Memé Salazar Rodriguez ’17

Project TitleThe Legacy of the African Diaspora Through Slavery in Afro-Brazilian Identity
Other Student Participants – Kadra-Ayan Ahmed ’17
Mentor – Juan Armando Rojas-Joo

I (along with Kadra-Ayan Ahmed) went to Salvador Bahía and Río de Janeiro in Brazil to study the influence of the African slaves on the local culture, now known as the Afro-Brazilian culture. I did this trip as part of my independent study with Dr. Rojas Joo about Afro-Brazilian identity.

Salvador was chosen because it was the first capital of Brazil and because during this time it was also one of the first cities with a slave market in the American continent. Also, it is the area with the highest density of people of African descent in Brazil, and many important patrimonies of afro-Brazilian cultures came from this region. On the other hand, Río de Janeiro was chosen because it was the port that received the highest amount of slaves in the whole American continent. From here, people were trafficked to many other parts in America and within Brazil itself.

Mainstream Brazilian media has been advertising that there have been various sites, hidden for so long, such as dumping grounds and slave market areas, that have been re-discovered and made into important landmarks. They have also been advertising the existence of many museums and festivals that celebrate the African heritage, the coming back to their roots, and their presence in the country.

However, what we expected and what we saw was different. In our research about the building of Black identity in Brazil, we found ourselves struggling to access the resources. The information we obtained and how it was presented and collected are both important in how we understand the Afro-Brazilian identity. In this symposium I plan to share, in the format of a presentation with audio-visual resources, my understanding of Black identity in Brazil nowadays and how it was built in the context of our findings from our trip.