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November 8 celebrated as ‘Afro-Argentinian Day’

11/14/2013, 3:07 p.m.
Afro-Argentinean Day poster with depiction of Maria Remedios del Valle

Argentina celebrated its first official “Afro-Argentinean Day” on Friday, Nov. 8.

Officially known as Law 26.852, or the “National Day of the Afro-Argentineans and of Black Culture,” the act was signed into law by the National Congress earlier this year on April 24. During this first year of official celebrations, events included governmental recognitions, various films, workshops and lectures throughout Argentina. The law establishing Afro-Argentinean Day also requires that Afro-Argentinean themes be recognized and incorporated into national school curriculums.

The national holiday is being viewed as a victory for the nation’s Black Movement, which has spent decades campaigning against the notion that there either are no Black people in Argentina or that those Blacks found in Argentina do not have a long history in the nation. Today, there are an estimated 2 million people of African descent in Argentina of various ethnicities, including Afro-Argentineans, Cape Verde Argentineans, and many West and Central African immigrants. As recently as 2010, the national census for the first time included questions that allowed citizens to identify themselves as people of African descent. Prior to that, the last identification of any Argentinean as a person of African descent was in 1895.

Afro-Argentinean Day formally honors the life of María Remedios del Valle, an Afro-Argentinean who has been termed the “Mother of the Nation” because she served as part of a group of Afro-Argentineans who nursed Argentinean soldiers on the front lines as they fought for their nation’s independence in the early 1800s.

Remedios del Valle saw her family die during these battles, was taken prisoner and beaten, escaped and later served more time on the front lines. Because of her bravery and loyalty, a famed Argentinean military leader gave Remedios del Valle the title of captain. However, following the independence struggles, Remedios del Valle’s bravery was forgotten by the Argentinean government and a special petition had to be drawn up for her to receive a pension in her old age. The exact date of Remedios del Valle’s death is not known, but historians believe she died sometime between Oct. 28 and Nov. 8 of 1847.