Black in Latin America

Black in Latin America

Book - 2011
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"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. This astonishing fact changes our 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. So Henry Louis Gates, Jr. set out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now, and how the countries of their 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. Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries—Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru—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." -- from publisher's website.
Publisher: New York : New York University Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9780814732984
Branch Call Number: 980.0049 Gat
Characteristics: xi, 259 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Nov 20, 2011

This was very readable… very broad overview of Afro-Carribean and Afro-South America history since the 1500s. Published by New York University Press, but not so academic that the average person can’t enjoy it. Easy to read because he intersperses history with his conversations with academics and average persons on the street. Did you know that more folks went through the Middle Passage and then down to Mexico than up to the US south? Do you know why Haiti and the Dominican Republic are so different even though they both occupy a small island? The answer would surprise you. Fascinating stuff.

Aug 13, 2011

This book is a companion to the PBS series which was excellent. I admit I was expecting the book to be a bit more scholarly from the esteemed professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., but this is more like a travel memoir (numerous photos of himself, notes about where he stayed, what he ate, the cab drivers he talked to etc.). But it’s a travel memoir written by someone with a great interest in history. I have a great interest in history so I enjoyed the book once I got used to the conversational format. What the book does, which is so enlightening, is to talk about the history of slavery and race relations in the Americas – North, Central, and South America. There are astounding parallels, as well as significant differences. It’s important to understand that slavery was introduced throughout the Americas and all those countries, like ours, still struggle with the aftermath of prejudice and discrimination. Of the 11 million Africans forcibly brought to the Americas, ten and a half million were to live as slaves in the Caribbean and Latin America; half a million went to the U.S.. Gates visits and writes about Haiti, Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Brazil and the Dominican Republic and discusses why slavery was introduced in these places and how it prospered and then was, eventually, defeated.. Although today several of these countries are proud of their “brown” identity, Gates writes that it sometimes appeared to come at the price of denying their black or African heritage and identity. Some of the countries claimed to be post-racial, to the extent of not tracking race in their census records, having abundant laws forbidding discrimination, etc. and yet most of the poor were still the black people and stereotyping and prejudice continues even in countries where African heritage people are in the majority. Some of the black people even deny being black because African heritage is so often disparaged in these countries. In order to avoid being called black or calling someone else black, for instance, Brazil and Haiti each have over 100 terms to describe a person’s skin color. Mexico has about 30 terms, the Dominican Republic uses over 20, and Cuba over 30. This is an enlightening, but often sad, book. A very good and somewhat similar book, “The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica”, goes into more depth on these issues as they pertain to one particular country Gates didn't cover.


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