Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Politics. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 February 2024

Afro-Latin Social Movements in Latin America and the Caribbeanfree

Afro-Latin Social Movements in Latin America and the Caribbeanfree

  • Kwame DixonKwame DixonDepartment of Political Science, Howard University


This article examines the rise of Afro-Latin social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. It seeks to understand what factors explain the rise of black consciousness and black social movements. Theoretically, it explores the multidimensional nature and meaning of blackness as a social constructions and how such constructions may contribute to or limit Afro-based social movements. Contrary to popular perception, Afro-Latin social movements are not new, but form part of the long history of black resistance in the Americas. Although Black social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean are not new and have long histories like those of Maroon, Quilombo, Cimarròn, and Palenque societies, it is argued that the1970s witnessed an uptick in Afro-referenced social movements across the region. These movements, although in no way monolithic, represented a repertoire of various identities, ideas, and philosophies. Their agendas were framed in the context of racial and social justice demanding social, economic, and cultural rights long denied to them. Theoretically, Afro civil society as a specific Black space and cultural site, is theorized to show how many of these movements emerged. Afro civil society therefore is used to place these movements within a theoretical and historical timeframe.


  • Groups and Identities
  • World Politics

Afro-Latin Social Movements

This article examines the rise of Afro-Latin social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. Conceptually, it seeks to understand what factors explain the rise of Black consciousness and Black social movements. Theoretically, it explores the multidimensional nature and meaning of Blackness as a social construction and how such construction may contribute to or limit Afro-based social movements. Contrary to popular perception, Afro-Latin social movements are not new, but form part of the long history of Black resistance in the Americas. At times, Black people in Latin America formed their own independent formations such as runaway communities and Black militias. At other times, they formed tactical alliances with whites, Indians, and mestizos to create multicultural movements that had a profound impact on the region (Andrews, 2004, p. 8). Many new social movements originate in civil society as nongovernmental organizations and from below. It is argued that Black social movements mainly emerged from Afro civil society as part of a vast network of civil society groups across the region. Many are demanding and receiving the rights long denied to them and at the same time opening new democratic spaces heretofore closed. This new space is the result of years of grassroots activism and mobilization across the region, and this new transformation is rooted in concepts such as cultural and new citizenship, which offer claims to legitimization to claim rights and space and belonging in the dominant society. By challenging racialized, gendered, and class-based structures, as well as developing new strategies of empowerment, Afro-social movements are expanding citizenship and opening new possibilities. What was absent until recently from the literature on social movements in Latin America was the role played by Afro-Latin social movements and their struggle to address centuries of neglect and social discrimination.

Historical Antecedents

Afro-Latin mobilization for self-defense and against oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean have a long and rich history, including Maroon, Cimarròn, and Quilombo communities (16th, 17th, and 18th centuries), the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), the Malê revolt in Salvador da Bahia in 1835, and the struggle of the Independent Party of Color in Cuba from 1908 to 1912.

For almost four centuries, Maroon, Quilombo, Cimarròn, and Palenque communities were scattered across the Americas, from Brazil to the Southwest of the United Sates. Ranging from small cells that lasted less than a year to powerful states that constituted thousands of members and lasted for centuries (Price, 1996). A few examples include the Palmares community of Brazil; Palenque de San Basilio on the Caribbean coast of Colombia; the Black Maroons of Esmeraldas, Ecuador; and the Mexicans Maroons of San Lorenzo de los Negros. These were independent, autonomous, self-contained, free Black communities who defended their sovereignty at any cost. Surprisingly, many of these Quilombos or Palenques still exist in countries like Colombia and Brazil; however, they are in a constant battle to defend their lands and identities as they continue to fight for their rights to exist.

Perhaps the most famous and well-known Black social movement to rock the Western Hemisphere was the Haitian Revolution from 1791 to 1804, which was one of the largest and most successful revolutions in the hemisphere at this time. Toussaint L’Ouverture and his army of self-liberated slaves handily defeated the great empires of the day, England, Britain, and France (James, 1938). Alongside independent Black Maroon communities and the Haitian revolution, there were a never-ending series of slave insurrections across the Americas. Although all deserve attention and scrutiny, it was the Malê revolt in Salvador da Bahia that is one of the least known and studied. The revolt of the Malê was one of the great spectacles of all modern slave revolts, standing out among the many rebellions of 19th-century Salvador (Brazil). It was a well-planned insurrection led by Muslim slaves in the 1835, and according to the historical record, their main goal was to seize power of the local government. The revolt was suppressed, and in the aftermath over 500 slaves were either executed, sent to prison, whipped, or deported (Reis, 1993).

At dawn of the 20th century, the Independent Party of Color in Cuba, the first Black political party of the 20th century (outside of Haiti), was born in the Americas. It was founded, 10 years after the Spanish American War, by Evaristo Estenoz in 1908, a Cuban veteran of the 1895 to 1898 wars. The Independent Party of Color was first organized as a mainstream political party to secure basic rights of Afro-Cubans, but had to result to arm struggle in order to defend itself against aggression by the Cuban and U.S. governments. The party was banned in 1910 and accused of organizing along racial lines; and in 1912, its core members were massacred in the Oriente by the Cuba government with U.S. support (Helg, 1995). From Maroon and Quilombo communities, to slave rebellions and the Haitian Revolution, to the Independent Party of Color, these social movements formed part of the vertebra of Black social movements in the Americas for autonomy and self-determination.

The Rise of Afro Social Movements in Latin America and the Caribbean

Many Black social movements in the region arose outside the formal realm of the state as autonomous social agents of change and are premised on fighting for racial justice within the confines of the liberal democratic state. Moreover, some of these Black social movements share a central feature of contemporary Latin American social movements: “horizontalism,” which in general refers to organizing method as well as forms of resistance. According to Stahler-Sholk, Vanden, and Becker, horizontalism refers to movements arising from below, with participatory structures; movements that do not seek to overthrow the state; and movements resisting and challenging globalization or neoliberal politics. These new social actors, and the networks they create, are sometimes referred to as new social movements because they seek to define new relations of power (Stahler-Sholk et al. 2014, p. 2). However, in sharp contrast to traditional movements or expressions of the electoral left in Latin America, many new social movements are not organized to seize power (Stahler-Sholk et al., 2014, p. 12).

The main objective is to place maximum pressure on the state in order to extract specific demands. These movements have the following characteristics: first, the tendency to seek autonomy from conventional/hierarchical political institutions; second, a horizontal orientation of many with respect to decision making; third, a quest for solidarity derived from notions of social justice linked to shared identities such as race, ethnicity, and/or gender (Safa, 1995). At the micro level, Black social movements across the region are way too diverse in scope, style, form, method, and philosophy to classify; however, horizontalism serves as a useful conceptual frame of reference to categorize many of them. These movements, as formulations of activism, contest the region’s political and economic systems, and challenge the narrowly constructed definitions of citizenship, democracy, and participation. As they contest power and policy, these movements call into question traditional rule by the dominant class and the politicians who enable it (Stahler-Sholk et al., 2014, p. 12).

In Latin America, a radical new landscape has emerged as Black people are creating new space to advance a racial justice agenda rooted in the notion that Black communities not only deserve to be recognized but deserve full recognition as well as economic, social, and cultural rights. The rise of Afro-Latin social movements in the last half of the 20th century is best understood within the context of Afro civil society. Afro civil society is new theoretical departure in the discussions on Black Politics in Latin America. Conceptually Afro civil society situates these movements within social structures that are specific to the cultural and social realities specific to Black life. As Afro nongovernmental organizations they are new civic actors and their work is premised on anti-racist strategies and grassroots education and mobilization that form part Afro civil society. Afro civil society builds on the traditional concept of civil society, but it frames Afro struggles within the specific and objective conditions and Black reality. Afro civil society is therefore central to understanding the rise of these movements and their impact on the region (Dixon, 2016).

Civil society is theorized as the space between the state and the citizen, and in Latin America, it forms the conceptual underpinning to understanding democracy, social and cultural citizenship, grassroots mobilization, identity constructions and human rights (Alvarez, Dagnino, & Escobar, 1998; Feinberg, Waisman, & Zamosc, 2006; Stahler-Sholk, Vanden, & Becker, 2014). Along these lines, Afro civil society builds on this by linking issues of racialization, modalities of Black consciousness, the repertoires of various Black identities, Black oppression, grassroots mobilization, and centuries of struggle for human rights to the core of civil society in the Americas. By doing so, Afro civil society challenges the normative underpinning of traditional civil society while making it more conceptually and theoretically relevant to Black peoples and their forms of organization (Dixon, 2016).

In order to theorize Afro civil society, Afro-social movements, and political mobilization, it is crucial to clarify what “being Black” signifies in the region and across the Americas. Black, “negro,” Black identity, and Blackness are socially contested terms with uneven meanings across the region. On one level, it refers to a bundle of ideas and meanings held by particular actors in a particular society about people who are socially defined as “Black,” “Negro,” or Afro-descendant. “Blackness” is variously a form of consciousness among Black people, a deliberate project to produce such consciousness, and ideas about Blackness held by non-Black people (Hartigan, 2010, p. 117). Throughout the hemisphere, consciousness and projects of Blackness cluster around common descent from Africa, a common history of enslavement, and common experiences of social oppression (Wade, 2012), whereas ideas non-Blacks have about Black people center on racist stereotypes that articulate white fear of loss of dominance. These racial projects, which include slavery, racial oppression, emancipation, Black identity, and consciousness (to name only a few), vary from region to region in the Americas. Thus one of the key projects of Afro civil society groups was to first reposition Blackness and then reclaim Blackness and Black identity while calling into question “blanquemiento,” which championed whiteness and marginalized Black identity.

Afro civil society is an alternative epistemological site and therefore represents a unique Black social space where the specificity of Black social experiences, Black knowledge, cultural formations, and forms of organization unfold. At the same time, it attempts to navigate and make sense of the various forces that negatively and positively impact Black social life. First, it recognizes racial justice as a guiding principle; and second that Black people must develop their own organic and, at times, autonomous political projects given the history of racial injustice in the Americas. Afro nongovernmental organizations as an extension of Afro civil society became central to the formation and development of Black movements across the region as they became a new social force starting in the 1970s (Dixon, 2016).

The Road to Cali, Colombia: The Flourishing of Afro Civil Society

As noted throughout the 20th century, there were important Black social and cultural movements like the Independent Party of Color in Cuba (1908), Frente Negra (1930s), Teatro de Brasil (1950s), and the Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association (1917) in the Americas. However, the literature on modern Black social movements (Caldwell, 2007; Covin, 2006; Dixon, 2008; Hanchard, 1994; Johnson, 2012; Wade, 1993) generally points to the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s as a pivotal moment because so many new Afro nongovernmental organizations burst onto the scene at this time. These Afro-referenced nongovernmental organizations professionalized their work, opened up channels for funding, and created new avenues to interact with the state while promoting racial consciousness and combating racial discrimination. The 1970s therefore represented a unique historical junction for Black social movements in the Americas as Afro civil society groups and the seeds of civil society were taking root. Afro civil society groups began to appear on the scene with raw energy and urgency, and their reemergence ushered in a new social and cultural Afro-referenced social renaissance.

This Black cultural and social renaissance led to the Congresses on Black Culture in the Americas, organized between 1977 and 1982, ushered in a new era in Afro-Latin social and political mobilization. The first Congress, organized under the leadership of Manual Zapata Olivella by the Colombian Foundation to Investigate Black Culture, and the Cultural Association of Black Peruvian Youth, took place in Cali, Colombia, from August 24 to 28 in 1977. The Second Congress, organized by the Center for Panamanian Studies, took place in Panama in March 1980. The Third Congress met in São Paulo in August 1982 and was co-organized by Abdias do Nacimiento and the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Afro-Brasileiros (IPEAFRO). The theme, “African Diaspora: Political Consciousness and African Culture,” reflected the new burgeoning social consciousness unfolding across the Americas. Present at these various congresses were writers, scholars, activists, intellectuals, and individuals from many spheres of Afro civil society, and they came from across the Americas and parts of Africa. Although relatively small in scope, these historic congresses foreshadowed the emerging Black social movements and new forms of political mobilization on the horizon. The Congresses on Black Culture in the Americas focused on similar themes like cultural or racial identity and consciousness, celebration of African roots, pursuit of self-esteem programs, denunciation of racism and marginalization, and establishing and reinforcing regional and transnational networks. One of the common threads of these congresses and main organizing principles was the demand for racial and social justice for the Afro-descendants in the region.

At the same time, along with the congresses there were a number of important Afro civil society groups emerging in individual countries. Some were small cultural or study groups, whereas others were more directly political, focusing on research and human rights. But the common thread was racial justice and rescuing Black identity. These groups stand out, as they were trailblazers using methods like grassroots mobilization, alternative pedagogical methods, Black civic education, and music, as well as other methods, as vehicles to reach the masses. Many are still active today across the region (see Table 1).:

Table 1. Afro-Civil Society Organizations in Latin America Founded Between 1970 and the 1990s






Ilyê Aiyê (Afro-Brazilian Bloco)


MNU (Unified Black Movement)


Olodum (Bloco)


Nzinga/Coletivo da Mulheres Negras (Black Women’s Collective)


Maria Mulher




Steve Biko




Fala Preta



Centro de Estudios Afro Colombianos (Center for Afro-Colombian Studies)


Fundaciòn Colombiana de Investigaciòn Folklórico (Foundation for the Investigation Colombian Folklore)


The Center for the Investigation of Black Culture


Soweto (The National Movement for Human Rights of Black Communities in Colombia)


The Integral Peasant Association of the Atrato River


Red de Mujures Negras (Black Women’s Network)


Proceso de Communidades Negras (Process of Black Communities in Colombia) (PCN)


Asociación de Afrocolombianos Desplazados (Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians) (AFRODES)



The Afro-Ecuadorian Studies Center


Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Center


The Process of Black Communities of Northern Ecuador


La Fundación de Desarrollo Social y Cultural Afroeuatoriana (The Foundation for the Social and Cultural Development of Afro-Ecuadorians)



Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (The Fraternal Order Black Honduran Organizations)


Organización de Desarrollo Ètnico Comunitario (The Organization of Ethnic Community Development) (ODECO)



Mundo Afro



Asociaciòn de la Juventud Cultural Negra Peruano (Association of Black Peruvian Youth)


The Movimiento Negro Francisco Congo (The Black Movement of Francisco Congo)


Asociación Negra de Defensa de Promoción de Derechos Humanos (The Organization in the Defense and Promotion of Black Human Rights)

The Transition to Civilian Rule and the Maturing of Afro Civil Society

By the 1980s, many Latin America countries were transitioning to civil rule after years of harsh military dictatorships. Long-term military rule, with changing leadership in most cases, controlled 11 countries for significant periods of time from 1964 to 1990: countries include Ecuador from 1963 to 1966 and 1972 to 1978; Brazil, 1964 to 1985; Bolivia, 1964 to 1970 and 1971 to 1982; Argentina, 1966 to 1973 and 1976 to 1983; Peru, 1968 to 1980; Chile, 1973 to 1990; Panama, 1968 to 1989; and Uruguay, 1973 to 1984. Although there is a wide body of research on military dictatorships and authoritarian rule in Latin America (Biglaiser, 2002; Loveman, 1999; McSherry, 2005; O’Donnell, 1973), there is little if any on the relationship between military dictatorships and their impact on the rise of Afro social movements during this time. But it is generally recognized that civil society groups were inhibited from organizing. Moreover, in many countries, movement leaders, activists, and regular citizens were “disappeared,” tortured, jailed, or exiled (Green, 2010). And the prevailing hegemonic discourse was that race was a non-issue, and such discussions were not welcomed. Therefore, the transition to democracy and return to civilian rule is critical to understanding the rise of Afro social movements across the region during this time. From the 1980s onward, the seeds of civil society were taking root, and a cross section of civil societies groups emerged in the region. As civil society flourished, workers, students, Indigenous and labor organizations, women, and Afro groups were formed. This new constellation of forces gave Afro civil society a new social license and democratic space to organize and mobilize around issues of racial justice.

Along with many of the groups listed in Table 1, there was now a veritable explosion of Black groups focused on social discrimination in the economy, politics, housing, education and healthcare, policing, jails and prisons, and affirmative action. As these movements matured, the first and perhaps thorniest question they had to confront was the nature of racial oppression faced by Afro-descendants in the Americas; the second concerned what were the most appropriate grassroots strategies and practical tools of social mobilization to rally and organize their constituents; and the third dealt with the role of culture and politics and how it shaped, limited, undermined, and or depoliticized Black consciousness. Finally, but equally important, how to link Black consciousness (or lack thereof) to mass-based social movements and mobilizations. Broadly speaking, these movements sought to do the following:

Challenge and overturn the notion of racial democracy

Place the issue of racial and gender discrimination on the table to be discussed as a serious political matter

Challenge the idea in civil society that race relations were neutral

Demand equal and fair treatment for Afro-descendant communities as full and equal citizens

Recognize the land rights of Afro-descendants, Palenques, and Quilombos communities;

Challenge state-sponsored violence and reform the administration of justice (criminal justice reform in policing, prisons, and jails)

Place Black and Afro-referenced identity (not as a racist stereotype) within the broader national identity of Latin American society

Destabilize and undermine racial categories and hierarchies that marginalize Afro-descendants.

Racial justice, long articulated throughout the 20th century, was now being rearticulated forcefully as vibrant social movements were spreading across the Americas like wild fire. In Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janerio and São Paulo, Brazil, 1945 to 1988 (1994), one of the earlier works on Black social movements in Brazil, Michael Hanchard asked why no major national Black social movement existed in Brazil given the precarious status of Afro-Brazilians. His book focused on the role of racial hegemony and the strategic choices made by Black activists, with a focus on Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Hanchard argued that Black activists overemphasized Black cultural identity to the neglect of their potential constituents’ more direct social, economic, and political needs and concerns. His main thesis, while hotly debated, and by no means a definitive statement on the character of Black social movements in Brazil, nevertheless set the tone of the debates for many years on Black social movements and politics in Brazil. Responding two decades later to Hanchard, Keisha-Khan Perry (Against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil, 2013) and Kia Caldwell (Negras in Brazil: Re-envisioning Black Women, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity, 2007) used race and gender analysis to analyze social movements in Brazil (Dixon & Johnson, 2019).

Racialization and racial discrimination were therefore central points of departure for Black social movements, but gender and the leadership of Afro-Latin women were also central to the early Black social movements formation and a defining part of the social landscape. For the most part, Afro North American, Caribbean, and African feminist scholarship has had a wider audience, is better known, and arguably has had more of an impact, but Afro-Latin women feminist scholars and activists have made important contributions to Afro-feminist scholarship and praxis. Therefore, rather than separate Black social movements (and Black politics) from Afro-Latin feminism, and vice-versa, it is more useful conceptually to think about the intersection of race and gender as mutually reinforcing categories with respect to the early formation of Black social movements in the Americas. In other words, Black women from the beginning were important leaders and theoreticians, like Lèlia Gonzalez, a founding member of Movimiento Negro Unificado (MNU; Brazil), was a leading theoretician on the Black cultural thought. Moreover, Afro-Brazilian women were active in the Black and the women’s movement during the 1970s and 1980s, mobilizing against the military dictatorship in Brazil (Caldwell, 2019). And between 1986 and 1989, Black women’s collectives and groups were formed in the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Maranhão, Espirtu Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande de Sol (Caldwell, 2019). In the early 1990s, Afro-Colombian women held meetings around land issues in the Pacific Region, leading to the founding of the Red de Mujures Negras (Black Women’s Network) founded in the of city Guapi (1992), and later cells were replicated in Buenaventura, and Bahia Solano (Asher, 2009).

Afro-Colombian scholar and feminist Betty Ruth Lozano makes the case that Black women’s resistance has been more camouflaged and off the radar screen and thus is not readily acknowledged. Lozano’s work uncovers the ways in which racialized patriarchal structures socially erase and marginalize Afro-Colombia women in social and political relations, thus opening new avenues to understand Afro-Colombian women’s daily struggles. She analyzes the role of Afro-Colombian women practices of resistance and employs the term “Mujeresnegras” (Black women) to underscore the intersectionality and nexus between race and gender for Afro-Colombian women. Thus, in addition to race and class, gender and gender analysis form part the social matrix as well (Caldwell, 2019). And, as Table 1 illustrates, some of the early Afro civil society organizations were founded by women and focused on women’s and gender issues. Along these lines, many Black women have made important contributions to theorizing and leading social movements for human rights as key political actors.

Constitutional, Legal, and Social Gains

The struggles waged by Afro-descendants over the past several decades have led to increased visibility, more cultural recognition, and an uptick in political participation and representation. Moreover, there are more regional and transnational networks across the region, working on similar issues. But one of the most important achievements has been the implementation of multicultural constitutional reforms and other legal mechanisms. Equally important, Latin American states, as well as global, regional, and local civil society and multilateral institutions, now acknowledged the persistence of racism and racial discrimination in Latin America. The issue of racial discrimination, long textually submerged in larger social relations, now became part of the larger discourse. Brazil, one of the last countries in the hemisphere to outlaw slavery, and ironically one of the first to claim it had eliminated racial discrimination (i.e., the elimination of slavery equaled no racism), finally admitted in its seventh periodic to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that racism and racial discrimination were a social and political reality.

For many decades, the myth of nationality characterized by the harmonious and perfect fusion of three races, responsible for the construction of “racial democracy” in the country was propagated. Over a long period of time, the Brazilian State and society, acting on behalf of this myth, revealed themselves incapable of implementing effective mechanism to incorporate Afro-descendants and Indigenous peoples, and members of other discriminated groups in the larger society. The consequences of this process are reflected in this report and are evidence not only of the existence of racism in Brazil but it cumulative affects in producing economic and social inequality.

(United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 2003)

These legal gains range from multicultural constitutional recognition to collective land rights legislation, that is, the right to seek or petition land titles for certain communities, affirmative action, and some criminal sanctions on racial discrimination (Hernández, 2019). These collective rights won by Afro-descendants are grouped into two distinct and broad categories. First are rights that allow some access or the right to preserve land and culture; second are positive rights or civil rights, that is, rights aimed at remedying effects of racial discrimination. Juliet Hooker argues that collective rights, like economic, social and, cultural rights, are viewed as legitimate for minority cultures in multinational states because the rights of such minorities are disadvantaged via the majority. Distributive justice therefore requires adoption of such measures. Afro-descendants in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, and Ecuador have been granted these rights (Hooker, 2012). The second category includes positive or civil rights, that is, rights aimed at remedying or addressing racial discrimination. Within this category, racial minorities are viewed as entitled to rights that address racial inequality in affirmative action, education, employment, and other public spheres. For example, in Brazil there are anti-discrimination and affirmative action measures; in Colombia, there are quotas for political representation and affirmative action measures; likewise, Ecuador has some measures of constitutional recognition, anti-discrimination, and land rights mechanisms (de la Torre & Sanchez, 2019). These two broad categories, that is, collective and civil rights, overlap as some countries have adopted both (Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil).

Additionally, Tanya Hernández (2013) has identified another important category, which is anti-discrimination criminal legal mechanisms. She is interested in the ways in which Latin American states respond to and punish individual acts of racism or to acts of racial discrimination. She argues that, along with collective rights and civil rights, it is important to understand how Latin American states enforce anti-discrimination measures across the region. Regrettably, there is very little case law with respect to cases of racial discrimination in employment, education, and access to public places. Even though there has been the general recognition of racial discrimination, country-specific case studies suggest that racial discrimination claims are treated as lacking merit given the regions’ long history of denying racism discrimination. In other words, the legal systems, despite the multicultural reforms, are not configured to address racial discrimination in daily life. Her research points out that very few cases of criminal prosecutions for racial discrimination have been brought to the Latin American legal systems.


Afro civil society is now mature and vibrant across the region. And although there have been major advances, these advances are always being contested and challenged as new political forces emerge. For example, in Brazil in 2012, there were serious challenges to affirmative action in how the Brazilian Supreme Court reaffirmed the basic principles of affirmative action, thus reinforcing the rights with of Afro-Brazilians and Indigenous peoples. And more country-specific studies are urgently needed to evaluate anti-discrimination measures and the new laws granting Afro-descendants land rights. Laws mean very little if they are not fully implemented or if they are slow-walked through a stagnant or hostile bureaucracy. On the one hand, Afro civil society must consolidate these hard-won gains, whereas on the other, it must deal with new issues looming on the horizon. Despite these gains, state-sponsored violence (policing, courts, prisons, jails) and paramilitary violence by so called non-state actors need urgent attention. Given its growth and development, Afro civil society across the region is now more polyvocal, diverse, and multidimensional. However, the old Black identity platform traditionally defined around the axis of race, class, gender, and rural/urban now must incorporate and welcome other identity platforms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered formations. Although by no means new, these new emergent voices are still marginal; however, they form part of a new wave of progressive Black activism across region. Afro civil society is way to diverse, and multilayered as it does not speak with one voice, but many. It has paved the way for new voices, and in doing so, it has renewed its radical grassroots activism while articulating new forms of citizenship.

Further Reading

  • Asher, Kiran. (2014). Text in context: Reading Afro-Colombians women’s activism. In Sonia E. Alvarez, Claudia Lima de Costa, Veronía Feliu, Rebecca J. Hester, Norman Klahn, & Millie Thayer with Cruz Caridad Bueno (Eds.), Translocalities/translocalidades: Feminist politics of translation in Latin/a Américas (pp. 189–208). Durham, NC. Duke University Press.
  • Clealand, Danielle. (2017). The power of race in Cuba: Race, ideology and Black consciousness during the revolution. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Clealand, Danielle. (2019). Black activism and the state in Cuba. In K. Dixon and O. Johnson (Eds.), Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Dixon, Kwame. (2014). Brazil: The contradictions of black cultural politics in Salvador da Bahia. In Richard H. Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden, & Glen Marc Becker (Eds.), Rethinking Latin American social movements: Radical action from below (pp. 167–181). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Dixon, Kwame, & Burdick, John (Eds.). (2012). Comparative perspectives on Afro Latin America. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
  • Johnson, Ollie (Ed.). (2018). Comparative racial politics in Latin America. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Paschel, Tianna. (2018). Becoming black political subjects: Movements and ethno racial rights in Colombia and Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


  • Andrews, George Reid. (2004). Afro-Latin Americans today. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Alvarez, Sonia, Dagnino, Ernesto, & Esocobar, Arturo (Eds.). (1998). Culture of politics and politics of culture: Re-visioning Latin American social movements. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Asher, Kiran. (2009). Black and Green: Afro-Colombia women’s development and nature in the Pacific lowlands. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Biglaiser, Glen. (2002). Guardians of the Nation? Economists, Generals and Economic Reform in Latin America. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame.
  • Caldwell, Kia. (2007). Negras in Brazil. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Caldwell, Kia. (2019). The contours and contexts of Afro-Latin American women’s activism. In Kwame Dixon & Ollie Johnson (Eds.), Comparative racial politics in Latin America. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Covin, David. (2006). Unified Black movement in Brazil, 1978 to 2002. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
  • de la Torre, Carlos, & Sànchez, Jhon Antòn. (2019). Afro-Ecuadorian politics. In K. Dixon & O. Johnson (Eds.), Comparative racial politics in Latin America (pp. 163–182) New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Dixon, Kwame. (2008). Transnational black social movements in Latin America: Afro-Colombians and the struggle for human rights. In Richard H. Stahler-Sholk & Kwame Dixon (Eds.), Latin American social movements in the twenty-first century: Resistance, power, and democracy (pp. 181–196). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Dixon, Kwame, & Burdick, John. (Eds.), (2012). Comparative perspectives on Afro Latin America. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
  • Feinberg, Richard, Waisman, Carlos, & Zamosc, Leon (Eds.). (2006). Civil society and democracy in Latin America. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Green, James. (2010). We cannot remain silent: Opposition to the Brazilian military dictatorship in the US. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Hanchard, Michael. (1994). Orpheus and power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janerio and S(a)o Paulo, Brazil 1945 to 1988. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Hartigan, John. (2010). Race in the 21st century: Ethnographic approaches. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Helg, Ann. (1995). The Afro-Cuban struggle for equality 1886 to 1912. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Hernández, Tanya Katerí. (2013). Racial subordination in Latin: The role of the state, customary law and the new civil rights response. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hernández, Tanya Katerí. (2019). Race and the law in Latin America. In Kwame Dixon & Ollie Johnson (Eds.), Comparative racial politics in Latin America (pp. 271–287). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Hooker, Juliet. (2012). Negotiating Blackness within the Multicultural State: Creole Politics and Identity in Nicaragua. In K. Dixon & J. Burdick (Eds.), Comparative Perspectives on Latin America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • James, Cyril Lionel Robert. (1938). The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Santo Domingo revolt. London, U.K.: Secker & Warburg.
  • Johnson, Ollie. (2012). Black activism in Ecuador, 1979 to 2000. In K. Dixon & J. Burdick (Eds.), Comparative perspectives on Afro-Latin America. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.
  • Loveman, Brian. (1999). For La Patria: Politics and Armed Forces in Latin America. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources.
  • McSherry, J. Patrice. (2005). Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield.
  • O’Donnell, Guillermo. (1973). Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics. Berkeley, CA: Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
  • Perry, Keisha Khan. (2013). Against the land grab: The fight for racial justice in Brazil. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Price, Richard (Ed.). (1996). Maroon societies: Rebel slave communities in the Americas. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Reis, Joao Jose. (1993). Slave rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim uprising in 1835 in Bahia. (Trans. Arthur Brakel). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.
  • Safa, Helen. (1995). Race and national identity in the Americas. Latin American Perspectives, 25(3), 3–20.
  • Stahler-Sholk, Richard H., Vanden, Harry, & Becker, Marc. (2014). Rethinking Latin American social movements: Radical action from below. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (2003, October 16). Reports submitted by states parties under article 9 of the Convention, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/431/Add.8).
  • Wade, Peter. (1993). Blackness and race mixture: The dynamic of racial identity in Colombia. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Wade, Peter. (2012). Afro-Colombian social movements. In K. Dixon & J. Burdick (Eds.), Comparative perspectives on Afro-Latin America (pp. 135–155). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press.