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Scholarly Article

Afro-Venezuelan Cultural Survival: Invoking Ancestral Memory

Author:

Mesi Walton

Howard University, US
About Mesi
Dr. Mesi Walton teaches Spanish language and culture at Howard University. She recently completed her Ph.D in Afro-Latin Studies in the Department of African Studies at Howard University. Her research centers around populations of African ancestry in the Diaspora and examines how African culture influences identity, resistance and survival. Her latest work explores dance, music and spirituality in Venezuela and Colombia. She also organizes cultural exchange tours throughout Latin America for youth and adults.
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Abstract

Enslaved Africans were taken to Venezuela as part of the transatlantic slave trade, and their descendants constitute a minority population that has been marginalized, discriminated against, and excluded from access to resources and the national identity. This study explores ways in which Afro-Venezuelans resisted oppression and survived by employing their knowledge, skills, and cultural memory. As a case in point, we examine the maintenance of Afro-Venezuelan cultural traditions in Barlovento, an area to which enslaved Africans were imported to work on large cacao estates and whose descendants now constitute the majority ethnic population in the region, with cultural traditions that uniquely identify it. Through the application of spiritual and cultural memory, Barloventeños show resolve within the construct of institutionalized racism by utilizing a form of double consciousness. The Barlovento region represents a strong continuity of Central West African traditions within Venezuelan culture in the variety of music, instrumentation, dance styles, and lingual retentions, which serve as the chief basis for this analysis. This research assesses these various forms of Afro-Venezuelan culture and how they have been used as a form of resistance to invisibilization and institutional racism. Findings are based on historical research and field work conducted between 2010 and 2019.

Resumen

Africanos esclavizados fueron llevados a Venezuela como parte de la trata transatlántica de esclavos, y sus descendientes constituyen una población minoritaria que ha sido marginada, discriminada y excluida del acceso a los recursos y de la identidad nacional. Este estudio explora las medidas usadas por los afrovenezolanos para resistir la opresión y sobrevivir al implementar sus conocimientos, habilidades y memoria cultural. Como ejemplo, examinamos el mantenimiento de las tradiciones culturales afrovenezolanas en Barlovento, una zona a la que los africanos esclavizados fueron importados para trabajar en grandes fincas de cacao y cuyos descendientes ahora constituyen la población étnica mayoritaria de la región, con tradiciones culturales que la identifican de manera única. A través de la aplicación de la memoria espiritual y cultural, los barloventeños mostraron su firmeza ante el racismo institucionalizado mediante la  utilización de una forma de doble conciencia. La región de Barlovento representa una fuerte continuidad de las tradiciones de África Occidental Central dentro de la cultura venezolana en la variedad de música, instrumentación, estilos de baile y retenciones lingúísticas, los cuales sirven como la base principal para este análisis. Esta investigación evalúa estas diversas formas de cultura afrovenezolana y su uso como formas de resistencia a la invisibilización y al racismo institucional. Los hallazgos se basan en la investigación histórica y el trabajo de campo realizado entre 2010 y 2019.

How to Cite: Walton, M., 2020. Afro-Venezuelan Cultural Survival: Invoking Ancestral Memory. Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies, 4(2), pp.235–260. DOI: http://doi.org/10.23870/marlas.346
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Published on 27 Dec 2020.
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