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Afro-Uruguayans dancing in Candombe festival.
Total population
255 074[1]
Regions with significant populations
Montevideo (Barrio Sur and Palermo)
Rioplatense Spanish, Portuñol
Umbanda, Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Buddhism, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Afro-Latin Americans

Afro-Uruguayans are Uruguayans of predominantly African descent. The majority of Afro-Uruguayans are in Montevideo.[2]


The term “Afro-Uruguayans” is problematic in itself, the phrase diminishes relations of these individuals in black communities and is much too specific because of mixed cultures. To strengthen the connections between black communities back in the 1800s, “Orientals” is more fitting in regards to modern-day Uruguay, rather than “Afro-Uruguayans” because of lands history and origin.[3]

The region of Uruguay has a complex history of militias and military action. Colonial militia service went hand in hand with slave enrollment during wars of independence. These militias, specifically the colonial Black militias centered in the Rio de la Plata had opened themselves to the idea of taking in slaves to strengthen their military, meaning both free and enslaved men of African descent fought together in battles after 1810.[3] The gain of slaves allowed the addition of people, mixing races, ideals and class levels. Black recruits within the militia had mixed thoughts on the military, some soldiers seeing the military as a burden versus black officers seeing potential in the militias. The new recruits taken in, in the form of slaves provided more soldiers that would be fighting for Uruguay on foot. The slaves involved in these militias, also called “citizen-soldiers” were able to defend their rights and gain some freedom through their service. This new form of freedom allowed enslaved and free men alike to create black communities, where soldiers would create identities and be one with society. Slave ships bringing over soldiers brewed collected identities to interact with one another and create social networks. These networks allowed Africans and their descendants to push against domination within the Spanish Regime.[3] All men strong enough and of African descent were impacted by the military regardless to if they were already in a battalion or an emerging battalion. Men of color who were free were sometime forced to serve along white men before 1841[3] Even with the pressure of the military some Africans willingly joined militias before slavery was abolished.

Black communities in these Militias allowed Africans to feel a sense of belonging and helping them ease into colonial societies such as the Republic of Uruguay. Up till 1830, black soldiers were responsible for the establishment and creation of the first professional Uruguayan infantry, only to be followed by all African men of ancestry being added into the army of Guerra Grande from 1839 to 1852 and freed.[3] With the freedom of slaves, unlike before, where black soldiers were commanded by white officers, now, anyone from black battalions could participate in military networks. Black militia officers gained legal privileges and contributed in national politics because of the ban on slavery. Along with the anti slavery laws set in Uruguay, any newly arrived slaves would be freed and be reintroduced as “African colonist”. As new recruits of black soldiers flowed in, the freed individuals were able to connect more with commanders and people in units and create social strategies in these new formations. The building of Uruguay and its success hinges mainly on its military, the black militias and their actions based on African-born population[3] In the second half of the 18th Century after the abolishment of slavery, a war in the Río de la Plata deployed free black militias. These militias were spread from Paraguay to Montevideo[3] African troops were ordered to march beside the Spanish to fight the Guaraní missions on the Uruguay River. Over this mass of land, the Militia service hosted opportunities for isolated black populations to make contact and create bonds with the militias. These interactions allowed more men to join and prolong the development of these associations. African influence in the military was vast, and the militias took in these traditions to celebrate and honor African culture.

The Day of Kings was a celebration portrayed by Africans and was heavily influenced by the Catholic religion and how it was mixed with African ideals. African traditions were incorporated into the Military uniforms and flag of Uruguay in order to capture the sense of community and the value of culture. This furthered the sense of belonging in these militias, where African battalions could highlight their military role in the founding of the nation.[3]


Distribution of Uruguayans of African descent by region, according to the 2011 census
Afro-Uruguayan Population Census 2011, by department
Department Rank % Afro-Uruguayans[4]
Rivera 1 17,3%
Artigas 2 17,1%
Cerro Largo 3 10,9%
Salto 4 9,9%
Tacurembo 5 9,9%
Montevideo 6 9,0%
Treinta y Tres 7 8,0%
Canelones 8 7,5%
Rocha 9 7,2%
Río Negro 10 6,8%
Durazno 11 6,3%
San José 12 5,7%
Maldonado 13 5,3%
Florida 14 4,8%
Lavalleja 15 4,4%
Paysandú 16 4,4%
Flores 17 3,6%
Soriano 18 3,3%
Colonia 19 3,0%


Painting of a crowd participating in a candombe

Candombe is a style of music and dance that originated in Uruguay among the descendants of liberated African slaves. In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed candombe in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[5]

To a lesser extent, candombe is practiced in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. In Argentina, it can be found in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Paraná, and Corrientes. In Paraguay, this tradition continues in Camba Cuá and in Fernando de la Mora near Asunción. In Brazil, candombe retains its religious character and can be found in the states of Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.

This Uruguayan music style is based on three different drums: chico, repique, and piano drums. It is usually played in February during carnival in Montevideo at dance parades called llamadas and desfile inaugural del carnaval.

Recent immigration trends[edit]

At the beginning of the 21st century there are some Nigerians,[6] Cameroonians, Senegalese and other African immigrants.[7] Additionally, in the border region in the north of the country with Brazil Afro-Brazilians have become an increasingly large part of the population.[8]

Afro-Uruguayan cuisine[edit]

Afro-Uruguayan cuisine refers to the culinary traditions of the Afro-Uruguayans. The cuisine is influenced by the African heritage of the community, as well as the local ingredients and cooking techniques of Uruguay. While specific dishes may vary, here are a few examples of Afro-Uruguayan food:

Mandioca: Also known as cassava or yuca, mandioca is a staple in Afro-Uruguayan cuisine. It is often boiled, fried, or used to make a traditional dish called "mazamorra," which is a thick porridge made from cassava flour.

Mondongo: This is a hearty soup made from tripe (the lining of a cow's stomach) and various vegetables. Mondongo is seasoned with spices and often served with cornbread or rice.

Asado negro: This dish is a variation of the popular Uruguayan barbecue, known as "asado." Asado negro features marinated beef, cooked slowly until it develops a rich, dark crust. It is usually accompanied by chimichurri sauce and served with traditional sides like potatoes or salad.

Dulce de batata: This is a sweet treat made from sweet potatoes. The potatoes are boiled until tender, mashed, and then cooked with sugar until thickened. The result is a delicious paste that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a filling for pastries and desserts.

These are just a few examples of Afro-Uruguayan food. The cuisine is diverse and has influences from both African and Uruguayan culinary traditions, creating a unique fusion of flavors and ingredients.


There is an Afro-Uruguayan trend within the feminist movement.[9]

Notable Afro-Uruguayans[edit]




  • Adelia Silva (1925-2004), educator and poet, who had a significant role in improving civil rights for Afro-Uruguayans[10]
  • Sandra Chagas, dancer and activist







Track & Field[edit]



  1. ^ "La población afro-uruguaya en el Censo 2011" (in Spanish). 7 March 2021. Archived from the original on 18 November 2020.
  2. ^ Felipe Arocena. "The contribution of immigrants to Uruguay" (PDF) (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h ELENA, EDUARDO (2016-10-24). "Alex Borucki, From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Río de la Plata (Albuquerque, NM: University of Mexico Press, 2015), pp. xiii + 306, £26.95, pb". Journal of Latin American Studies. 48 (4): 860–862. doi:10.1017/s0022216x16001553. ISSN 0022-216X. S2CID 151359454.
  4. ^ Uriarte, Marcelo Ortiz (2012-08-22). "UAFRO - Universitarias/os, Técnicas/os e Investigadoras/es Afro-Uruguayas/os: Mapa - Porcentaje de la Población Afrodescendiente por Departamento". UAFRO - Universitarias/os, Técnicas/os e Investigadoras/es Afro-Uruguayas/os. Retrieved 2024-01-07.
  5. ^ "Candombe and Its Socio-Cultural Space: A Community Practice". UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Las dificultades del Estado uruguayo para atender inmigrantes nigerianos (in Spanish)
  7. ^ La noche del inmigrante (in Spanish)
  8. ^ Andrews, George Reid (2010). Blackness in the white nation : a history of Afro-Uruguay (1st ed.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-9960-1. OCLC 676696341.
  9. ^ "Espiral". Brecha. 6 March 2020.
  10. ^ Palermo, Eduardo R. (2016). "Silva, Adelia (1925–2004), the first Afro-Uruguayan woman to earn a teaching degree, director and inspector of primary education, journalist, poet, writer, and long-term social activist". In Knight, Franklin W.; Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (eds.). Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro–Latin American Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-199-93580-2. – via Oxford University Press's Reference Online (subscription required)
  11. ^ "Liverpool statement on Luis Suarez ban in full". BBC. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2021. Luis himself is of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black

External links[edit]