Afro-Venezuelans support legal establishment of important racial recognition
Caracas, Sep 20, ABN (Tessa Marsman)- Racism below the surface is strongly represented in Venezuela. Ask the everage Venezuelan about their forfathers and he will tell you about his Spanish abuela from Madrid or the Italian father of her great grand mother. But even the blackest person doesn´t make the efford to find out their African roots. But things are about to change now
As part of thirty two other changes, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez proposed to recognize for the first time in the Venezuelan history and of the history of the South American continent its strong African roots. As is stated in the proposed change the Venezuelan State “recognizes the diversity in expresions and values indigenous, european and afrodesendence roots that gave us our origine”.
As part of the recocognición Presedent Cháves, partly afro decendant himself, proudly acknowledges his roots.
“African roots are part of being Venezuelan, without our origin we would not have the joy in our Venezuelality”, says Heiden Pirela, State deputy for the National Assemble and afro descendant, in an interview with the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias on a gathering this Tuesday in Caracas in support of changes in the Venezuelan constitution that recognize African roots.
“An average Venezuelan is made up of three ethnics white European, indigenous and for an important part of black Africans”, states Pirela.
Erica Valentino, African Venezuelan student supports this: “As imported Africans we brought values and culture and on top of that we supported our country economically. We were the workforce that helped to built this country”.
“To understand our present we have to study our history”,adds Mayrin Margarita, employee of the Caracas Town Hall and member of the Afro Venezuelan Network (ADN). “The shipping of Africans to the Americas is one of the most intensive movements of humans and one of the biggest genocides of the history”.
Not everybody agrees with the singling out of the separate races though. Professor Thomas Palacios, Afro Venezuelan Social psychologist at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) claims that separating the races will provoke discrimination. “Studying separate races provokes discrimination where did not used to be”, he says.
Professor Hector Acosta, historian and political Scientist at the UCV disagrees with his colleague. He states that it is important to know about the history of the roots that all Venezuelans inherited. “In Venezuela races are mixed. There are not two excluding racial groups confronting because everybody has more or less black heritage, but, even though not absolute, social exclusion of the more blackest is reality”.
Afro descendants thought in school
The marching Afro-descendent groups were pleading this Wednesday for an involvement of their history, their art and their culture in the Venezuelan education.
Venezuelan afro-descendants were never recognised as being part of the Venezuelan history according to the marching groups.
“All levels of history classes leap from the colonization of Venezuela to the liberation of the country by Bolivar and his companions”, Heiden Pirela says. “Nobody mentions for example the battles of liberation of José Leonardo Chirino and other black fighters in 1795”.
Mentioning the black presence in society should be an intergrated part of education, he adds. “The black culture should not only be discussed in separate seminars and special events. Black writers for example should be part of our regular literature classes”, adds Pirela.“In daily life of the Venezuelans this must lead to a a raise of awareness of the black roots that many Venezuelans poses”.
“I never referred my colour to my background, until I learned about our rich cultural background”, says Mayrin Margarita
Erica Valentino experienced the lack of awareness about being black herself. ”In pre-school the other children told me I was a slave. Blacks are all slaves they said. But that is not true I had to tell them. My great grandfathers were slaves, but I am free”.
The only point of critics the afro Venezuelans raised on article 100 in the new constitution was a change of the word afro descendants into “African roots that gave us our origine”.
“Our origines are not the descendants but the continent of Africa”, says Pirela.
Six districts of the network of organizations of afro-Venezuelans were represented and besides Heiden Pirela State deputy for the National Assemble, Luis Bigott and the Education, Culture & Sports (MECD) Minister, Aristobulo Isturiz.
Venezuela’s effort to uncover its African ancestry did not get unnoticed by other Africans on the continent.
“African-Americans are particularly receptive to Venezuela’s goals”, writes Gregory Stanford, African American reporter of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal quotes the Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez.
“Under Chávez, Venezuela is rediscovering its African roots. About 40% of the population, Chávez included, can trace their ancestry back to Africa”, Stanford writes.
Roy Levy Williams writes in BlackpressUSA and NNPA news service an article on Chávez involvement of his black population. “The Bush administration should also learn that continuing a policy of hostility towards this Afro-Latino nation is a great mistake”, says.
Another African American news and review site, Seeing Black,publishes articles with titles like “Chavez Pledges to Help Bolivia’s Energy Sector” or “Venezuela Gives Bronx Groups $3.3 Million” and articles stating “The voting is over in Venezuela, and the U.S.-supported right wing lost – badly”. Additionaly unlike many other conventional medias, they published the complete speech of Chávez in the United Nations last year in which he referred to President Bush as “The Devil”.
Reporters of Bay View a Black newspaper of San Francisco even took the efford to interview representatives of the Venezuelan black community Chucho Garcia. And in conclusion of their article they mention another link between Afro Venezuela and Afro America. “It has been said that some of the credit for these changes should go to noted African Americans such as Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, who have urged an honest grappling with the racial question”, they conclude.