina, passed the law of freedom of wombs, whereby children born to slaves thenceforth were automatically free citizens, but did not free those who were already slaves. Many blacks were part of militias and irregular troops that eventually became part of the Argentine Army, but always in segregated squadrons. Black slaves could, however, ask to be sold and even find a buyer if they were unhappy with their owners.

Until the abolition of slavery in 1853, the Rescue Law forced slave owners to cede 40% of their slaves to military service. Those who had completed five years of service would obtain manumission, but this rarely happened. In the Northern Army commanded by José de San Martín and Manuel Belgrano, freed blacks constituted up to 65% of the troops. San Martin came to the conclusion that there were 400,000 Afro-Argentines who could be recruited into the country's armies. The armies of the fight for independence recruited large numbers of slaves who lived in conquered territories, offering them freedom in exchange. Many of them were in Battalion Number Eight, which was part of the front line at the Battle of Chacabuco and suffered many casualties.

During the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas the black population of Buenos Aires rose to 30%. This period saw the introduction of the Argentine Carnival, similar to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the development of rhythms such as Candomblé and milonga that would become an integral part of Argentine folk music. Rosas was known for his great appreciation of the black population, and his frequent attendance at the Candomblés. Many of the gauchos who developed tasks in the field at the time were Afro-Argentines. In 1837 Rosas passed a law expressly prohibiting the purchase and sale of slaves in Argentina, and in 1840 issued a decree for the total abolition of the slave trade in the Rio de la Plata area in all forms. The National Constitution of 1853 abolished slavery, but only with the constitutional reform of 1860 was complete freedom granted to all slaves brought by foreign masters to Argentine territory.

The largest mass deaths of Afro-Argentines were during Domingo F. Sarmiento's term as President of Argentina from 1868 to 1874: the Paraguayan War of 1865–1870 and the 1871 Buenos Aires yellow fever epidemic.

After the abolition of slavery, Afro-Argentines lived in miserable conditions and faced widespread discrimination. The fourteen schools in Buenos Aires in 1857, only admitted two black children, although 15% of students that year were of color. In Córdoba in 1829 Afro-Argentine children were only entitled to two years' secondary schooling, while white Argentine children studied for four years. Universities did not admit blacks until 1853.

Afro-Argentines began to publish newspapers and to organize for their rights. One paper, The Unionist, published in 1877 a statement of equal rights and justice for all people regardless of skin color was published. One of its statements read:

The Constitution is a dead letter and the Counts and Marquises abound, which, following the old and odious colonial regime intended to treat their subordinates as slaves, without understanding that among the men who humiliate there are many who hide under their clothes a coarse intelligence superior to that of the same outrage.

Other newspapers were The African Race, the Black Democrat and The Proletarian, all published in 1858. By the 1880s there were about twenty such Afro-Argentine-published newspapers in Buenos Aires; and some researchers consider these social movements integral to the introduction of socialism and the idea of social justice in Argentine culture.

Some Afro-Argentines entered politics. José María Morales and Domingo Sosa were in action as senior military officers and held significant political posts.

Decline of the Afro-Argentine population

The bloody Paraguayan War (1865–70) and the Yellow Fever epidemic have been considered causes of the drastic diminution of the Afro-Argentine population.

Causes of reduction

Afro Argentine upper middle class women

All children born after 1813 were automatically free, but Afro-Argentines who were already slaves were not freed, and were only granted their freedom as a condition of fighting in Argentina's wars. For this reason, African males had disproportionate numbers in the Argentine war of independence from Spain. A much larger proportion of men of African descent were killed in the war than men of Spanish descent.

An Afro-Argentine had less chance of survival if free than if enslaved: slaves were seen as investments and taken good care of, while free Afro-Argentines were left with menial jobs for low pay, or forced to become beggars. This caused much poverty in the Afro-Argentine community; many succumbed to disease because they could not afford proper medical care, in many cases during frequent plagues of diseases such as yellow fever.[15]


Today in Argentina, the Afro-Argentine community is beginning to emerge from the shadows. There have been black organizations such as "Grupo Cultural Afro," "SOS Racismo," and perhaps the most important group "Africa Vive" that help to rekindle interest into the African heritage of Argentina. There are also Afro-Uruguayan and Afro-Brazilian migrants who have helped to expand the African culture. Afro-Uruguayan migrants have brought candomble to Argentina, while Afro-Brazilians teach capoeira, orisha, and other African derived secula. It has been well over a century since Argentina has reflected the African racial ancestry in its census count. Therefore, calculating the exact number of Afro-descendents is very difficult; however, Africa Vive calculates that there are about 1,000,000 Afro-descendents in Argentina.[15] The last census, carried on October 27, 2010, introduced the African ancestry survey.[16][17]

African influence in Argentine culture


Gabino Ezeiza, the most famous "payador".

Perhaps the most lasting effect of black influence in Argentina was the Tango, which charges some of the characteristics of the festivities and ceremonies that slaves developed in the so-called tango, meeting houses in which they are grouped with permission from their masters. Although not yet clearly demonstrated, it is considered that even the milonga (and dance) and chacarera draw on its influence, and the minstrel song, besides the fictitious dark Martín Fierro, the minstrels were famous Gabino Ezeiza and Higinio D. Cazón.

The pianist and composer Rosendo Mendizabal, author of "El Entrerriano", was black, as well as Carlos Posadas, Enrique Maciel (author of the music of the waltz "La Pulpera de Santa Lucía"), Cayetano Silva, born in San Carlos (Uruguay) and author of the San Lorenzo march music, and Zenón Rolón, who wrote numerous academic music, funeral march as the Great in 1880 was run in honor of the Liberator José de San Martín to be repatriated the remains.

Colonial racial categories

During colonial times the local population unofficially described different mixtures resulting from the union of Black African people with people of other ethnic origins as:

Socially, ancestors in one of these categories were a stain in the family tree. These classifications, and others common in the colonial culture such as "mestizo" or cholo, were used to stigmatize people and prevent their social advancement. In some cases, well-known historical personalities were found in this situation; figures such as Bernardo de Monteagudo and Bernardino Rivadavia, were described as "mulatto".

Immigration after the nineteenth century

Immigrants from Cape Verde

Between 12,000 and 15,000 descendants of immigrants from Cape Verde living in Argentina, of whom about 300 are native to the African Continent.

This immigration began in the late 19th century and became important from the 1920s. The busiest periods were between 1927 and 1933 and the third, after 1946.[18] These migrations were mainly due to droughts in the African country that originated famine and death.

They were expert sailors and fishermen, which is why most places settled in ports such as Rosario, Buenos Aires, San Nicolás, Bahía Blanca, Ensenada and Dock Sud. 95% of them got jobs in the Military Navy, in the Merchant Navy in the Fluvial Fleet of Argentina and in YPF dockyards or the ELMA.[18]

Expelled from Africa

In Buenos Aires

In the popularly-called Barrio del Once there are Africans who have come to escape the conditions of their countries, particularly Senegal. According to the Agency for Refugees in Buenos Aires, they came by seeking asylum or getting a visa to travel to Brazil and then Argentina, sometimes traveling as stowaways on ships. When denied a residence permit, the African refugees remain in the country without status and become lawful targets of human trafficking network. On Sunday some of the Senegalese community comes together to eat traditional dishes of their country. Some places already have African food recipes.[19]

In Rosario

Since 2004 Africans who were exploited in their home countries stowed away to Argentina, particularly the port of Rosario, Santa Fe. Although figures are inadequate the numbers increase every year: in 2008 70 refugees arrived, after some 40 the previous year; only 10 remained, the rest were repatriated. Many were children.[19]

They usually get on ships without knowing where they go, or believing they are going to a developed country in the northern hemisphere. They come from Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea.[19]

The first Africans to migrate in this way arrived in Rosario in 2004. They were adopted by a family, but most are not. Children have been housed in temporary homes and many adults live in rented rooms and earn money as street vendors. Some families formed and settled. Others turned to crime.


Main article: Dominican Argentine

In the early 1990s until the 2001 economic crisis as a result of a policy of peso-dollar conversion, there was an influx from poor countries who came to Argentina to work to earn high wages measured in dollars and return home with it. Then they began to get Dominican women of African descent into prostitution either voluntarily or from falling into a network of trafficking.

A second wave of immigrants of this class started in 2008: Dominican requests to settle in the country rose from 663 in 2007 to 1,168 in 2008 according to statistics from the Directorate of Immigration. It imposed controls in order to detect "fake tourists" and fight the gangs that brought them.

Racism in Argentina related to skin tone

Main article: Racism in Argentina

In Argentina, as in other countries of The Americas, racism-related skin tone or the people of African origin dates back to the days of colonial rule. In the caste system imposed by Spain, the descendants of people from black Africa occupied a place still lower than the descendants of persons belonging to aboriginal peoples.

The racist colonial went some way to the Argentine culture, as shown by some racist comments of the president Domingo F. Sarmiento. During the mid-19th century, were common to the death duels between gauchos and mestizos afroargentinos. In Argentine literature, these disputes are represented in a racist way in a stanza from the 1870 epic poem Martín Fierro (The way) by José Hernández, in which the title character Fierro is at a dance when a black couple enter; Fierro insults the woman, who responds in kind; Fierro then taunts the couple with the following verse:

"God made whites,
Saint Peter made mulattos,
the devil made blacks
as the smut of Hell".[20]

Fierro then kills the man in a knife fight, and speaks disparagingly of the dead man.

In 1878 Hernandez published the second part of Martín Fierro, in which is described a payada (song competition) with the son of the man he had killed, also a black gaucho, that debates philosophical topics (such as life, creation, existence, etc.). Showing the evolution of the character and probably of Argentine society in the process of receiving millions of European immigrants, this time Fierro avoids the apparently inevitable duel.

The invisibility of deliberate Afro Argentines and culture, is another striking manifestation of racism in Argentina, related to the tone of the skin or African origins.

In 2006 the president of the National Institute to Combat Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) recognized the invisibility of Afro Argentine with the following words:

The afros in Argentina have been "invisible" and today unseen continue. This is the result of a process of diaspora caused by slavery and its transformation into servitude. The current social stratification places them in poverty.


The Forum of African Descent and Africans in Argentina was created on October 9, 2006, with the aim of promoting social and cultural pluralism and the fight against discrimination of a population in the country to reach the two million inhabitants.

The National Institute to Combat Discrimination (INADI) is the public body responsible for combating discrimination and racism.

Notable Afro-Argentines

See also

Further reading

Andrews, George Reid. 1980. The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299082903.


  1. "Cuadro P1. Población total y variación intercensal absoluta y relativa por provincia o jurisdicción. Años 2001-2010" [Table P1. Total population and intercensus absolute and relative variation by province or jurisdiction, 2001-2010]. INDEC (in Spanish). Archived from the original (XLS) on 2 September 2011.
  2. "Cuadro P42. Total del país. Población afrodescendiente en viviendas particulares por sexo, según grupo de edad. Año 2010" [Table P42. Total for the country. Afro-descendant population in private households by sex, according to age group, 2010]. INDEC (in Spanish). Archived from the original (XLS) on 29 October 2014.
  3. "Cuadro P43. Total del país. Población afrodescendiente en viviendas particulares por sexo, según lugar de nacimiento. Año 2010" [Table P43. Total for the country. Afro-descendant population in private homes by sex, according to place of birth, 2010]. INDEC (in Spanish). Archived from the original (XLS) on 18 April 2014.
  4. "Informe anual sobre la situación de los Derechos humanos en la Argentina, 1998: VII. Inmigrantes" [Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Argentina, 1998: VII. Immigrants] (PDF) (in Spanish). Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS). 1999. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  5. Sánchez-Alonso, Blanca. "European Immigration into Latin America, 1870-1930" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 August 2011.
  6. "Poblacion: Primer censo sobre pertenencia racial desde 1887: Casi dos millones de argentinos tienen sus raíces en el Africa negra" [Population: First census on racial belonging since 1887: Nearly two million Argentines have their roots in black Africa] (in Spanish). Clarí 9 June 2006. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  7. "Negros en el país: censan cuántos hay y cómo viven" [Blacks in the country: censused on how many there are and how they live] (in Spanish). Clarí Retrieved 11 November 2008.
  8. Fejerman, Laura; Francisco R. Carnese; Alicia S. Goicoechea; Sergio A. Avena; Cristina B. Dejean; Ryk H. Ward (15 February 2005). "African ancestry of the population of Buenos Aires". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 128 (1): 164–170. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20083. ISSN 0002-9483. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  9. Keith Bradley, Paul Cartledge (2011). The Cambridge World History of Slavery. Cambridge University Press. p. 583. ISBN 0-521-84066-X.
  10. "La presencia negroafricana en la Argentina: pasado y permanencia, por Miriam Victoria Gomes, Boletín digital de la Biblioteca del Congreso, Nº 9, 2006". Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  11. "se los atajó a tiempo”"
  12. "Afroargentines: The Argentimes". Archived from the original on 23 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  13. Ghosh, Palash (4 June 2013). "Blackout: How Argentina 'Eliminated' Africans From Its History And Conscience". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  14. "Acerca de la Argentina: Inmigración" [About Argentina: Immigration]. Official website of the Argentine Republic (in Spanish). 2005. Archived from the original on 30 November 2011.
  15. 1 2 "Afro-Argentina & Bolivia". Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  16. "Censo 2010 Argentina - afrodescendientes" [Census 2010 Argentina - African descent]. INDEC (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  17. "Afrodescendientes y el censo 2010" [African Descent and the 2010 Census]. National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 7 November 2010.
  18. 1 2 "Caboverdianos: vientos de cambio" [Cape Verdeans: winds of change] (in Spanish). La Nacion Revista. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  19. 1 2 3 Arach, Evelyn (29 December 2008). "Los expulsados de la tierra africana" [Those expelled from African soil] (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  20. Literal translation of Spanish original from Martín Fierro, verse 199: a los blancos hizo Dios,/a los mulatos san pedro,/a los negros hizo el diablo/para tizón del infierno.

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