Black in Latin America

Henry Louis Gates

Book - 2011

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Subjects
Published
New York : New York University Press c2011.
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 259 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 233-247) and index.
ISBN
9780814732984
0814732984
Main Author
Henry Louis Gates (-)
  • Brazil : "May Exú give me the power of speech"
  • Mexico : "The black grandma in the closet"
  • Peru : "The blood of the Incas, the blood of the Mandingas"
  • The Dominican Republic : "Black behind the ears"
  • Haiti : "From my ashes I rise; God is my cause and my sword" (motto on King Henri Christophe's Haitian flag, 1811-1820)
  • Cuba : the next Cuban revolution.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Gates expands his focus on the black experience in Latin America. In Brazil, he explores how race consciousness is suppressed and debunks the myth of "racial democracy." He also examines the substantial black presence in Mexico and Peru, both of which have denied the history of black slavery in their nations and their historic efforts at "whitening" their population by promoting European immigration. In the Dominican Republic, the majority of the population self-identifies as indigenous but would be and are clearly identifiable as black in the U.S. The Dominican aversion to black identity is strongly tied to their historic experience with island-mate Haiti, the first self-independent black republic that has continued to suffer an unforgiving fate in its relationship with the Western world. Gates ends his travel with Cuba, the prime source of sugar for Europeans and therefore the entry point for most African slaves into the Americas, a nation at peace with its mixed races until U.S. involvement imposed a segregationist slant. While Gates' tour reveals a burgeoning brown (mixed-race) pride, it also reveals lingering valuation of lighter skin. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Many people in the US do not realize that about 95 percent of the more than 11 million slaves shipped out of Africa during the Middle Passage arrived in Latin America and the Caribbean. Gates's realization of this fact led him to explore the history and culture of the African diaspora in the multicultural worlds of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the third volume of a trilogy, following Wonders of the African World (1999), which focused on the African continent, and America behind the Color Line (2004), which examined the African American experience. As with these two earlier projects, this travelogue accompanies a similarly titled, four-hour PBS video. Gates (Harvard) focuses on African culture, politics, and religion in the six countries of Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru. Readers desiring a deeper, more academic, and more comprehensive treatment of the African diaspora will be better served by George Reid Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 (CH, Mar'05, 42-4193). Gates's highly readable and quickly paced book, however, serves a critically important role in bringing popular attention to the significant contributions of African descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean. Summing Up: Recommended. General collections/public libraries. Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Of the 11 million enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage between 1502 and 1866, 450,000 were brought to the U.S., and the rest—more than 10.5 million—were sent to the Caribbean and Latin America. Harvard professor Gates (How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts) continues to plumb the roots of the descendants of Africans in the New World, and in this companion volume to his PBS special of the same name, he tells the stories of Africans shipped to Brazil, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba. It's a rare history that reads like a travelogue: Gates records his visits to the countries, his pleasure in a cool evening in Mexico, his investigations into the issues of the cultural encounters between the indigenous, colonizing, and enslaved populations —the hybrid forms of song and dance, the virulent racism and brutality—with a personal touch. He takes the contemporary pulse of each country, lists its racial categorizations, and interviews common folk and celebrated activists and historians alike. His chapter in Haiti is especially wrenching and inspiring; in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, Gates discovers in Port au Prince both the worst living conditions he has ever seen and the only "bold, public recognition of a nation's black founding fathers." (July) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Selected as a 2012 Outstanding Title by AAUP University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest'over ten and a half million'were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. This astonishing fact changes our entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.Despite their great numbers, the cultural and social worlds that they created remain largely unknown to most Americans, except for certain popular, cross-over musical forms. So Henry Louis Gates, Jr. set out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now, and how the countries of their acknowledge'or deny'their African past; how the fact of race and African ancestry play themselves out in the multicultural worlds of the Caribbean and Latin America. Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries'Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru'through art, music, cuisine, dance, politics, and religion, but also the very palpable presence of anti-black racism that has sometimes sought to keep the black cultural presence from view. In Brazil, he delves behind the façade of Carnaval to discover how this 'rainbow nation' is waking up to its legacy as the world's largest slave economy.In Cuba, he finds out how the culture, religion, politics and music of this island is inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th century sugar industry, and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro's Communist revolution in 1959.In Haiti, he tells the story of the birth of the first-ever black republic, and finds out how the slaves's hard fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire became a double-edged sword. In Mexico and Peru, he explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people'far greater than the number brought to the United States'brought to these countries as early as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific, and in and around Lima, Peru.Professor Gates' journey becomes ours as we are introduced to the faces and voices of the descendants of the Africans who created these worlds. He shows both the similarities and distinctions between these cultures, and how the New World manifestations are rooted in, but distinct from, their African antecedents. "Black in Latin America' is the third instalment of Gates's documentary trilogy on the Black Experience in Africa, the United States, and in Latin America. In America Behind the Color Line, Professor Gates examined the fortunes of the black population of modern-day America. In Wonders of the African World, he embarked upon a series of journeys to reveal the history of African culture. Now, he brings that quest full-circle in an effort to discover how Africa and Europe combined to create the vibrant cultures of Latin America, with a rich legacy of thoughtful, articulate subjects whose stories are astonishingly moving and irresistibly compelling.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Selected as a 2012 Outstanding Title by AAUP University Press Books for Public and Secondary School LibrariesThe history of how six Latin American countries acknowledge—or deny—their African past 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11.0 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of them arrived in the United States. The rest—over ten and a half million—were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. This astonishing fact changes our entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish influences.Despite their great numbers, the cultural and social worlds that they created remain largely unknown to most Americans, except for certain popular, cross-over musical forms. So Henry Louis Gates, Jr. set out on a quest to discover how Latin Americans of African descent live now, and how the countries acknowledge—or deny—their African past; how the fact of race and African ancestry play themselves out in the multicultural worlds of the Caribbean and Latin America. Starting with the slave experience and extending to the present, Gates unveils the history of the African presence in six Latin American countries—Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru—through art, music, cuisine, dance, politics, and religion, but also the very palpable presence of anti-black racism that has sometimes sought to keep the black cultural presence from view. In Brazil, he delves behind the façade of Carnaval to discover how this ‘rainbow nation’ is waking up to its legacy as the world’s largest slave economy.In Cuba, he finds out how the culture, religion, politics and music of this island is inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th century sugar industry, and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in 1959.In Haiti, he tells the story of the birth of the first-ever black republic, and finds out how the slaves’s hard fought liberation over Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire became a double-edged sword. In Mexico and Peru, he explores the almost unknown history of the significant numbers of black people—far greater than the number brought to the United States—brought to these countries as early as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the worlds of culture that their descendants have created in Vera Cruz on the Gulf of Mexico, the Costa Chica region on the Pacific, and in and around Lima, Peru.Professor Gates’ journey becomes ours as we are introduced to the faces and voices of the descendants of the Africans who created these worlds. He shows both the similarities and distinctions between these cultures, and how the New World manifestations are rooted in, but distinct from, their African antecedents. “Black in Latin America” is the third instalment of Gates’s documentary trilogy on the Black Experience in Africa, the United States, and in Latin America. In America Behind the Color Line, Professor Gates examined the fortunes of the black population of modern-day America. In Wonders of the African World, he embarked upon a series of journeys to reveal the history of African culture. Now, he brings that quest full-circle in an effort to discover how Africa and Europe combined to create the vibrant cultures of Latin America, with a rich legacy of thoughtful, articulate subjects whose stories are astonishingly moving and irresistibly compelling.