THESE BLACKS IN COLOMBIA ARE POLYGAMOUS AND ENDANGERED!

FROM cidcm.und.edu
About MAR(Minorites at Risk program at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management,Univ. of Maryland,College Park,U.S.A)

Assessment for Blacks in Colombia
View Group Chronology

Colombia Facts
Area: 1,138,910 sq. km.
Capital: Bogota
Total Population: 38,581,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment
Two factors increase the likelihood of future black protest in Colombia: (1) territorial concentration and (2) reaction to government culpability in war crimes committed against black Colombians. Two factors favor the containment of rebellion: (1) a recent history of democratic government and elections, (2) lack of serious armed conflicts in neighboring countries.

Despite a strong regional identity and significant grievances, particularly with respect to the government’s failure to prevent the civil war’s victimization of innocent people, black Colombians, lacking a history of significant mobilization and beleaguered by the ongoing civil

Assessment for Blacks in Colombia
View Group Chronology

Colombia Facts
Area: 1,138,910 sq. km.
Capital: Bogota
Total Population: 38,581,000 (source: unknown, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment
Two factors increase the likelihood of future black protest in Colombia: (1) territorial concentration and (2) reaction to government culpability in war crimes committed against black Colombians. Two factors favor the containment of rebellion: (1) a recent history of democratic government and elections, (2) lack of serious armed conflicts in neighboring countries.

Despite a strong regional identity and significant grievances, particularly with respect to the government’s failure to prevent the civil war’s victimization of innocent people, black Colombians, lacking a history of significant mobilization and beleaguered by the ongoing civil war, are unlikely to engage in future protest at levels higher than verbal protest.

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Analytic Summary
Colombia’s black population is concentrated in the Choco region along the Pacific Coast where they represent 95% of the population (GROUPCON = 3). Colombian blacks also inhabit urban centers and the Caribbean coastal region. They are distinguished by ethnocultural traits (ETHNOG = 1), religious traditions combining Catholicism with African customs (RELIG = 1), and polygamous family structures (CUSTOM = 1).

Black Colombians are the descendants of African slaves brought to Colombia in the 1700s to serve Spanish colonists, primarily as laborers (TRADITN = 1). The abolition of slavery in the years after 1850 coincided with the displacement of black laborers by an influx of non-blacks seeking employment in the mining, commerce, and timber industries then developing in black areas. Consequently, many blacks were forced to look for labor in urban centers such as Medellin and Bogota, where they work today primarily in domestic service and various low-skilled labor positions. Black labor continues to drive Colombia’s labor-intensive industries, notably the coffee plantations of Antioquia and the mines and trade services of the Choco. The long-held practice in Colombian society of blanqueamiento, or the dis-identification with blackness as expressed through the encouragement of race-mixing and the societal privileging of lighter skin, carries the legacy of discrimination and disadvantage Colombian blacks have endured since slavery (ATRISK1 = 1, ATRISK2 = 1).

Colombian blacks experience demographic stress in the form of deteriorating public health, migration to urban centers and abroad, and the dispossession of land by militant groups engaged in Colombia’s civil war (DEMSTR00 = 6) Discrimination and social exclusion limits access to the civil service and high office as well as general economic opportunity (ECDIS03 = 3, POLDIS03 = 3).

Black Colombians’ principal demands include: greater political rights in their own communities, greater participation in decision making at the central state level, equal civil rights and status, greater economic opportunities, and protection of land and jobs used for the advantage of other groups.

Colombian blacks are represented primarily by umbrella organizations (GOJPA03 = 1). The National Movement for the Human Rights of Black Communities in Colombia (Cimarron), which is modeled after the U.S. Black Panther and Nation of Islam movements, uses pamphlets and bulletins to mobilize smaller groups and organizations throughout the country. The Center for the Investigation and Development of Black Culture (CID), once funded by UNESCO, models its platform on the ideals of the U.S. civil rights movement. Annual seminars for black teachers and the publication of black literature are the organization’s primary activities. Among the smaller, more transient black Colombian organizations reported to be recently active are: Asociacion de Campesinos, Integral del Atrato, Asociacion Juvenil Nortecaucana, Equipo Misionero Medio, Fundacion Civica, Fundacion de Vida, Grupo de Mujeres, Hermanas Compania de Maria, Moviiento Investigativo Sinesio Mena, Organizacion de Barrios Populares, and Organizacion Regional Embera Wawnana. Though the concentration of blacks in the Choco region gives Colombian blacks a strong regional identity and there has been no reported intragroup conflict, the practice of blanqueamiento may have limited the extent to which black Colombians identify as a group. Black Colombians receive no direct support of significance from transnational actors.

Black mobilization since 1990 has included: Cimarron’s 1990 campaign to include reforms in the new constitution (PROT90 = 1), a 1992 petition to lobby for the implementation of property rights and cultural protections provisionally granted by the new constitution (PROT92 = 1), a 1994 protest outside the Colombian Institute of Anthropology calling for the fulfillment of legally-mandated studies of the black population (PROT94 = 3), a 1995 demonstration, organized by the Regional Indigenous Organization Embera Wounaan (OREWA), against the development of land on which black Colombians live and to include blacks in land demarcations in the Choco (PROT95 = 3). More recently black Colombians have voiced opposition to under-representation in the national census and to anti-narcotic fumigation of black regions (PROT00 = 1). The greatest adversary of the black population continues to be the bloody civil war waged by military, guerrilla, and paramilitary forces—all of which share responsibility for killings, disappearances, and land displacements in black communities (INTERCON00 = 1). More recently, in May 2002, during a fight for control of the Afro-Colombian fishing village of Bellavista (located on the Middle Atrato River in the municipality of Bojayá) FARC launched a bomb at AUC, which had holed up around the catholic church of St. Paul the Apostle. The bomb, made from a propane gas canister packed with explosives and shrapnel, hit the church instead, killing 119 (45 of whom were children) and injuring 108 of the 500 people who had taken refuge inside. The attack wiped out 10 percent of the village. Due to continued fighting in the area, more than 5,000 people fled the Bojayá region, the town of Bellavista, and the town across the Atrato River, Vigía del Fuerte. It took the Colombian army six days to reach the village, after fighting eight battles with the FARC or the ACCU in the jungle environment to regain control of the River.

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References
Cordoba, Amir Smith. Vision Sociocultural del Negro en Colombia. Bogota. Centor para la Investigacion de la Cultura Negra en Colombia. 1986.

Espinosa, Manuel Jose Cepeda. Ethnic Minorities and Constitutional Reform in Colombia. Presented at the Woodrow Wilson Center Latin American Program. November 15, 1994.

Lexis-Nexis news reports. 2001-2003.

Solaun, Mauricio and Sidney Kronus. Discrimination Without Violence. New York. John Wiley and Sons. 1973.

U.S. Department of State. Colombia Human Rights Practices. March 1995. 2001-2003.

Wade, Peter. The Cultural Politics of Blackness in Colombia. XVIII LASA International Congress. March 1994.

Wade, Peter. Blackness and Race Mixture. Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University Press. 1993.

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© 2004 • Minorities At Risk Project

Center for International
Development and
Conflict Management

0145 Tydings Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

Chronology for Blacks in Colombia
View Group Assessment

View Additional Chronology Information

Date(s) Item
1989 OREWA (the Regional Organization of Emberas and Waunanas) organized the First Meeting for the Unity and Defence of Indigenous and Black Communities. This meeting formed the joint organization, ACADESAN, the Peasant Association of San Juan River, for the purpose of protesting the development of the Pacific region.
Jul 1990 The First Meeting of Black Communities was held to organize and mobilize blacks to lobby for reforms in the new constitution. Black candidates also ran for election for the Constituent Assembly. One candidate was from the Liberal Party, one represented Cimarron, and one represented the guerrilla group, FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). None of these delegates were elected.
Dec 1990 The black group Cimarron lobbied the National Constituent Assembly for reforms in the new constitution for blacks.
Jul 1991 The organization and mobilization of blacks increased due to the Transitory Law, which had to be passed by 1993. Cimarron and church groups formed the Organization of Black Communities. This organization facilitated the coordination of local groups and programs to publicize the Article.
Jul 5, 1991 The new constitution was ratified by the Constituent Assembly. Transitory Article 55 was passed, but had to be implemented through the passage of a law which was subject to study by a government commission. This law would recognize the “collective property rights for black communities which have been occupying tierras baldias (public or state lands) in the rural riverine zones of the rivers of the Pacific Basin.” The law also established “mechanisms for the protection of the cultural identity and rights of these communities, and for the promotion of their economic and social development.” The law could also apply to other black regions of the country that met similar requirements.
Apr 1, 1992 The government formed a special commission to review Article 55.
Oct 18, 1992 500 people were left homeless and 20 injured due to an earthquake which hit one of the poorest regions of Colombia in the northwest, near Antioquia – inhabited by indigenous and black populations.
Nov 1992 Black organization delegates signed a petition to refuse to assist in the commission until the government fulfills its obligations to the black members. Negotiations were held between the government and black members to resume the study of the Article.
Aug 27, 1993 The President ratified Law 70. This law recognizes black communities as an ethnic group and defines the titling of collective land rights to whole black communities on the rivers of the Pacific region. The law gives land rights to communities, but excludes community control over natural resources, subsoils, National Park areas, zones of military importance, and urban areas. It also contains articles to improve education, training, and access to credit for blacks. Black representatives were appointed to the National Planning Council, regional planning boards, and a Consultative Commission to inform the government of the implementation of the law. Discrimination was outlawed against blacks and education must include cultural diversity. Two representative were also appointed positions in the National Constituent Assembly.
Dec 1993 The government initiated policies to employ black police officers in black community areas, such as the Choco, through scholarship and training programs.
Jan 1994 In the western town of Las Chinitas (inhabited by indigenous and black people) guerrilla groups attacked and killed 38 people in the streets.
1994 One black congresswoman and one congressman were elected to the National Constituent Assembly.
Apr 10, 1994 Blacks protested outside the Colombian Institute of Anthropology to develop research programs for the study of black populations in addition to indigenous populations. The new Law 70 states that research on black populations must be conducted.
Aug 1994 A government sponsored policy, called BioPacific, was formulated to improve the land rights and living situations of Afro-Colombians. The policy is aimed at preserving areas of land for black communities and for environmental protection.
May 13, 1995 OREWA lobbied the government and held a demonstration against the development of forest lands upon which black-Colombians live. OREWA, which represents blacks and indigenous people, has also lobbied to include blacks in the demarcation of lands in the forest area of the Choco.
May 15, 1995 Senator Piedad Corboda de Castro, a black female senator from Colombia, visited the U.S. to build ties between the black communities of both countries. She told the human rights conference members that black-Colombians were still marginalized in society. Aside from the human rights conference which she attended, she met with diplomats, international financial institutions, and African-American organizations.

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© 2004 • Minorities At Risk Project

Center for International
Development and
Conflict Management

0145 Tydings Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

Last Updated January 10, 2007

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