World history books do not always include large sections to detail the accomplishments of Afro-Latinos across North America, South America, and the Caribbean. So many Afro-Latinos have thrown their hats in the rings and led their countries through difficult moments and elevated the political discourse needed to push contries forward.
Olympic silver medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Cecilia Tait became a champion off the volleyball court as well in her native Peru when she entered politics 10 years later. After dipping her toes in local politics, she eventually became the first Afro-Peruvian elected to the country’s Congress.
María Isabel Urrutia
Another Afro-Latina Olympic medalist from South America who went into politics once retiring from sports is Colombian María Isabel Urrutia. She won her country’s first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games and then transferred into politics, holding a seat in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia.
In 2007, Julio Pinedo, a direct descendant of African slaves in Bolivia, was officially recognized by La Paz as ceremonious king of his Afro-Bolivian community.
“He is a symbolic figure,” Spanish photographer Susana Giron told the New York Times in 2015. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”
Benedita da Silva
After Brazil’s military dictatorship ended, black Brazilians started to gain prominence in politics. One such example is Benedita da Silva, Brazil’s first female senator. Her resilient attitude was honed throughout her life, including when she received her high school diploma at the age of 40 and went to college at the same time her daughter was studying.
Her political resume includes becoming a senator, as well as the first Afro-Brazilian governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and Minister of the Secretary of State.
She is also a fierce advocate for women’s rights in Latin America.
Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat
Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat is a Colombian politician, engineer and college professor. She was appointed in 2007 to serve as Colombia’s Minister of Culture, thus becoming the first Afro-Colombian woman to hold a cabinet position in her country, also the youngest. As part of her work as Minister of Culture, she has put Colombia’s name on the map, literally. She has acquired spots for her home country to exhibit at book fairs, film festivals, concerts, and conferences around the world.
Luis Gilberto Murillo
Another Afro-Colombian engineer who had a successful career in politics is Luis Gilberto Murillo.
In 1998, Murrillo won the governorship for the state of Chocó, becoming one of the youngest people to do so. However, he was stripped from his governorship in 1999 due to what some newspapers and residents called a controversial court ruling.
Murrillo was kidnapped in 2000 in Colombia and after being released a few hours later, he fled the country with his family. He returned in 2011 after mostly working in Washington D.C. and continued to work in politics, most recently as the former minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in Colombia.
He continues to be outspoken for issues on environmental sustainability and has not let the bumps along the road deter him from fighting for causes he is passionate about.
Alta California’s final governor under Mexican rule was Afro-Mexican rancher and politician Pío de Jesús Pico. He served twice as governor and once he gained U.S. citizenship, was asked to be part of the Los Angeles Common Council, although he did not assume the office. If you’re in Los Angeles, you might recognize him as the namesake of Pico Boulevard.
There’s growing up Latino and then there’s growing up as a gay Latino. While our culture is known for their supernatural skills at throwing a pinche good party, gay culture might just rival it. Both cultures’ party superpowers mixed together? ¡Imagínate!
Whether you own your identity as a queer Latino and want to feel affirmed from all corners, or are just looking for the best way to celebrate your Gay Pride, Latin America has you covered. Here are the most celebrated Pride events in Latin America along with some of its own local pride history. Be there or be square.
Mexico City, Mexico | June 27-29
Going on its 41st year of gay occupation of Mexico City streets. Each year, the celebrations get bigger and bigger. The Mexican Student Movement of 1968 was as influential as Stonewall in sparking the first rebellion.
Of course, locals come out in their best outfits to celebrate the queerness of the Mexican capital.
La Marcha de la Diversidad is the main event, which begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 28th. Despite the hate crimes persisting around the country toward the LGBTQ+ community, many say this parade is a day they feel less alone. Show up.
São Paulo, Brazil | Sunday, June 23rd
This year will mark the 23rd annual gay pride parade in São Paulo. It’s 2006 pride went down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest pride parade in the world, rivaling that of NYC.
The Bolsonaro administration might be doing everything they can to push the LGBTQ+ community back in the closet, but that’s not what’s going to happen.
Ironically, the government has invested millions of dollars into the parade. Meanwhile, the first openly gay politician in Brazil had to flee the country earlier this year because of the death threats he was receiving from the public. It’s still not safe to be openly gay in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | September
While São Paulo wins the largest pride in the world, Rio’s comes close behind, with 1.2 million people in attendance every year. While this year would be the 24th LGBT Pride of Rio, strangely a date has not been set just yet.
See. Brazil is so queer, they boast some of the greatest pride celebrations in the world.
The parade typically marches down Copacabana Beach, as the gayest version of Carnaval sambas down the beach. Folks usually end up at Papa G’s club, which swells with proud members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Buenos Aires, Argentina | November 2
Carlos Jauregui organized the first Pride, which, like most, was a protest march in 1992. Most of the roughly 300 people in attendance were wearing masks for their own safety.
Now, there are no masks hiding the identities of the participants because being part of the LGBTQ+ community is nothing to be ashamed of.
Today La Marcha del Orgullo a Pride ends with a public concert in Plaza Congreso. The parade is conveniently scheduled the same weekend as the Queer Tango Festival.
Bogotá, Colombia | June 30
Bogotá’s first pride was made of just 32 people and almost 100 police officers In 1982. Today, the entire country celebrates, with Bogotá’s Orgullo Gay march attracting up to 50,000 folks.
Colombia has seen a rise in LGBTQ+ activism and this parade might be one celebration to watch.
In fact, Latin America’ largest gay club, Theatron, is in Bogotá. It’s essentially a complex with 13 different dance floors, holding up to 5,000 people! There are rooms that are men-only, women-only, salsa music-only, Motown-only. The only question is, why aren’t you there?
Cartagena, Colombia | August 7-11
This year, Cartagena Pride is selling itself as the “biggest gay event in the Caribbean.” You can expect a colorful parade, a drag race and a variety of boat parties.
With such a colorful and beautiful array of cultures throughout Latin America, there is no reason to think that Pride won’t be a major force in the region this year.
South America has something everyone can enjoy. The fourth largest continent in the world is home to a vibrant blend of Latin American and Indigenous cultures, fantastic food, fierce football, chocolate, coffee, rainforests, music, romance, and passion. Most of it comes at affordable prices, and most of us already speak the language — so really, what are you waiting for?
The continent is also home to majestic levels of ecological diversity, attracting millions of tourists each year to traverse its jungles, climb its towering peaks, and swim in its crystalline seas.
From the world’s highest waterfall and largest river to the longest mountain range and largest rainforest, a vacation to any one of South America’s 12 countries is a totally unforgettable experience from start to finish.
Island-hop in Ecuador’s Galapagos
It’s a challenge to uncover a more bucket list-worthy trip in South America than the jaw-droppingly spectacular Galapagos Islands. A chain of 19 islands and dozens of islets formed after a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it’s a magical place that will linger in your mind long after leaving. But be sure to visit with a trusted tour operator as they’ll provide a knowledgeable guide and you won’t want to miss out on any of the fascinating information.
Do you have the ganas to snorkel in turquoise waters with hammerhead sharks, graceful manta rays, playful sea lions, and turtles? Yeah, thought so. You’ll also see giant tortoises in their natural habitat, hike an active volcano, and spotting wildlife is easy. If you’re more the adventurous type, go kayaking in deep blue lagunas.
Backpacking along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and Coffee Regions
There’s a reason Colombia is consistently voted among the happiest countries in the world; it offers a spectacular combination of breathtaking biodiversity, Instagram-worthy beaches, and friendly people. Just a few hours’ flight from the US lies Colombia’s Caribbean coast and coffee region. It’s an easy trip that can be tackled in two to three weeks on your own, via the affordable and safe buses that ferry tourists and locals around.
Fly into Cartagena, the sparkling colonial jewel of the country which is comprised of pastel-painted buildings and lively nightlife. From there, catch a bus along to Santa Marta where you can arrange trips to the isolated town of Minca. Nestled in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains, Minca offers amazing views overlooking the Caribbean seas and unique backpacker hostels.
Then, head back down the hills to uncover some pristine coastal rainforest at Parque de Tayrona, a protected national park filled with monkeys, lizards, and parrots where you can camp or spend the day. The beach-bum town of Palomino on the coast is also worth a trip — tubing down a river and sunning yourself in a hammock are the main attractions, along with hikes to nearby indigenous communities in the mountains. Next, it’s on to the coffee country in Salento, a rural town that offers serene mountain views, amazing architecture, and paisa hospitality with a smile.
Cruise the Amazon River Through Brazil’s Rainforest
Exploring the Amazon jungle sounds like a difficult task right? But if you opt for an eco-friendly river cruise, you can uncover the areas’ mysterious wildlife from the comfort of a chill boat. You’ll have the chance to see the magical meeting of the waters, where the sediment-filled River Negro mixes with the black, nutrient-rich Amazon River. Wake up early to watch the sky turn from pink to orange. Go on adventures to spot multi-colored macaws, blue butterflies and Amazon kingfishers. The Brazilian Amazon is also the only place on Earth you can see pink dolphins!
From your boat, you can hop on kayaks or canoes to explore further into the flooded forests to see monkeys hanging from trees or giant sloths lounging on branches.
Get Cultural in Paraguay
Lesser-known and understated in its beauty, Paraguay is perfect for the explorer keen to find a road less traveled. You won’t see tourists at every landmark here, and it’s not a country for those in search of lively bars and pumping adventure, but you will find exotic lakes, thriving nightlife, artisan workshops, and impressive colonial towns. The terrain is varied and exciting with the subtropical Atlantic Forest in the east and the dry wildlife of Chaco on the other side of the country.
Few places on the planet are as magical as Patagonia, which as long tempted travelers after pure adventure. Situated at the southernmost tip of South America, Patagonia is dotted with dramatic glaciers, towering forests and pristine lakes. But even though it’s 400,000 square miles of breathtakingly barren land, with a bit of forward planning you can cover a fair amount of ground and see a lot. For organized trekking and established tourism, head to the national parks in the northern lake districts of Argentina (Los Glaciares) and Chile (Torres del Paine)
Spot Jaguar in Guyana
This lesser-traveled South American country with a strong Caribbean culture borders Brazil and Venezuela and is working hard to shed its reputation as turbulent and hard-to-navigate after years of political strife. Today it’s much safer and is rich in dense forests and colorful ranches, meaning that travelers who don’t mind the rustic edge can enjoy one of the continent’s best-kept ecotourism secrets. Take the pressure off organizing something yourself and head to the area with Steppes Travel who’ll take you to search for jaguars in the Iwokrama Rainforest, paddling in the world’s highest free-falling waterfall, Kaieteur Falls, and visiting the colonial capital city, Georgetown.
Get Wet and Wild in Brazil’s Iguazu Falls
The Iguazu Falls are world-famous waterfalls of the Iguazu River which flow through Brazil and Argentina, situated in lush and protected land that’s teeming with incredible wildlife. Do the falls yourself, as part of a long expedition through Brazil, or on a flying visit to the area from Sao Paulo or Rio. Feel the spray of the falls on your face before heading into the steamy Amazon for excursions into the jungle as well as piranha fishing and pink dolphin-spotting.
Drink All The Wines in Chile and Argentina
If you’re up for seeing a lot in a little amount of time, and its style, culture and cuisine you crave, head to Argentina and Chile. Wine-lovers start off in the artistic region of Santiago, with its snow-capped mountains and vibrant markets. Later it’s onto Casablanca Valley, Chile’s fastest growing wine region, and the ambient World Heritage port city of Valparaiso, before a visit to magnificent Mendoza, where the famous Malbec wine is produced. After a stop-off in the relaxing area of Estancias, you’ll finish up in Argentina’s energetic capital of Buenos Aires, where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in its enchanting streets and mix of European and Latin culture, with a dance at a tango bar or rich meal of steak and red wine. Heaven.
Uncover the Best of Bolivia and Argentina
Immerse yourself in some Latin American culture with an adventure through Bolivia and Argentina. Tick the Bolivian Uyuni salt flats off your bucket list before taking in the incredible Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth which boasts flamingos bathing in mineral lakes and an everlasting supply of cacti. If you’re into colonial architecture and eclectic cities, this trip also takes you to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where you’ll dine on great food and explore some incredible neighborhoods as well as La Paz, a city renowned for its incredible markets.
So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to South America!
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