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Afro-Argentine are mix race or Afro-descendant. Africa Vive, an Afro-Argentine rights organization, estimate the population at a million. Anthropologists estimate the population at no more than 10,000. The Afro-Argentine population is believed to have been decimated by war, intermarriage, and possibly government sponsored genocide (via war and whitening). In the latter 19th century, Argentina used to be 11% black and higher in previous decades. The African presence in Argentina is often denied and suppressed.

War of Independence(1810-1820)

Timeline of Afro-Argentine History

1587 First slaves arrive in Argentina or La Plata
1605 Buenos Aires slave ports closed to slaving
1778 Afro-Argentine in Cordoba province@14,892-%16 of pop/
6,338 were slaves
1795 strike by slaves over Codigo Negro, slaves thought law freed
1802 Afro-Argentine in Mendoza city@4,092, %14.3 of pop./2,140 slaves
1810-1820 Afro-Argentine prominent in the War of Independence
1810 Afro-Argentine population in city of Buenos Aires @503/ in
province of Buenos Aires 6,372 slaves
1812 Free Womb Law, freeing babies born on/after January 13
1824 Decree re-bans slave importation
1825 Argentina signs treaty with Britain barring citizens from
partaking in the slave trade
1825-1852 Afro-Argentine death rate higher than birth rate
1853 Abolition of slavery
1853 constitution clause--"the federal government shall encourage
European immigration"
1887 census puts Afro-Argentine @ 8,005 in Buenos Aires
1895 census puts Afro-Argentine @ 8,000 in Buenos Aires
1914 entire population of Afro-Argentine @523
1920 Government could not determine black pop., after 1914 no
census on Afro-Argentine

Afro-Argentine--blacks, mulattos, zambos-- were prominent among the soldiers in the war of independence. They fought  in segregated regiments typically lead by white superiors. The ninth and tenth regiments fought with distinction. Few rose to commissioned officer position. Mulattos like Lorenzo Barcala and Jose Bernardo Monteagudo were able to rise in the ranks. It was a common held sentiments among the military escheleon that blacks were mentally deficient.  It was noted that black, mulatto troops were the last fed but first to be put in harms way. Afro-descendants were promise freedom for service in 1806,1807. In 1813, cash and promissory notes were given to or written to slaveholders for freeing their slaves in the service of the broader cause.  In 1816, more blacks were recruited.

Free Womb Laws and abolition

After independence, motions were made to gradually end slavery. The first action taken was to pass Free Womb Laws in 1812. The latter did not outright band slavery--an action that would alienate the slave holding elite. The law freed children born to slave women on and after January 13. The freed children were referred to as libertos. Libertos could not be sold like slaves. Land was to be provided for freed children. A gesture to the slaveholding elites, libertos would work uncompensated. On February 15, a law was passed banning the importation of slaves.

As soon as the laws of 1812 passed, the slaveholding elites tried to undermine it. They sold libertos among each other under a notions of owning the rights of service. No land was granted. Slaves continued to be imported. A law was passed in Cordobo stripping the libertos of the right to vote in 1821. In 1824, a decree was issued re-banning the importation of slaves. In 1825, Argentina signed a treaty with Britain forbidding citizens to participate in the slave trade. 

It was not until 1853 via Article 15 was slavery abolished and the liberto system ended.

Post Slavery

With the abolishment of slavery, the intellectual and political elite sought to render the Afro-argentine a non-entity. Voting laws were written to deter Afro-Argentine from voting by requiring poll taxes and literacy test. In the constitution of 1853, it stated: "The Federal Government shall encourage European immigration"--whitening. 

Political and Intellectural Elite

Many of the intellectual and political elite viewed blacks a decivilizing element in their society.  Some of the most powerful and prominent figures in the 19th century held this view, including Juan Alberdi, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, and Carlos Octavio Bunge, and Jose Ingenieros. Juan Alberdi considered father of Argentina's constitution held that Europe was the most civilized. He was influential in getting a clause placed in the Argentine constitution requiring European immigration. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who was president from 1868 to 1874, espoused Social Darwinism and Positivistic thinking. He believed Argentines should not have mixed with Africans, that mixture had produce inferior offsprings. Argentina should have imitated the American model. Blacks had contributed nothing to Argentina. He noted the declining number of Afro-Argentine in the population. He also encouraged European immigration. Carlos Octavio Bunge, an intellectual rooted in Positivist thinking held that blacks by nature were servile, corruptable, vain, and prone to exaggerated ambitions. Another intellectual Jose Ingenieros, considered the most read in Spanish of his day held white supremist views and the need for European immigration. His most damning claim was that past presidents Urquiza, Mitre, and Avellaneda shared the same views as Sarmiento and Alberdi, the need for European immigration. 

Afro-descendant Life, post slavery

After slavery the lives of afro-descendants did not result in integration and progress. They were segregated into certain neighborhoods like barrio of Barrancas. Clubs, cafe's would not serve them. Theaters refused entry well into the 1880s.  The worse discrimination was in the area of education. Blacks and whites went to segregated schools. Afro-Argentine protested this situation in 1852, but achieved little success.  Of the 12 public schools in Buenos Aires, only two allowed  blacks and mulattoes. To address issues of the Afro-Argentine two papers were founded: La Raza Africana and El Poletario. The periodicals did not last more than five years. The leading voice for the struggles and obstacles of Afro-Argentine was Horacio Mendizabal. 

The overall society treated the black as second class citizens, wishing them to vanish from Argentine society. The latter, process was on the way with a few demographic facts for the period. Between 1825 and 1852, the death rate of black people exceeded the birth rate. In 1871 Argentina was hit by a yellow fever epidemic. The toll on Afro-Argentine lives was devasting. Argentinian intellectuals completely ignored the black as a subject matter in the society, well into the latter 20th century. Very few records was kept on Afro-Argentine, with the exception of Buenos Aires.


The lasting legacy of Afro-Argentine is the tango. It was not a creation of gauchos. It was created by Afro-Argentines which included European elements, put together by Afro-Argentine, a creolized people.

Related Article: La Plata ,

Works Cited

Minority Rights Group Publications (1995).No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today.ISBN-10: 1873194854, ISBN-13:-978-1873194850 

Landers, Jane G. Slaves, Subjects, and Subersives--Blacks in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006, print. ISBN: 9780826323972

Davis, Darien j. Beyond Slavery-The Multilayered Legacy of Africans In Latin America and the Caribbean. Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2007, print. ISBN 9780742541313

External Link

Afro Argentine
on Youtube, unique5589 channel