"You are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator": Contextualising Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
In Latin America, despite the fact that nearly 30% of the region’s population is of Black-African ancestry,[i] little recognition is given to the literary contributions made in Spanish by Afro-descendants. A comparable situation of invisibility is faced by authors from Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish speaking country in sub-Saharan Africa.[ii] In the same way, immigrant writers from Latin America and Africa living in Spain are often overlooked. Why this invisibility? How have Afro-Hispanic authors responded to these omissions? Moreover, what concepts are helpful to study these literatures? And, why should we study them? These are some of the questions that guide this brief essay on the literary production in Spanish by Black writers in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea, and Spain.
The term “Afro-Hispanic” comprises a history of intercontinental exchanges of people, languages, religious beliefs, cultural affiliations, and colonial/neocolonial economic interests. Afro-Hispanic communities are heirs of historical processes such as the African slave trade in the Spanish colonies; the strategic possessions of Spain in the Gulf of Biafra; the migration of Anglophone Black workers from the West Indies to continental Latin America fostered by American companies; and, in the few last decades, the arrival of African and Latin American immigrants to Spain. Starting in the 20th century, there has been a flourishing literary production developed by authors who belong to communities of this diverse diaspora. Their texts, however, are hard to find in mainstream outlets. This is in part due to the fact that most of these works of fiction are published with scarce means and in very small numbers, which makes circulation a challenge. But there are other factors that have contributed to this invisibility.
In Latin America, the lack of recognition of Black writers (and, in actual fact, of the Black population) has been the result of early 20th century state-based cultural politics infused with social Darwinism. In spite of the constitutional claims of multiculturalism in most Latin American countries since the 1990’s, the existence of Afro-Latin Americans (let alone Black writers) in the region is not widely known. Likewise, the general unawareness of the very existence of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea; and, on the other hand, the social rejection of Black immigrants in Spain, even when they come from former Spanish colonies in Latin America and Africa, are signs of an inclination to deny blackness as a social component of the Hispanic world.
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[i] As reported by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
[ii] See WLT’s September 2012 cover feature
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“You Are the Prisoner, the Discoverer, the Founder, the Liberator”: Contextualizing Decolonial Paths of Afro-Hispanic Literature in Latin America, Equatorial Guinea and Spain
by Elisa Rizo
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by Carole Boyce Davies