Preface        

            Before I came to the United States I had a very common way of life.  Like every individual I had to go to school from an early age to learn about all that there was to be learn about mathematics, science, literature, and... Argentinean history.  To be sincere, I always detested this last subject.  It was like soup to Mafalda [1] .   The history of my country was and still is very complex, and for a kid who always wanted to be playing soccer in the potrero [2] it was very difficult to handle.  Now that I am old enough to look back and remember those days, it is clear to me that I didn't obtain a very extensive and concrete instruction in the history of my country.  It is true that I was not a honor student in Argentinean History and that I didn't have a good concept of it, but in all those years of going to school from kinder-garden to the first year of secondary school I'd never heard of the history of the Afro-Argentines.  My fellow students and me did have some idea of slavery in Argentina's colonial time, but this notion was a suspended element in time that did not need further question or research.  The black people did exist in the past of Argentina, but for me and the others -and perhaps for some of the teachers- this was a phenomenon that only was associated with the independence in 1810.  The abolition to slavery was, for us, the symbol of freedom not only for the Afro-Argentineans at that time, but for the rest of the criollos [3] and us in the present as well. 

            It can be said that in Argentina there is a blanket of ignorance about the history of the Afro-Argentineans.  The sole word "Afro-Argentineans" can create a state of confusion in any Argentinean mind.  One good example is my father.  When I was getting prepared for this research, I asked him if he remember had seen any black Argentinean during his time (late 50's-60's).   He looked at me as if I was crazy.  He told me that he had never seen one but that he heard that they were sent back to Africa after the emancipation.  In fact, this is what I call an example of an "Argentinean Mental Block" which prevents the individual from investigate further on the matter.    I personally experienced this mental block and I do not feel very proud about it. 

            I decided to make a research about the Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires.   I want "to put the record strait" and at least consolidate the importance of the black men who formed the history of Argentina and gave their lives to defend what the Argentinean call the "sacred national soil." 

            The disappearance of the black men in Argentina is a phenomenon that attracts many historians from all parts of the world.  The factors that involved this phenomenon are four.  The first one was the abolition of slavery after the independence in 1810 and the under Rosas' regime around the 1830's.  The second was the high mortality rates and relatively low fertility rates among Afro-Argentine population.  A third one was the very high death rates among black males during the wars of the 1810-70.  And a fourth factor constituted the race mixture and gradual lightening. 

            This research starts with a historical background of slavery in colonial Argentina.  It is important to understand how the Afro-Argentines lived and under what conditions.  Also, this paper will clarify the particularities and mechanism of a slavery system that was very different from that of the Caribbean colonies and the United States

            Next time I return to Buenos Aires, I would try to materialize this research.  I would like to walk around la Boca and be aware of its rich Afro-Argentine history.   At this point I would understand what the areas of Barracas, Flores, and Floresta really enclose in its intimate history. 

                                                                                           Antonio Quintana      

 



[1] A cartoon character personalizing a girl of 8 years old who constantly is involved in socio-political reasoning in different situations of her daily life?  Mafalda hates to eat soup, which she considers to be a torture, and a device to perpetrates her human rights.  This cartoon strip appeared in the Clarin newspaper in Argentina during the 60's and 70's.

[Mafalda image 1]
[Mafalda image 2]
[Mafalda image 3]
[2] An unsupervised extends of land in a town that it is often use by the kids to play soccer.
[3] Creole; a native-born Argentine.