Afrodescendientes: Race, politics and development in Venezuela

Nadia Mosquera Muriel //International Development// Wednesday 20th April 2016//1-2pm//Arts C133

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Before Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, remained largely unacknowledged the existence of African cultural, political and economic roots in Venezuela. This has been the result of elites’ discourses on Mestizaje (race mixture between Europeans, Indigenous, and Africans) to unify highly mixed populations around a consciousness of ‘we are all mestizos’. However, Mestizaje disguises a system of racial inequality without racial tensions. This hegemonic construction of identities only emphasised their European and –in lesser extents-, Indigenous values while rejecting Africans in most Latin American countries during the XX century.

The coup in 2002 against the President Hugo Chavez was a crucial point in which Venezuelan elites surfaced, that a substantial part of the anti-Chavez sentiments was due to not only his style and his appeal to the poorest sectors but also due to his skin colour and physical features. On the other hand, was during Chavez Presidency (and now Nicolas Maduro) that Afro-Venezuelans challenged Mestizaje discourse and are in the process of creating on a larger scale, a political Afrodescendiente (black) identity to overcome poverty and racism in the country.

This presentation reconstructs and interprets with ethnographic data, the construction of a black/Afrodescendiente consciousness in a small rural Afro-Venezuelan village (Osma). Their inhabitants are the descendants of African peoples who were enslaved in the area during colonial times. Paradoxically, the engagement between the State andAfrodescendientes leaders in Osma is developing within a network of clientelism and corporatism, which are structures of domination, that limits the ways in which local leaders can satisfy the collective demands for development of their own village.

Biography

Nadia Mosquera Muriel is a Ph.D. candidate in International Development at the University of Sussex. She has experience as a consultant on foreign policy issues within the Venezuelan public sector. Her current research interests centre on the development of a black consciousness in Venezuela and the political strategies followed by Afrodescendientes/black groups to engage with the State.

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