Mar 11, 2012

An Afro-Bolivian in Durban
By Alejandro Fernandez Gutierrez

In 2001 South Africa, Africa opened the door to welcome hundreds and hundreds of African descendants around the world. The news of Durban conference 2001 spread like the wind traveled from South to North, from East to West, and Bolivia was present in it.

The applications were open to everybody who wanted to participate in Durban 2001, "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance". Unfortunately, in Bolivia very few people talked about African descendants and by that time Afro-Bolivians were ignored, excluded and forgotten by their government. Yet, the culture and identity was present from generation to generation. Uncle Benjamin, (we call him Tío Benjo) was one of the hundreds of hundreds of African descendants who were invited to participate in Durban’s Conference. He always knew where he came from and the history of Afro-Bolivians. He was so excited and motivated to be in Africa after years of slavery of his ancestors. Afro-Bolivians gave him a warm goodbye.

Everybody wanted to know more about Africa and its history. After Tío Benjo returned from Africa everybody wanted to know what were the thoughts of their brothers and sisters. He brought to Afro-Bolivians hope and faith. He told them that their history is more than they thought, and it must not die. He came back with a lot of energy to promote our traditional music and dance, la Saya. La Saya developed more energy and legitimacy after Tío Benjo’s visit to Durban. He brought legitimacy to Afro-Bolivians and kept their culture alive.

Today, I feel that Afro-Bolivians and Africans are connected. The Durban conference was very important for hundreds of thousands of African descendants worldwide. Through this conference, many governments decided to dedicate and spend resources to promote the African culture outside of Africa. The Diaspora had spoken and Afro-Bolivians are proud of that.