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Colombia's Blacks

Tuesday's NYT (March 29) contained an article by James Brooke entitled "Long Neglected, Colombia's Blacks Win Changes." The article describes neglect the state of Choco (is that the right name or what?) by the national Government, "buildings that are dilapidated mementos of token national interest in a state where 95 percent of the population is black. ...'The Government doesn't even send schoolbooks here,' said Maria Luisa Restrepo Perea, a high school teacher."

Recently, Colombia's President Gaviria signed the "Negritudes Law", promoting black education, 'punishing' racial discrimination and setting up a presidential advisory board for black affairs, after sit-ins and government offices, street protests ad even guerrilla actions helped win passage of the law. (Something sounds eerily familiar about all of this. I hope they don't make the mistake of instituting any "affirmative action" programs for previously disadvantaged blacks!)

Interesting that black activists say their struggle for freedom suffers from two obstacles "common to all of Latin America: racism by the nation's European elite and a low level of racial identification among Colombia's five million blacks." Blacks are invisible in the national government, media and culture. Organizers have difficulty because some blacks and some of mixed-race parentage don't identify themselves as black. Dr. Gustavo Makanaky Cordoba was quoted as saying, "We are like the black movement in the U.S. in 1945. Blacks are avoiding being black. They are trying to be as white as possible."

Did I say "eerily familiar?"

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Meanderings 1.03 -- April 3, 1994