From invisibility to empowerment - Cultural resistance and
the last few decades, one man has consistently been working to promote
the cause of the Afro-Venezuelans and became their most important
spokesman and leader: Jesús 'Chucho' Garcia
(nicknamed “the African from Barlovento”).
(Audio 8 - “El Nieto Del Retorno”,
Grupo Mina, Somos Mina) The second song by Grupo Mina “El Nieto del
Retorno” (The Grandchild of the Return) is a theme
by Chucho García, and it ‘returns’
as a bonus track as well. Here Chucho only plays the thumb-piano
and sings with a soft-spoken voice (very contrary to his more
rethorical voice): ”I came back to you as the grandchild
of memory / to shelter in your naked and tender breast / Muakaka
koko ya kento....” The song was inspired by a trip
to the Kongo in 1987; the first in situ confrontation with
the roots of Afro-Venezuelan culture, the first “Salto
al Atlantico” (the title of a 1989 documentary based
on the experience of the return, which shows the intimate
similarities between Afrovenezuelean and ‘African’
culture). Miguel Urbina also made the return
trip in search of “nuestra africanía”
– “our Africanness” and went to
Senegal. Grupo Mina elaborates on the rhytmical affinities
and family resemblances between African and Venezuelan - and
Cuban - musical traditions.
'Chucho' Garcia, advocate of the Afro-Venezuelans.
is a multifaceted personality; poet, militant, musician and also
founder and director of the Fundación Afroamerica
and editor of its magazine Africamerica.
This foundation is at the centre of a whole socio-political movement,
striving to empower Afro-Venezuelan men and women, revitalize their
legacy, and establish international solidarity between Afro-Americans
and Africans. He organised many meetings of “Afrodescendentes”
congresses (like the one about the abolishment of slavery), published
various books on Afro-Venezuelan history and identity, and produced
recordings which document the regional variety of Afro-Venezuelan
music, ”thus constituting the classics of Afro-Venezuelan
the Afrocentric mind of Jesús Garcia, the source of much
of the patrimony of Venezuela lies in Africa, and his mission to
promote the cause of the Afro-Venezuelans has been received well
nationally and internationally.
has insistently denounced the situation of ‘neo-slavery’
in which the majority of blacks have had to survive and strives
to bring progress to the black rural proletariat.
another level he looks for ways to emancipate the movement from
the “hegemonical Eurocentric discourse.” As the self-appointed
leader (and apostle) of the Afro-Venezuelans, he has in time become
an high profile actor on the national political scene. At first,
he kept himself at a critical distance from the project of Chávez
(which started in 1999 as a ill-defined 'socialist revolution').
Chávez champions the underpriviliged, and in due time Chucho
became involved in this larger “Bolivarian process,”
turning literally into one of its ambassadors. He now has the opportunity
to balance the myths and realities about Africa in situ, as he became
ambassador in Angola, part of a continent that is slowly being discovered
by Latin America.