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Virtual Colombia Photo Library
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Photos

Afro-Colombian Kids photo
Afro-Colombian Child photo
Colombian Worker photo
Afro-Colombian Child photo
    

Information

Afro-Colombians or the negroes of Colombia trace their presence back to Colombia's colonial period. African slaves began being imported by the Spaniards in the first decade of the 16th century. By the 1520s, Africans were being imported into Colombia steadily to replace the rapidly declining native American population. Africans were forced to work in gold mines, on sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches, and large haciendas. African labor was essential in all the regions of Colombia, even until modern times. African workers pioneered the extracting of alluvial gold deposits and the growing of sugar cane in the areas that correspond to the modern day departments of Chocó, Antioquia, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, and Nariño in western Colombia.

Slavery was not abolished until 1851, and even after emancipation, the life of the African Colombians was very difficult. African Colombians were forced to live in jungle areas as a mechanism of self-protection. There, they learned to have a harmonious relationship with the jungle environment and to share the territory with Colombia's indigenous communities.

From 1851, the Colombian State promoted the ideology of mestizaje, or miscegenation. This whitening of the African population was an attempt by the Colombian government to minimize or, if possible, totally eliminate any traces of African or indigenous descent among the Spaniards. So in order to maintain their cultural traditions, many Africans and indigenous peoples went deep into the isolated jungles.

In 1945 the department of El Choco was created; it was the first predominantly Black political-administrative division. El Choco gave Black people the possibility of building a Black territorial identity and some autonomous decision-making power.

In the 1970s, there was a major influx of Afro-Colombians into the urban areas in search of greater economic and social opportunities for their children. This led to an increase in the number of urban poor in the marginal areas of big cities like Cali, Medellín, and Bogotá. Most Afro-Colombians are currently living in urban areas. Only around 25%, or 3 million people, are based in rural areas, compared to 75%, or 9 million people in urban zones. The 1991 Colombian Constitution gave them the right to collective ownership of traditional Pacific coastal lands and special cultural development protections.



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