African Roots in Paraguay


The Kamba Kokues

Today in our program, we continue talking about Blackness in the Americas. Our guess is Paraguay. We share a little bit of history, music, culture and more of Paraguay and Afro-Paraguayan.  Let’s beginning. Listen more in our Podcast.

Paraguay is a beautiful country. It’s located in South America. The official name is Republica del Paraguay.  It shares borders with Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia.  

Spanish conquistadores colonized Paraguay in 1524. The capital city is Asuncion. People speak Spanish and Guarani. Paraguay overthrew the local Spanish administration in May 14, 1811. Paraguay’s first dictator was José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia who ruled Paraguay from 1814 until his death in 1840, with very little outside contact or influence. 

Now, let’s talk about Afro-Paraguayos. As we have been talking about African descendants in the Americas, we continue thinking under that idea that very few people will name a country like Paraguay as a country with African descendants. This is something that we are trying to uncover. We want to tell you the other side of the story. 

The fact that, people might not think about Paraguay as an African descendant country is also because of the lack of education and information about Black people in this particular country. The national reports underestimates the actual number of Black – Paraguayans in Paraguay. We can only advocate and hope that in the next national census, the government of Paraguay will consider incorporating Afro-Paraguayans as an  identity to identify. So people can say, yes I am Paraguayan and also Afro-Paraguayan. As many other countries are doing it. 

Let’s talk about Kamba KoKue. Kamba Kokue which is in Guarani language translates into Spanish as Chacra de Negros, which translates into English as Chacra as a ranch and negros as Negros or Black. So Black people in Paraguay are mostly in the Paraguari Department, which is basically known in the US as a State.

Kamba Cuá is the place having the most important Afro Paraguayan community. This place, in the Central Department, is populated by so-called Artigas Cue – or “black of Kamba Cuá”-, which are descended from the Kamba people (It’s been know for anthropologies that Kamba people are a a Kenyan ethnic group).

So they arrived in Paraguay as members of a regiment of 250 spearmen, who came with General Jose Gervasio Artigas. Jose Gervasio Artigas was a leader of the independence in today’s Uruguay. So after, the revolution Jose Gervasio was living in exile in Paraguay until 1840. So the people who came with him,  stayed in the region, but Higinio Morinigo took a big piece of land in this region and force the Kamba Cua people to live in a small area. The data says they were reduced from 100 hectares to 3 hectares. 

This did not stop to the Kamba Cua people. Today, according to official report, it estimates, about 300 families (between 1,200 and 2,500 people) live in Kumba Cuá. However, and this is the other side of the story,  according to the censuses of the Afro Paraguayan Association Kamba Cuá, this community consists of only 422 people. 

Religion is an integral part of daily life. Currently they are Catholic. Their saint is San Benito of Palermo and King San Baltazar, who came from Uruguay. Their main festival is celebrated on January 6 each year at the community’s social club named after the patron saint. 

The artistic expressions of the Kamba Kua and culinary arts of this community have been maintained for nearly 180 years. Their oral tradition recalls that many of them participated and died in the defensive war against the Triple Alliance (1865–69), which destroyed Paraguay. They keep memories of their history, passed down from generation to generation, hold dances like “candombe”, dedicated to San Baltasar, and drumming. 

So, this community is the best known of African descent in Paraguay for having preserved their identity and culture, promoted through its traditional festivals. More on the topic here:

Here are the links for more information and reference:

Afro-Paraguayos website kwekudee

AfroParaguayans English

Guarani Translate

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