Afro communities in Paraguay

It is rare to speak of Afro communities in Paraguay as many people do not know that they exist, both in Paraguay and outside the country. There are currently three communities of Afro-Paraguayans in Paraguay: Kamba Cuá (most known), Emboscada and Kamba Kokue.

The first Africans arrived in Paraguay in the 1520s through slavery, and they were mostly of Angolan, Nigerian and Kenyan origins. They were mainly used on agriculture farms and as domestics. Paraguay, unlike other South American countries, did not have a lot resources to exploit, so the human trafficking was small.
During the colonial era, Afro-Paraguayans had a significant presence in Paraguay. Paraguay became independent in 1811, but this path to independence rested on Dr. José Francia’s (first ruler of independent Paraguay in 1814-1840) distrust of Europeans and foreigners. The two most notable mandates of his were; marriage to Europeans were only reserved for the natives or black people; and his very liberal asylum laws, allowing many to seek refuge in Paraguay, including not to return any runaway enslaved people, and provided them land.

It was not until the War of Triple Alliance in 1864 did the country end slavery. However, enslaved Africans and free Afro-Paraguayans were used as soldiers, and about 33.3% of the population was killed in the war, including most Afro-Paraguayans.

The Afro-Paraguayan communities thrived and remained true to their cultural roots, but in 1940, they were stripped of most of their land. Furthermore, a new policy of defining Paraguay as completely “white” had been adopted and interracial marriage was encouraged to dilute the presence of black people.

Today, while the Paraguayan Constitution recognises the existence of indigenous people and guarantees them the freedom to practise their distinct cultures, Afro-Paraguayans are absent from any national legislation and are not even recognised as a distinct ethnic group. To fight back, the Afro-Paraguayans are using their dances and cultural practices to draw attention to their plight in public performances claiming equal economic and social rights while building an African identity. ♡

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