Film Image
Jorge Fortes & Diego H. Ceballos
Producer: Jorge Fortes & Diego H. Ceballos
75 minutes
English subtitles


“Most Argentines, if you ask, will tell you: ‘In Argentina there are no black people.’” So opens AFROARGENTINES, a film which unearths the hidden history of black people in Argentina and their contributions to Argentine culture and society, from the slaves who fought in the revolutionary wars against Spain, to the contemporary struggles of black Argentines against racism and marginalization. The film uses historical documents from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but is mostly based on interviews with black Argentines from a variety of backgrounds: intellectuals and taxi drivers, immigrants from Africa and native Afroargentines.

The story that unfolds provides a counternarrative to the national myth of Argentina’s exclusively European heritage. Prizewinner at the 2003 CINESUL Festival, AFROARGENTINES is a refutation of the pervasive exclusion of blacks from official Argentine history. It shows that the first Argentine president, Bernardino Rivadavia, was of African descent. It details black Argentines’ important participation in the revolutionary wars. It shows how tango, a touchstone for Argentine national identity, is rooted in milonga, candombe, cañiegue, and other musical and dance forms of 19th century black Argentines. AFROARGENTINES also exposes how the whitewashing of the Argentine self-image came about. Racist ideas about blacks as dangerous for national progress brought about such genocidal official practices as the drafting of blacks into the most dangerous positions in the army and their quarantining during the cholera epidemics, even as race mixture both diminished the black population and spread African blood throughout the Argentine population, including those who now consider themselves “white.” But the descendants of the first black Argentines live on, their numbers bolstered by black immigration from Cape Verde (such as the parents of Afroargentine co-director Jorge Fortes) in the early 20th century, and in the last 10 years, from West Africa. These immigrants have made their own contributions and faced their own challenges in Argentine society.

AFROARGENTINES responds to contemporary racism and marginalization by presenting the voices of individual Afroargentines, who recount their experiences of workplace discrimination, skinhead violence, the difficulty of interracial relationships, the double burden of black women, and the dangerous internalization of stereotypes by black Argentines themselves. They describe how Afroargentines have resisted racism by recourse to the media, through music, and through an incipient but growing political mobilization. AFROARGENTINES provides an important challenge to the marginalization of blacks in Argentine official history by rescuing the story of Argentina’s black cultural legacy from oblivion. It is also a gripping tale of the ways in which individual black Argentines have resisted and coped with everyday racism and are claiming their rightful place within Argentine history and culture.
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“A poignant and moving portrayal of Afro-Argentines past and present. Historical material and present-day interviews are deftly interwoven to reveal the continuing black presence in a country that has long sought to deny it. From tango to 19th-century military history to late-20th-century racism and discrimination, the film gives a vivid sense of life in this little-known corner of the African diaspora.” - Prof. George Reid Andrews, Author, "The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1800-1900"
"This documentary brilliantly analyzes the history of the black population in Argentina....[AFROARGENTINES] is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as an educational tool for discussion and study of the African Diaspora in the Americas." - Lourdes Vazquez, Educational Media Reviews Online
"...using a wealth of interviews, archival photographs, and video footage to show the history and ongoing African presence in Argentina... AFROARGENTINES explores an impressive range of issues central to its thesis: the African origins and history of Argentine tango and "candombe" music; twehntieth-century West African and Cape Verdean immigration to Buenos Aires; the history of black slavery in Argentina; black involvement in the Argentine military from the nineteenth century through the present; Afro-Argentine social movements in opposition to repressive governments in Nicaragua and South Africa following Argentina's 1983 democracy restoration; ongoing racism engendered through offensive media representations of blacks in Argentine popular culture; and continued social marginalization and political invisibility suffered by contemporary Argentina's diverse black population, especially women... AFROARGENTINES is a wide-ranging examination of the history and ongoing legacy of Argentina's diverse and multifaceted black population that remains, ten years after its production, still the foundational film on its topic. In this sense, it is a revealing introduction to the black history of the self-professed whitest nation of the Americas." - Matthew F. Rarey, H-AfrArts, H-Net Reviews

• Best Film, Cinesul Festival, Rio de Janeiro, 2003
• Latin American Studies Association Award of Merit in Film, 2004
• Best Documentary, Black International Cinema Berlin, 2005
• International Documentary Film Festival Tres Continentes, Buenos Aires, 2002
• Social Anthropology Film Showcase, La Plata, 2002
• International Documentary Showcase, Bogota, 2002
• Buenos Aires Negra Conference, 2002
• Ibero-American Film Schools Festival, Buenos Aires, 2002
• Danzario Americano Cultural Center, Buenos Aires, 2002
• UNCIPAR Film and Video Festival, 2002
• International Documentary Film Showcase, Cadiz, 2003
• Latin American Film and Video Festival, Buenos Aires, 2003
• Docupolis Showcase, 2003
• International Film and Video Showcase, Iquique, Chile, 2003
• CinemaFe Film Festival, New York, 2002
• African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, 2004
• Harlem Film Festival, New York, 2005
• Mar del Plata International Film Festival, 2005
• Zanzibar Film Festival, 2005
• Documenta Madrid, 2006
• Creatively Speaking, Brooklyn, 2011
• ASALH Conference Film Festival, 2017
• Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2017
• Creatively Speaking Series, BAM, Brooklyn

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