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Time to Challenge Argentina’s White European Self-Image, Black History Experts Say

Argentina has long taken pride in its European heritage. The mass migration of 7 million Europeans, mostly Spanish and Italian, between 1850 and 1950, created a racial profile many Argentinians feel distinguishes their country from the rest of Latin America even today.

“Mexicans descend from the Aztecs, Peruvians from the Incas – but Argentinians descend from the ships,” goes an old saying that encapsulates Argentina’s perception of itself as a nation of transplanted white Europeans.

But that Eurocentric view is being vehemently disputed as not only outdated but also factually untrue by a generation of young Afro-descendant researchers and activists who wish to rewrite the accepted version of Argentinian history.

“Argentina needs to understand that it is both very racist and very Afro,” said black activist and researcher Alí Delgado.

University lecturer Patricia Gomes is another Afro-descendant researcher intent on demolishing Argentina’s mythical self-image as a white nation. “In Argentina it used to be said that here there were no blacks, therefore there was no one to be racist with – and hence there was no racism,” she said.

Delgado and Gomes point to recent studies of population surveys and genetics that paint a far different picture from Argentina’s accepted history: one recent study concluded that up to 9% of today’s Argentinians may have ancestry from Africa.

The reason is simple: between the 16th and 19th centuries – long before the wave of European migration – more than 200,000 enslaved Africans arrived at the twin ports of the River Plate, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, capital cities of what are now Argentina and Uruguay.

“The number of slaves who arrived to the region of the River Plate is almost half of those who arrived in the US, which gives an idea of the magnitude of slave traffic in the River Plate region,” according to Alex Borucki, a Uruguayan academic at the University of California Irvine, who co-manages the SlaveVoyages website that traces every ship carrying enslaved people that reached the Americas.

Editor's note: the words "indigenous" and "native" do not appear in this article. 

Read entire article at The Guardian