VENEZUELA – Afro-descendants Seek Visibility in Numbers

Published on Inter Press Service IPS, by Humberto Márquez, June 22, 2007.

CARACAS, Jun 22 (IPS) – As their counterparts in other countries of Latin America have begun to do, Afro-Venezuelans want to stop being statistically invisible, and are seeking more precise figures to help them in their struggle against racism and marginalisation.

“To reinforce our demand for recognition, we want to know exactly where we stand. Perhaps we make up 20 percent of Venezuela’s 27 million people,” Jesús García, head of the Network of Afro-Venezuelan Organisations, told IPS.

He protested that “the Afro-descendant identity is excluded from all of the country’s statistical instruments. But we are going to mobilise to correct that shortcoming with a view to the next census,” which is to be carried out in 2010.

“We don’t only want numbers, but also studies that can shed light on the situation in terms of poverty, education, health and labour. In the case of women, we are also affected by European standards of beauty and femininity as applied in the world of employment,” Nirva Camacho, of the Cumbe de Mujeres Afrovenezolanas, an Afro-Venezuelan women’s organisation, told IPS.

The term “cumbe” refers to free communities created in the Spanish colonial era by slaves who escaped from plantations.

On the health front, “there are also signs that we suffer a higher incidence of illnesses like glaucoma or anemia, and perhaps hypertension and diabetes, but there are no studies on this. In addition, there are discriminatory elements in education and in the justice system, where people of colour are more likely to be seen and treated as criminals,” said Camacho. (full text).

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