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For Afro-Chileans, First Step Is Getting Counted

How Chile’s Afro-descendant rights groups are pushing for inclusion in the national census.

Seventeen years ago, a group of Latin American and Caribbean NGOs, government agencies and regional bodies officially adopted the term “Afro-descendant” to refer to the region’s approximately 150 million citizens of African origin. The occasion was the Latin American Regional Conference Against Racism in Santiago, and the host was the government of Chile.

Ironically, nearly two decades later and Chile is one of just a handful of countries in Latin America that do not explicitly include an Afro-descendant category on their official census forms. Despite a push from Chile’s Afro-descendant community, that absence will continue in a condensed census set to take place on April 19.

“Afro-descendant people’s fight for inclusion in Chile’s national statistics started in 2005 … There is a vicious cycle of the state denying the existence of Afro-descendants,” said Cristian Báez, director of the Afro-Chilean NGO Lumbanga.

The National Institute of Statistics’ (INE) decision not to incorporate the category “Afro-descendant/Black” in a question about inclusion in indigenous and ethnic groups in this year’s census came as a surprise to some activists. They say that a 2013 regional pilot project by the INE, which identified approximately 8,415 Afro-descendant people in Arica and Parinacota in northern Chile, was supposed to be a precursor to a reference in future censuses.

Read entire article at Americas Quarterly:

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