U.S. Embassy Montevideo - Archives

Afro-Latinos of Latin America, Caribbean, subject of seminar

In Uruguay, Afro-Latinos comprise 4% of the population. Event examines problems facing region's largest ethnic minority

Posted: February 15, 2005

Washington -- An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is scheduled to participate in a February 28 seminar about people of African descent in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a February 10 statement, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will host the event at its Washington headquarters, says an estimated 150 million Latin Americans of African descent, also known as Afro-Latinos, comprise close to 30 percent of the region's population, making them the region's largest ethnic minority.

The IDB also says people of African descent total 40 percent of the region's poor. In Brazil and Colombia, the countries with the largest black populations in South America, they are among the poorest, least educated and lowest-paid citizens. In Brazil, 52 percent of the Afro-Latinos live in houses with no adequate sanitation, while in Colombia, 80 percent of the black population lives in conditions of extreme poverty, said the IDB.

The IDB said Brazil and Colombia have recently developed the most extensive anti-discrimination legislation for Afro-descendants in Latin America. Issues affecting this group include legal protection, political representation, land rights, human rights and access to quality health care.

The discussion at the IDB will focus on a recent report called "Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Considerations for U.S. Policy," by Clare Ribando, a Latin America analyst with the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS). Ribando will be one of the participants at the event, along with David Johnston, USAID's Colombia desk officer, and a foreign policy specialist from the office of Representative Gregory Meeks (Democrat of New York).

A number of foreign aid programs, funded through the U.S. government, benefit Afro-Latino populations, the CRS report said. The programs include supporting agriculture, micro-credit, health care, grassroots organizing and bilingual education. These programs are funded through USAID, the U.S. Peace Corps, and the Inter-American Foundation, along with a nongovernmental organization called the National Endowment for Democracy.

The report states that improvement in the status of Afro-Latinos "could be difficult and contentious, depending on the size and circumstances of the Afro-descendant populations" in each country of Latin America and the Caribbean. The report says Afro-Latinos tend to reside in coastal areas, although in many countries they have migrated to large cities in search of employment.

Afro-Latinos comprise a majority of the population in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while they form a significant minority in Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, says the report.

The report is available online at:


Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer



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