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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Argentina

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Argentina, 6 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e16d37f0.html [accessed 30 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Argentina is a federal republic with a population of approximately 40.1 million. For the first time since the late nineteenth century, the 2010 census (conducted in October 2010) included questions to compile information on the number of African descendants in Argentina. The last census to count the black population in Argentina occurred in 1895. Since then, Argentines of African descent have remained statistically invisible, which activists claim has fuelled a myth that a significant Afro-Argentine population no longer exists. It also means there is no data available on the actual number or socio-economic conditions of Afro-Argentine women.

Although many Afro-Argentines no longer have the more obvious physical attributes stereotypically associated with African descent, and although some may even be reluctant to claim African ancestry, in 2010 rights organizations, such as Diafar, estimated that there were about 2 million people of African descent in the country. Along with Afro-Argentine descendants from the colonial period and Afro-descendant migrants from neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Uruguay, the Argentine black population in 2010 included post-war migrants from the Cape Verde islands, and an ever-increasing number of – mostly male – political exiles and economic migrants from West and Central Africa.

The 2010 inclusion of census questions regarding the black population can be seen as a small victory for the predominantly female-led Argentine ethnic rights organizations, such as MRG partner Casa de la Cultura Indo-Afro Americana. These have fought in a persistent and sustained manner for over a decade to increase the visibility of African descendants.

The census was not without controversy. Rights activists charge that a number of African descendants and indigenous people who were trained to be census-takers during pilot trials were not actually used, contrary to agreements between rights organizations and the government's National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC). It also emerged that two types of questionnaires were deployed in 2010, a long and a short form. Only the long version included questions on 'Black' or 'Afro-descendant' and indigenous origins as one of the identifying categories. As Afro-Argentine activists discovered, this longer form was only applied to one in every ten households, meaning that within Argentina's highly diverse urban neighbourhoods, there was a high probability that census-takers would miss homes inhabited by African descendants and indigenous people, and once again leave them undifferentiated.

Disappointment among the Afro-Argentine community prompted concerns regarding the bureaucratic challenges Afro-Argentineans would eventually face at national, regional and local levels, as a result of inaccurate data generated by the census, and the resulting lack of statistical data relating to their demographic and socio-economic situation. They are particularly concerned that the data gap will continue to make it difficult to develop and implement appropriate policies and programmes to address the specific needs of their marginalized communities. In response, at the end of 2010, African descendant rights groups in Argentina began strengthening their efforts to develop rights monitoring and data compilation bodies of their own.

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