Women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendant populations remain underrepresented in the national legislatures of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Latin America. The descriptive (or numeric) representation of marginalized groups in national legislatures matters because legislatures make policy, check the president’s authority, and communicate who has full membership in the body politic. The inclusion of women, indigenous peoples, and Afro-descendants in legislatures sends information about the overall depth and quality of the democratic regime. Most legislatures have become more representative of women, primarily due to affirmative action measures designed to raise descriptive representation. As of October 15, 2019, every Latin American country except Guatemala and Venezuela had a statutory quota law for women candidates, resulting in women holding nearly 30% of seats in the region’s legislatures. However, such gains have not come without costs, including rising violence against women candidates and elected officials. Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela also use affirmative action to incorporate indigenous peoples into the national legislature, using reserved seats. However, reserved seats typically elect lower proportions of indigenous peoples relative to their population percentage. Afro-descendants face more barriers, as they must largely win legislative elections without the benefit of affirmative action. Afro-descendants remain excluded from formal politics even in Brazil, where the majority of the population self-identifies as black or brown. Indigenous and Afro-descendant women face barriers that emerge from both their gender and their race/ethnicity.
Gender, Race, and Political Representation in Latin America
Jennifer M. Piscopo and Kristin N. Wylie
Blackness, Race, and Politics in Argentina
Judith M. Anderson and Patricia Gomes
Africans and Afro-descendants in Argentina have a long tradition of organizing to resist all forms of oppression. This can be traced back to the 17th century with various forms of organizations including cofradias (religious brotherhoods or fraternal organizations), naciones (Afro-descendant social and cultural organizations), mutual aid societies, and military-based organizations in Río de la Plata, the region that would become Argentina and Uruguay. From the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries, as a part of the construction of the Argentine nation as European, white, and “civilized,” the myth of black disappearance was reified through discursive elimination and the cessation of collecting data on race or color in official records. The rise of Peronism in the 1940s would cause the return of race to public discourse, as large internal migrations of nonwhites from the interior of the country descended on major cities like Buenos Aires. The opponents of Perón, and his policies that embraced these poor migrants, mocked these individuals as cabecitas negras (derogatory term meaning “little black heads”), but they would open the possibility for a new reworking of a more inclusive Argentina. The new migrants represented a merging of categories of race and class, as these negros included Afro-Argentines who formed part of Perón’s constituency. The late 20th century would bring more direct challenges to black invisibility, with multiple new organizations and events centered on the experiences of the African diaspora in Argentina. One of the first organizations created after the return to democracy in Argentina was the Comité Argentino Latinoamericano contra el Apartheid (The Argentine Committee against Apartheid) in 1984. The example set by this organization, alongside inspiration from black liberation movements in the United States, Brazil, and on the African continent, would be a catalyst for the creation of numerous new black organizations for decades to come. Black organizing in Argentina found support in activist networks across the globe as well as across international organizations, which was reflected by the multicultural turn in Latin America during the 1990s. The era sparked the creation of significant legislation and activities due to pressure from local activists and the international community through organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. One of the earliest conferences organized by Argentine black activists was the first Jornada de Cultura Negra (Black Culture Conference) in 1991. The National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism (INADI) was created in 1995 by the Argentine state to address the needs of marginalized populations in Argentine society. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw increased immigration of highly visible Africans and Afro-descendants from Latin America and Caribbean countries, which led to the creation of novel organizations to serve their specific needs. New conferences and events that provided opportunities for these diasporas to organize and interact, like the Semana de África (Africa Week), were also created. Along with the existing black communities in Argentina, these organizations contributed to new legislation officially recognizing Afro-descendant populations and condemning racism. Many of these legislative acts were passed under the Fernández de Kirchner administration (2007–2015), like the 2015 Law No. 5.261 Against Discrimination, which provided a more comprehensive antidiscrimination policy, and the historic 2010 Argentine census which restored the possibility of identifying as Afro-descendant. The reappearance of the category in the 2010 census after over a 120-year absence had been prompted by the World Bank’s landmark census 5 years prior. Though these gains were primarily symbolic, they helped fortify black activism. Grassroots organizing and political mobilization has remained steadfast in spite of shifts in national politics, continuous economic instability, and increased antiblack racism at both the systemic and individual levels. As black activism increased incrementally over the decades, it inspired an upsurge of academic studies that in turn provided knowledge which helped propel activist efforts. The 21st century has been a particularly fruitful time in the Argentine academy as anthropological studies on Africans and Afro-descendants have proliferated. This time period has also marked a much-needed expansion of black organizing into more rural areas of the country, especially the northwest, which has historically had a large population of African descent. By holding more activities in the provinces and outside of the City of Buenos Aires, the decentralization of black activism has helped increase consciousness across the nation.
The Path to Black Citizenship in Peru: Ethno-Racial Legislation and the Political Recognition of Afro-Descendants in the Country
Mariela I. Noles Cotito
The formulation of legislation aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of racial and ethnic minorities in Latin America is a phenomenon that only became prevalent in the late 20th century. In fact, it was not until the end of the 1980s that a number of countries in the region began the process of constructing Black citizenship and providing Black people citizenship rights. During this period, deemed “multicultural constitutionalism,” some Latin American countries began to identify as multicultural states and/or included Black and Afro-descendant populations in their constitutional texts. The second stage of this process continued between 1990 and 2000, wherein some countries adopted a number of policies to address and eradicate racial inequality. Through these political choices, the adopting countries moved away from a structure of color-blind legalism and toward the official recognition of Indigenous and Black peoples’ collective rights. In Peru, although the political constitution was not amended, a robust body of ethno-racial legislation was introduced after the year 2000, demarking a structural shift in the country’s racial politics. This normative integration included the development of a number of national institutions and the promulgation of political measures promoting the advancement of Afro-descendants and other ethnic minorities. This integration process also led to the revision of existing legislation on racism and racial discrimination. By enacting this process, Peru committed to developing a process that would recognize Black citizenship in the country—one that began with the recognition of the political subjectivity of Black Peruvians and the creation of institutions for their social and political advancement.