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Afro-Salvadoran are the African population that came to El Salvador, who have completely mixed into the general mestizo population, which in reality is the combination of Mestizos and Pardo people who cluster together. Pardo is the term used in colonial El Salvador to describe a tri-racial Afro-Mestizo person of Indigenous, European, and African mixture. Despite their racial admixture everyone in El Salvador identifies as culturally Mestizo. A total of 10,000 African slaves were brought to El Salvador. The country has no English Antillean (West Indian) neither Garifuna populations, largely due to laws banning the immigration of blacks into the country in the 1930s; these laws were revoked in the 1980s. During the colonial period and as in other Latin American countries, African slaves have mixed with the general population and can be referred to them as Afro-mestizos. As a result, due to miscegenation, the majority of black people became in Mulatto (50% black-50% white) and Zambo (50% black-50% Amerindian), and these in turn became Quadroon (75% white and 25% black) and Cambujos (75% Amerindian and 25% black) and eventually became in white and Amerindians.


Origins and distribution[edit]

According to the historian Marvin Aguilar, the first African slaves arrived in El Salvador, arrived to Guatechola's canvas.[clarification needed] The April 1, 1528 arrived an African with his tribal costume yet.[1] El Salvador had 10,000 slaves. Slaves came from Santiago, in Guatemala, from which were distributed by Central America. Thus, many of the blacks people who worked in rural Salvadoran areas came from West Africa and usually, as in Guatemala, from Senegambia.[2] Furthermore, according to various colonial archives on the province of San Salvador, the slaves brought by Portuguese merchants to Acajutla, in the Salvadoran town of Sonsonate, came from Angola and "the Guineas", while the slaves brought by the British merchants came from Mozambique.[1] The slaves mainly reached to Sonsonate, where they were redistributed to the rest of San Salvador and Sonsonate. Most of slaves began to be imported around the 1540s.

The four forced migrations[edit]

Blacks slaves arrived in the country in forced migration: The first slaves arrived in El Salvador to work in the haciendas, on cocoa and indigo mills. The intense richness of cocoa from Izalcos made this was one of the first regions to have significant numbers of African slaves, cocoa exploitation required free labor. Thus arose several enclaves of black slaves in places such as the shores of Lake Coatepeque and in the town of La Trinidad in Sonsonate, on the banks of the river Cenzúnat. The black slaves on the plantations were usually people trusted by their masters and they could play a role with the Indians intimidating as foremen.[1]

However, when cocoa was sold, slaves were used in the cultivation of indigo, as several royal decrees had prohibited the use of Indian labor in the mills and the Spanish needed labor in these cultures. Thus, in the mills indigo, there was considerable demand for black labor, which was provided with the slave trade in ships coming to the north coast, in a usually authorized traffic to Portuguese, who had asentistas license and permit introduction. So, San Vicente and San Miguel, became the first African slave centers of El Salvador. Then, with the fall of indigo industry, investment to build Salvadoran cities required skilled labor because there was a lot of building to be done. Thus came the second wave of black slaves who worked in the construction industry and to a lesser extent in the production of gold mines. So, in San Salvador and San Miguel, many people had black slaves, some of whom were sent to wash gold in Honduran rivers, which was a major industry in the sixteenth century. For 1545, noted a sum of about 1,500 blacks seeking auriferous sands in Honduras.

Finally, African people may have come as laborers to begin construction of the railway in the nineteenth century. It's possible another wave came in the early 20th century. But much research is still lacking to sustain the past two claims. That is why, you can find places with black population like San Vicente (in Verapaz) and San Miguel colonial (in San Alejo), in which the Africans worked in the indigo industries. Similarly, African slaves were found in Atiquizaya, who were active participants in the revolt of 1932. Also, Nejapa in San Salvador, was initially populated mulattoes.[1]

Progress, miscegenation increased the Afro-Salvadoran population[edit]

Although we know little about Afro - descendants of El Salvador (and Guatemala) working in the agricultural sector, several sources in the last third of the sixteenth century, identified Afro Salvadoran farming communities in the area surrounding the city of Sansonante. Free people of African descent and slaves also worked on the production of indigo in the Pacific coast of Guatemala and, especially, of El Salvador, eventually host over 200 indigo mills. People of African descent tended to work in the mills, usually doing the work of supervision during Xiquilite harvest. This station lasted only one or two months a year, making it unprofitable to maintain a permanent workforce only enslaved workers to produce indigo. Some owners of mills, hired more slaves of which them needed to produce indigo since used for other activities, such as livestock.

So, regions such as San Salvador, San Vicente, Zacatecoluca, Chinameca, and Ahuachapan had significant population of Afro-descendants.[2] In the province of San Salvador, 2.000 black people rose between November and December 1624, reaching militants troops from Comayagua (Honduras), to address the danger to the province. It was a contingent of indigenous and Ladino soldiers from Zacatecoluca and Apastepeque who captured the slaves, who found in the banks of the Lempa, in El Marquesado and namesake hill, as well as downstream, near the mouth. All Blacks caught were executed in San Salvador in 1625.[3]

This discouraged the importation of African slaves. The Afro-descendants eventually began to mix with the general population, being the black people thereby replaced by a mulatto and zambo population. African men readily chose Amerindian women, so their children would be free. Laws were passed banning the miscegenation of the African and Amerindian population for this reason.

Many mulattoes became landowners and joined through an estate owners, often to the detriment of the natives. Several places were populated with mulatto families of origin and settled in neighborhoods of cities like the neighborhood of Angel, in La Trinidad of Sonsonate, and neighborhoods of San Vicente, San Miguel and San Salvador. They also were integrated into indigenous neighborhoods and villages in estates and royal lands, which later become Ladino peoples.[3]

In the eighteenth century there was an increase in the population of African descent. In 1775, four people are totally mulattoes. In the early nineteenth century to form the new republic of El Salvador are mulattoes. In 1807, the mulattoes were the largest segment of the population in San Salvador and, in 1821, San Miguel reports 95% of its population as Afro-descendants.[3]

Abolition of slavery and beyond[edit]

In times of the Intendencia, when few blacks people were already in a state of slavery, there were regulations for owners of slaves, in order of the Crown to the Audiencia Real. For example, in San Miguel was in September 1804. Also the cabildo of St. Vincent de Austria and La Trinidad, in Sonsonate, promulgated it.[3] Slavery was banned in 1825, which turned to El Salvador in the second country to abolish slavery in the Americas after Haiti.[1] Numerous slaves from Belize fled to El Salvador, eventually mixing with the native population.[2][4]

In the late nineteenth century, the Catholic Church began to classify the population. In 1933, General Martinez Hernández, concerned about the events in Europe and following the example of Adolf Hitler, wrote a law, called the Immigration limitations, prohibiting the entry into the country of blacks, Chinese, Arabs, Gypsies, and many others. El Salvador urged, however, the north-central European immigration to whiten the population. These events further strengthened the Salvadoran denial rooted black and the Afro - descendants legally disappeared. However, that law was abolished by the new laws of 1959 and 1986.[1][3]

Afro-Salvadoran militias[edit]

In 1611, in Guatemala and El Salvador, when the free mulattoes helped defeat the Maroons of Tutale, not allowed people of African descent officially participate in militia companies, but Africans and their descendants, even enslaved, had fought with Spanish forces from time to time since the conquest. However, in the 30s of this century, a wave of attacks Centre - America, by corsairs Dutch, French and British persuaded to the Audiencia to enlist free people of African descent in regular militia companies, although segregated. In 1673 there were 6 Pardo companies in Guatemala and two in El Salvador. Soon there were also places like chivalry in Sonsonate Department and Chiquimula, Guatemala. After early struggles against the corsairs, the browns requested exemption of Laborío Tribute, threatening not to serve if they are not granted the exemption. Because of that, several companies of militia were temporary tax exemptions Laborio during the 1690s. The militants claimed this success and soon new Exemptions requested when aspirated initials. Soon, the rest of the Afro - descendants also expected to be relieved Laborío tribute, and prepared to face the authorities on the subject, rebelling against them. The most prominent example occurred in 1720 in San Salvador, where he had been a slave rebellion less than a century before. When the rumor that officials were preparing a new census of the Tribute Collection Laborío spread throughout the neighborhoods of the mulattoes, at least 200 people took to the streets, threatening to burn the residence of the mayor. The malcontents were persuaded to return home only after they were taught the list, barely containing 40 names. Spanish officials, who did not dare to continue the account, estimated that the actual number of residents in the city who were eligible for inclusion in "Pattern" was about 1,000[2]

Cultural legacy[edit]

Africans also left a cultural legacy in the Salvadoran society perceptible current. Thus, El Salvador have the dance of the "Negritos of Cacaopera" (in Spanish: Black people from Caaopera). Morazán also reflects the composition of the colonial militia and the early years of the republic of Pardos. In Ereguayquin, in Usulután Department, we find the Tabales dance in honor of San Benito de Palermo, black saint. In Izalco, Sonsonate, we have the Jeu Jeu; in Tacuba, Ahuachapán, we have the "baile de la Negra Sebastiana" (in Spanish: Dance of the Sebastiana black), explaining through its members the arrival of the Spanish with the Tlaxcalans and blacks people in El Salvador.

Others Salvadoran cultural elements of African origin are: the sopa de pata (in Spanish: legs soup), chanfaina; the canasto; the marimba, some variants of witchcraft and the black Christs scattered around the country. So as also the "liberation" of black slaves by non-indigenous Jose Simeon Canas in 1823 and the works of Salarrué, Francisco Gavidia, David J. Guzman or Benjamin Saul are culturo-anthropological traits that certify the African presence.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g África, la otra raíz salvadoreña (in Spanish: Africa, the other Salvadoran root). Posted by Marvin Aguilar Retrieved on February 13, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Del olvido a la memoria: africanos y afromestizos en la historia colonial de Centroamérica (in Spanish: From Oblivion to Memory: Afromestizos in African and Central American colonial history).
  3. ^ a b c d e La Prensa gráfica. com. Bicentenario: los esclavos negros: presencia y Resistencia (in Spanish: the graph Press. com. Bicentennial: black slaves: presence and Resistance). The text reflected on this site comes from the Salvadoran Academy of History. Part of your information is shared with the web: Africa, la otra Raíz salvadoreña (in Spanish: Africa, the other Salvadoran root). Retrieved on February 13, 2013, at 1:47 pm.
  4. ^ William, Kent C. Afromestizo(2001). The African Heritage of Central Mexico. El Salvador.

Text from Afro-Pedea