Sunday, November 25, 2012

Afro-Colombians - Films, protest and Hip Hop group ChocQuibTown

News from the diaspora - One of the most forgotten black communities in the African Diaspora is probably the Afro-Colombian community. But as always, things change. The present peace talks between the FARC rebels and the government  may help the many Afro-Colombians, who are disproportionately displaced because of the conflict. But there is more news.

In 2012 the film Chocó, a film about Afro-Colombian female resilience and endurance, was screened at Berlin Film Festival. And the film La Playa D.C, about an Afro-Colombian teenager in urban Bogota, made it to Cannes. In the music the Afro-Colombians already made headlines when their Hip Hop group ChocQuibTown won a Latin Grammy in 2010. 

So the best starting point is the new feature film La Playa D.C (see video below) which centers on Tomas, an Afro-Colombian teenager struggling with the difficulties of growing up in a city (Bogota) of exclusion and racism against those who look like him. See the review on Shadow and Act. The film runs at African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) - the festival's 20th edition, is held in Manhattan from November 23 to December 9. I hope the film will also be screened in Europe.

The film Chocó (see video below) focuses on a poor Afro-Colombian woman in her twenties, whose days consist of panning for gold and washing clothes for other families to support her two children and alcoholic husband. The simple promise of a birthday cake to her youngest daughter takes the whole family on an adventure which examines the joy and anguish entwined in rural Colombia life. Threaded with the themes of domestic abuse and race, Choco seeks to challenge its audience with a sometimes uncomfortable look into Colombian society, wrote Columbia reports See an interview (video) with director honny Hendrix Hinestroza here

The Protest

But apart from issues within the Afro-Colombian community, being of African descend in Colombia also has its challenges. About this problem URB wrote: "Of all the disappearing acts that punctuate Colombia’s history—from presidential candidates to drug kingpins, FARC warriors, and cocaine jets—none is more deceptive than that of an entire race. Four-hundred years after Spaniards brought African slaves here to mine for gold, most Colombians would rather forget that one in of five Colombians is black. No black beauty queens, no black president here. Hell, even Shakira has straightened her hair."

Being black is one issue, the other ones are land and mining rights. Afro-Colombians have practised ancestral, family-run mining operations for generations, but between 2002 and 2010 Colombia’s government gave out 7,500 mining exploration titles to national and foreign mining companies in areas where Afro-Colombians are mining for centuries (see video below). Read more

Hip Hop

The group ChocQuibTown is one of Colombia's famous Hip Hip group. They came together to bring together the stories of the Afro community in Columbia within the country's context, see a video interview here.  The group won a Latin Grammy in 2010 with "De Donde Vengo Yo" (see video below).

If you think that black people in Latin America are cut off from the other black communities simply because they live in South America or speak Spanish, you are probably just as narrow minded as I am. In What's In My Bag (see video below), the band members of ChocQuibTown talk about how they are influenced by black music from US, the Caribbean and Africa.

Black history

Just as every black community Afro-Colombians also have their heroes. One of them is slave revolt leader Benkos Bioho



  1. Great job! Very informative and well documented article! Should get in touch with you to contribute from Northen Spain.

    1. Thanks Resplebis! And yes, drop me a mail.

  2. Another good post. It's time black people become visible in South America. I've been listening to Choco Quib Town for a while and love them. The song Oro is an amazing song talking about whites coming and stealing the gold in the mines.

    1. Yes, Oro. It had this song in the draft, but I chose for De Donde Vengo Yo, because it was their Grammy song.

      What happened to the black Mexicans!? :)

    2. "What happened to the black Mexicans?"

      Surprisingly, there is a large body of info in print and Internet articles, books (in Spanish AND English), photographic exhibits, and conferences about Black Mexicans.

      One of my favorite websites (in English) about Black Mexicans is

      The top male Afro-Mexican Pop music star is Kalimba Marichal. You can Google his name and find many articles. He is just about ready to "cross over" and do some material in English, so he'll be just as famous in the U.S. & Europe as he already is in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.

      The biggest Afro-Mexican female singer is Veronika Con K. She sings a very rhythmic music known in Mexico as "Tropical". It's a catch-all term for music that encompasses the sounds of Mexican and Colombian Cumbia, Salsa, and World Beat. Here is an interview (in Spanish) as well as a few clips of her performing Tropical music and a few scenes from her acting. (She has played in several Mexican big screen movies and TV soap operas during her 40 year long career).

    3. Thanks for the information John! The problem in the Netherlands is that you learn absolutely nothing about the history of Spanish speaking countries. Learning Spanish is considered learning a vacation language, since Spain and other Spanish speaking countries are not huge trading partner of the Netherlands (and other Northern European countries).

    4. Afro-Europe (Erik): You would be really, really amazed about how much my circle of friends and folks who I share similar politic views with are looking in your-----> direction; The Netherlands, as a guidepost as to what the United States and ostensibly, the Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas could be in terms of social freedoms. I literally gobble up the latest trendsetting "act of freedom" that I hear has lately come out of Holland. The United States and most of the Spanish-speaking countries on THIS side of the Pond (I'm excluding Spain), are actually quite conservative.

      All this to say: The eyes of many people of the world are watching The Netherlands for inspiration in their own social liberation movements.

    5. John, what kind of social freedoms are you referring to? I think San Francisco has more social freedoms than the Netherlands.

    6. I was specifically thinking about social and legal freedoms for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

      It is true, very true in fact, that my city of San Francisco is a unique bastion of tolerance for the Queer communities, but this is only a small 47 square mile peninsula on the very edge of the continental United States. The rest of the country, very unfortunately,---IN SPITE OF THE REELECTION OF PRESIDENT OBAMA---is still very homophobic, transphobic, and to a lesser degree, lesbiphobic. And when it comes to the Black communities: African-American; continental-African; and West Indian, forget it! Black LGBT's are doomed to a burning Hell!

      We in the U.S. also look at the Netherlands' lenient marijuana-use laws as being very liberal, too. In San Francisco medical-use marijuana laws are pretty loose, but not "recreational use", as in the case of Holland.

      I hope you don't get the idea that I'm some kind of gay activist, pot smoking, politically-radical afrocentrist who's advocating a return to the last days before the fall of the Roman Empire. I'm not. Ha, ha, ha! I just love freedom and tolerance and I always thought that Holland and in particular Amsterdam, was "The Mecca".

    7. No John, I most certainly don't get that idea. You're right about those freedoms, but that’s mainly Amsterdam, the rest of The Netherlands isn't so liberal. Except for the “coffee shops” of course.

  3. Love ChocQuib Town and thanks for keeping us in the know. BTW, when are you going to have those icons (FB, twitter etc) under each post so that we can easily share the information.
    keep on keeping on.

    1. Good suggestion! I've added the social media buttons.

  4. thanks for sharing.


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