8% of Uruguay is black—and maybe more

Afro-Uruguayans play a huge part in Uruguay's cultural identity. Are they really just 8% of the population? The new census may correct the stats.
By Karen A Higgs
Black Uruguay: 8% of Uruguayans are black, and it may be more
Last updated on April 28, 2023
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When Uruguay carried out its last census of the population in 2011, 8.1% of people classified themselves as black.

However, some estimates say the number may be as high as 14%. In Rivera, a northern department which borders Brazil, possibly almost one in four inhabitants is black. Uruguay’s new census may shed more light.

When did Africans come to Uruguay?

The first Africans arrived almost three hundred years ago—in 1750—before Uruguay even existed as a nation. Montevideo was a major slave trade port, as was Buenos Aires across the water. For the next 60 years, large numbers of enslaved Africans were trafficked by the English and the Spanish. Slavery was abolished a century later in 1846.

Afro-Uruguayans are major contributors to Uruguay’s culture and sense of nationhood. Anyone can see that by the presence of African rhythms in Uruguayan music and dance and the centrality of black Uruguay in Uruguayan carnival.

We are Afro

Black Uruguayans were invisible in official statistics between 1852 and 1996. Once the official census started to collect information about Afro-Uruguayans as a group, statistics demonstrated that black Uruguayans were leaving formal education earlier, tended to have lower status jobs and were more poorly paid.

This weekend, a new national census begins. And with it a campaign to encourage people of African heritage to identify themselves as such. People have been reluctant in the past due to a lack of information or stigma.

A campaign #SomosAfro (#WeAreAfro) aims to improve the statistics. And explains that accurate data is essential to design targeted policies on inclusion, health, housing, education, access to services, and more.

The terms used in the video are ‘afro’ or ‘negra’ (black).

Learn more about the history of Afro-Uruguayans from this great book

Sources: El Observador

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