Article Originally Published July 25, 2019
Florinda Soriano Muñoz aka “Mama Tingó” – Dominican activist and defender of rural farmer’s land rights. Zulia Mena – women’s rights activist and first Afro-Colombian congresswoman. Maria Elena Moyano – Peruvian activist for low-income families and president of the Federación Popular de Mujeres de Villa El Salvador (Popular Women’s Federation of Villa El Salvador. As the great Cuban singer Celia Cruz sang, “La negra tiene tumbao. Nunca camina de la’o.” “The Black woman has swag and confidence. She never sidesteps.”) This song represents the strength and power of Black women who, despite their contributions, have been and continue to be underrepresented and marginalized throughout the African Diaspora.
On July 25, women of African descent across Latin America and the Caribbean, from Argentina to Puerto Rico, gather to celebrate International Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and African Diaspora Women’s Day. The holiday was created on July 25, 1992, when Black women from 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic for the First Meeting of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women. The meeting was called to celebrate Black culture and identity, to honor the legacy and contributions of Black women and to combat racism and sexism. La Red de Mujeres Afro-Latinoamericanas, Afro-Caribena, y de la Diaspora (Network of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women of the Diaspora) was also created at this meeting. This organization continues the work that began at the First Meeting.
Over 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America. Afro-descendant women continue to face racial discrimination, poverty, abuse, and marginalization. Many have less access to quality education, housing, employment, and healthcare. They are also affected by policies, laws, and practices that intentionally or unintentionally create discrimination. Acknowledging these injustices, The United Nations General Assembly declared 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development. This declaration aims to acknowledge the contribution of Afro-descendants, increase understanding and respect for Black heritage and culture, and create opportunities for Afro-descendants.
Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on countries, “to promote and strengthen this group’s participation through special measures and affirmative action, promoting safe spaces for their effective impact and combating all forms of discrimination and violence against them in all political institutions and spaces.”
Since 1992, the holiday has been celebrated in various ways in countries throughout Latin America, the United States and Spain. Afro-Latina women in Brazil gather to march and protest inequality and racial discrimination on July 25 during the Marcha das negras e indigenas (March of Black and Indigenous Women). Women in Washington, D.C. celebrated the holiday in 2017 as the mayor declared July 25 “Afro-Latina Women of the District Day”. The holiday was commemorated in Valencia, Spain in 2017 with the presentation of Alicia Anabel Santos’s documentary Afrolatino: La historia que nunca nos contaran (Afro-Latinos: The Story that They Never Told Us). This documentary shares the stories of women who are members of the African Diaspora in Latin America.
Black women in many countries have been able to promote the creation of laws against racial discrimination and segregation through their continued activism and intellectual discussions on racial discrimination since the First Meeting of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean women.
The work to acknowledge and offer full enfranchisement to Afro-descendant women continues today. It is an ongoing struggle, but, ladies, always remember, “la negra tiene tumbao.”