Afro-Venezuelans - Orientation

Identification. Afro-Venezuelans are designated by Spanish terms; no words of African derivation are used. "Afro-venezolano" is used primarily as an adjective (e.g., folklore afro-venezolano). "Negro" is the most general term of reference; "Moreno" refers to darker-skinned people, and "Mulatto" refers to lighter-skinned people, usually of mixed European-African heritage. "Pardo" was used in colonial times to refer to freed slaves, or those of mixed Euro-African background. "Zambo" referred to those of mixed Afro-indigenous background. "Criollo," which retains its colonial meaning of "being born in Venezuela," does not indicate any racial or ethnic affiliation.

Location. The largest Afro-Venezuelan population is located in the Barlovento region about 100 kilometers east of Caracas. Comprising an area of 4,500 square kilometers, Barlovento covers four districts of the state of Miranda. There are also important Afro-Venezuelan communities along the coasts of Carabobo (Canoabo, Patanemo, Puerto Cabello), the Distrito Federal (Naiguatá, La Sabana, Tarma, etc.), Aragua (Cata, Chuao, Cuyagua, Ocumare de la Costa, etc.), and the southeast shore of Lake Maracaibo (Bobures, Gibraltar, Santa María, etc.). Smaller pockets are also found in Sucre (Campoma, Güiria), the southwest area of Yaracuy (Farriar), and the mountains of Miranda (Yare). An important Afro-Venezuelan community is also to be found in El Callao, in the southernmost state of Bolívar, where miners from both the French and British Antilles settled in the mid-nineteenth century.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish, the language of the Conquest, is spoken, in creolized form (Sojo 1986, 317332). African words are frequently used, especially with reference to instruments and dances; these are predominantly of Bantu and Manding origin (Sojo 1986, 95-108).

Demography. The official estimate of those with "pure" Afro-Venezuelan ancestry is 10 to 12 percent of the total population (i.e., about 1.8 million to 2 million). Sixty percent of all Venezuelans, however, claim some African blood, and Afro-Venezuelan culture is acknowledged as an important component of national identity.

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