- Posted January 21, 2014 by
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
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Afro-Bolivian community of Santa Cruz honored Martin Luther King
Representatives of the small and barely known afro community of Bolivia, the Union Afro of Santa Cruz honored Martin Luther King on the worldwide Memorial Day of the civil rights activist by ringing the Freedom-bell.
The Aprendizaje en Acción Foundation and the Afrobolivian Union of Santa Cruz had a dream, and that dream became true on the 20th of January 2014 in Santa Cruz. These two organizations joined The King Center’s world wide “Let the Freedom Bell Ring: Choose Nonviolence” bell-ringing event, celebrating alongside the delegation of the Embassy of the United States at the Bolivian American Center.
The Freedom Bell rung in remembrance of the life and work of Dr. King at 19:00 local Bolivian time, in the presence of the Afrobolivian community leaders, local public authorities and other representatives of the civil society.
"The memorial event is a tribute to the legacy of the tireless effort of Dr. Martin Luther King, and those, who like us believe in no-violence and dignity as the only mean of struggle to achieve equality of mankind, without regard to race, belief and social status." - expressed Oscar Pinedo Medina, president of the Afro-Bolivian Union of Santa Cruz.
The ancestors of the current Afro-Bolivians were brought to the Americas by the Spanish mine owners in the sixteenth century to substitute the native work force that virtually had been exterminated by that time due to the extremely hard labor conditions.
The Afro Bolivian were subject to endless working shifts and the unhuman treatments in the Potosí mine, located at an elevation of 14 000 feet. It is estimated that nearly 8 million Natives and Africans lost their lives in the back-, and soul breaking slavery of the colonial period.
After the emancipation of the African slaves in Bolivia in 1825 they were relocated to the Yungas region north of La Paz, where their rich mestizo culture flourished in to one of the most colorful and unique cultural heritage of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
Currently there is an estimated number of 25 000 Afro Bolivians living in the Yungas Region, Cochabamba, and recently a growing number of afros established in the southern department of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It is reported that the Afro-Bolivians still face discrimination and disadvantages in health, education, income, literacy and are still subject to inhuman work conditions.
Despite the challenges the AfroBolivian Union today is a well-organized community with bright prospects for the future, with skilled and devoted community leaders.
"The community leaders work together with NGOs such as the Fundación Aprendizaje en Acción to promote their cultural heritage and a true, inclusive social development based on equality and education, as it was dreamed by Martin Luther King 51 years ago." - underlined Patricia Chávez Zalles, director of AEA.