Ahí Te Estás: Constructing Black Identity and a Multicultural Narrative in Argentina
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Argentina’s ethnic majority perceives the nation as white and homogeneous. Because of this, the black community struggles for recognition. Argentina’s dominant narrative of blanquedad, or whiteness, provides the conditions that allow its citizens to ignore the presence and racial identity of non-whites. It also creates a racial classification system that categorizes people as black, white, or “other”. Although people of African descendant are classified as black, their cultural and ethnic variability is ignored. The black Argentine community is comprised of historical blacks and black immigrants, but the discourse of whiteness removes the differences between these groups and places them into one category. I observed and interacted with many organizations and members of the black Argentine community in Buenos Aires to understand how black self-identify and construct identity in the country. My research shows that this community is actively constructing a counter-hegemonic narrative that emphasizes black presence and identity. This new multicultural narrative allows black Argentines to create three forms of identity: negro, Afro, and afrodescendiente. How these terms are used depends on who is speaking and the social context. The term afrodescendiente is used to promote a collective, unified black identity that encompasses all peoples of the African Diaspora. Furthermore, this multicultural narrative allows blacks to promote diversity and educates Argentine society about different black cultural forms in the country. It establishes legitimacy for blacks, which is useful for black immigrants who attempt to attain legal Argentine citizenship. As black Argentines use the new discourse of multiculturalism to position themselves in society, numerous obstacles inhibit them. First, some black groups choose not to identify as afrodescendiente and instead choose unique identifiers that they believe are more socially valuable. Secondly, conflicts between black groups prevent them from collaborating and creating a collective identity. Despite the challenges ahead of the black Argentine community, the multicultural narrative is integral to the community’s future attempts at attaining political and social recognition.