The overwhelming majority of African slaves in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade went to South America and the Caribbean. Afrodescendientes, an exhibition originally mounted in Spain’s Casa de America by celebrated Cuban photographer and documentarian Roberto Chile and curator Juan Carlos Moya, explores the African presence in Cuba through Chile’s stunning photographs. Chile, who served as staff photographer for Fidel Castro from 1984-2006, originally created this collection of photographs for the UNESCO International Year for people of African Descent, 2011. Taken from 2010 to 2011, some images are extremely artistic, while others have a grittier, journalistic style. However, taken together they cover topics ranging from religion, music, dance, work and play, and the everyday life of the Afrodescendientesof Guanabacoa, Cuba.
Guanabacoa is a township in Eastern Havana and is home to the first African Cabildo (an ethnic mutual aid society formed by freed Africans, which allowed them to continue many African traditions, religions and artistic practices). Geographically, Guanabacoa is located where the slave ships arrived to clean and prepare slaves before taking them to Havana for sale, and is currently home to many Afro-Cubans. More than creating ethnic townships and societies, Afro-Cubans, who mostly have Sub-Saharan African ancestry, have had a tremendous impact on the larger Cuban culture. The Afrocubanismo Movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s, which was not entirely different from the Harlem Renaissance, emphasized Black culture in literature, poetry, painting and music throughout Cuba. Religiously, Santeria, Abakua and other practices are highlighted, evidencing how Afro-Cubans held on to many aspects of their African culture. In this way, Afro-Cubans embodied the fight for independence from Spain all while helping to form a general Cuban national identity.
Reorganized by Dr. Javon Johnson, CAAM Program Manager & History Curator. Designed by Ed Garcia, CAAM Production Supervisor.
Deep appreciation to the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and to Friends, the Foundation for the California African American Museum for supporting the mounting of this exhibition.