Argentina needed a Martin Luther King

Today has been a rather odd day for me, because in the United States, today is Martin Luther King Day. Here, in Buenos Aires, it means nothing.

There is such a sense of sadness, combined with a tremendous deal of hope, for the many people who have lived through this time of history in the U.S. The pain that our African population lived through during the civil rights movement is nearly unbearable to contemplate. Sometimes the sacrifices seem so great that it is difficult to see the progress that we have made.

Miraculously, today, we do have a black president. This is incredible. Martin Luther King would be proud. But he would not say that it is not over yet. What a gift that our country received to have a person like Martin Luther King, to bring a sense of understanding to our Nation. Argentina wasn't so lucky with this insight.

In fact, in Buenos Aires I rarely see a black person. In almost two months, I would say that I have noticed less than 10 black people.

In 1810, black people accounted for about 30 percent of the population in Buenos Aires. However, their numbers went down to 1.8 percent by 1887. Where did they go?

Argentina had slaves, almost as many as Brazil or the United States. But in the nineteenth century Argentina was desperately fighting for independence in every direction. As the story goes, it was black men who sacrificed their lives. There was also a cholera epidemic in 1861 and 1864. And a yellow fever epidemic in 1871. Both have been said to contribute to the loss.
There is the theory of discrimination. That life was too hard for most black people in Argentina, so they just left. There were better opportunities and friendly faces in neighboring countries.

Because there were still woman left behind during the war-time, the social studies has estimated an upwards of 20% of the population to have some form of African descent. But few people like to admit this or talk about it.

Basically, they vanished, and with such a heavy resistance to talk about this subject in Argentina, it has created an underground debate. What really happened?

Today, less than 2% of the population is of African descent. Many people here have gone through their whole lives without knowing a single black person. If they do, chances are, they are not from here. Usually, they are from Brazil, Cuba, Africa or the United States.

I met the people pictured above because I was curious to see if I could come across a single black person today. I did, they work for the French Navy and one of them was black.

I do not want the people of Argentina to think that I am accusing them of Racism. Racism is an individual matter. This is the history that the people of Argentina came from. This is the world that exists here. You can individually choose whether to continue that world or not.

To my friends and family, who are black, I love you and I can’t imagine being raised in a world without you. Today, it is important for all of us, to focus of the progress that the United States of America has made. Although, certainly not without issues, we are making Martin Luther King’s dream a reality.

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