The Scars of Slavery

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ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2011) — The diaspora of Afro-descendants in Mexico and Central America takes on many guises, as reflected in names used such as Colonial Blacks, Afro-Antilleans, Garifuna. Status and levels of social recognition and integration are highly diverse and this distinguishes the countries of this region from the rest of the Latin-American continent. Researchers from the IRD and their partners(1) involved in the programmes AFRODESC and EURESCL(2) are studying the historical construction of these communities, which developed from successive waves of migrations, and of their identities.

Three hundred years of slavery, from the 16th to 19th Centuries, have left their scars. After abolition, there was exclusion, which drove descendants of slaves to migrate to the major centres of employment around the Caribbean rim. Now they represent a second diaspora and experience persisting inequality and stigmatization. Unlike Brazil and Colombia, symbols of multiculturalism, the "Black question" in Mexico and Central America has not attracted the strong interest of politicians and researchers.

From the 16th to the end of the 19th Centuries, slave ships plied the Atlantic Ocean to serve the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. This slave trade deported millions of Africans across the Atlantic. The progressive abolition of slavery during the 19th Century emancipated men and freed consciences. However, 300 years of the slave trade left scars still visible today. These traumatic events firmly shaped the historical construction and contemporary evolution of societies rife with inequality and exclusion, as in Latin America. The social status the Black Atlantic, the term used for this diaspora of Afro descendants, is a core issue in political debate, to a background of persisting racism and discrimination and questions of inter-racial mixing, multiculturalism and identity. Going beyond western societies' feelings of guilt, IRD researchers and their partners(1) involved in the AFRODESC and EURESCL programmes (2) are studying how slavery and its abolition have shaped present nations, recognition of black communities and the policies implemented in each country....

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