This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.


Afro-Guatemalans Guatemala
Total population
3.2% of the Guatemalan population.
Regions with significant populations
Livingston (Garifuna settlement), Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas
Guatemalan Spanish · Garifuna
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Rastafarism and Sunni Islam minorities
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Latin Americans, Afro-Caribbean, Garifuna

Afro-Guatemalans are Guatemalans of African descent. Afro-Guatemalans comprise 1-2% of the population. They are of mainly English speaking West Indian (Antillean) and Garifuna population. They are found in the Caribbean coast, in Livingston (a Garifuna settlement), Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas. During the colonial period, African slaves were brought in, but have mixed with the general population and can be referred to them as Afro-mestizos. So, 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 in Quadroon (75% white and 25% black) and Cambujos (75% Amerindian and 25% black). Due to centuries of miscegenation, Afro-Guatemalans (aside from the Garifunas) today form part of the country's mixed race, non-indigenous ladino population.


Due to the difficulty of slave ships arriving in Guatemala, buyers of the Kingdom of Guatemala depended on the vagaries of the market they did not control. For shipping list, we know that slaves came between the 15th and 16th centuries, mostly from Senegambia, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast; in the seventeenth century, they came from the Gold Coast and the Bight of Benin. And in the eighteenth century, they came from Biafra (Nigeria), West Congo, Angola, Guinea and Benin (from Kingdom of Whydah). In this century also arrived slaves Aja (who were known as Arará, coming from Allada, Benin) and "creole", from Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Also arrived Calabari, from Havana, Cuba.[1]

Many of the blacks slaves who worked in rural areas came, usually of Senegambia. In Addition, there were also many slaves bought in Luanda, Angola. There were also at least 30 other African ethnic groups - from the Central Africa - in Guatemala, chief among them the Kongo, and the mongiolos and anchico. Also, there was at least a dozen of slaves from West Africa, some them were bran (ethnic group from west of Ghana), Banyun (who were known as Banon, are established in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau) and biafadas (ethnic group of Guinea Bissau) people.[2]



The first Afro-Guatemalan arrived in Guatemala in 1524 with Pedro de Alvarado (the “Conqueror of Guatemala”). Records of the Cabildo of Santiago, in Almolonga from the 1530s also mention some enslaved blacks. This first city, founded in 1527 with 150 Spanish residents, was destroyed in September 1541 by an avalanche of water and mud of the Volcán de Agua (Volcano of Water) that buried the Spanish sector of the capital with a large number of Native Americans and a small number of enslaved blacks. However, the first significant costs that are reporting data from 1543, when an estimated "150 pieces pig" of Santo Domingo, were taken to the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. African slaves arrived in Guatemala to replace the indigenous population as labor, as their numbers had been reduced drastically from diseases such as measles, smallpox or bubonic plague. They were infected by the Spanish conquerors, and reduced to about a third of its population. African slaves were used in the sugar, indigo, and cochineal plantations. They were also used in the hacienda or large cattle ranch. Since Santiago was the political and economic center of Guatemala (and throughout the Spanish Central America), many of the slaves brought to the region, were bought and sold there, and were baptized in their churches and parishes and possibly also in their monasteries. Between 1524 and 1620, a total of 10,000 Africans were brought to Guatemala. So, because of the rise in power in the Middle East at the end of the sixteenth century, a large number of people started and to be identified as mulatto. According to Robinson Herrera, of 250 Africans bought and sold in Santiago, about 40% came directly from Africa. Eighty slaves came from West Africa, particularly in Senegambia and the Central - Western Africa. For the other 50 people, 20% were criollos (slaves born in Spain, Portugal or America), and the other ten were mulattoes. Although there were few free mulattoes in the region at this time, their number was greater than the mulattoes enslaved. Between 1595 and 1640 there was an increase in the importation of slaves to Guatemala, but after 1640, imports sharply declined[2] (some authors indicated even that the importation of slaves ceases[3]). The first free black of Santiago first appeared already in the second half of the sixteenth century. Because of its small population, free blacks had to marry with other more numerous socioracials groups.[2] Between 1595 and 1640, the Spanish crown signed a series of contracts with Portuguese traders to dramatically increase the number of African slaves in America. So many slaves came from the Angolan port of Luanda. Also, during the 17th century, some slaves could buy their freedom, forming a small community of free blacks. Runaway slaves formed Cimarrons societies, living among the population. Founded in 1590, the ingenuity of Asís, who became the most important in the seventeenth century, had more than 200 slaves and in 1633, the ingenuity of San Geronimo, north of Santiago, in Verapaz, was home to hundreds of slaves "of different nations" and became the largest in Central America. In 1821 there were more than 500 slaves.[2]

In the late seventeenth century, the Afro - descendant was scattered to the south and east of Guatemala and El Salvador. The impact of African immigration in early colonial times was deeper in the sugar mill in Amatitlán and mint of Escuintepeque shores, where is San Diego de la Gomera. The Afro - descendants lived in nearly two dozen locations between Guatemala and El Salvador. In 1823, after independence, arrived to Guatemala Garífuna groups from Honduras. They occupied the Caribbean lowland.[2]

Miscegenation and growth of social status

During colonial times and until the abolition of slavery in Guatemala (liberal government after independence) was important to the African population. Most Spanish houses of the time in Guatemala, especially in Santiago, had Indian servants and African slaves. In both cases, most of them were female. Because most Spanish who emigrated to Latin America at this time were men, looking rich and did not carry with them their wives, often had sex with her maids and female slaves, causing racial mixtures, increasingly abundant while growing the Spanish settlers in the territory, racial mixture which was maintained until the destruction of Santiago by severe earthquakes in 1773 and the jurisdiction of the new capital in Guatemala City in 1770. With racial mixtures, mulattoes, eventually came to outnumber blacks enslaved. On one side were those black and mulatto slaves who worked in houses and estates and on the other hand, a large population of free blacks who scattered in towns and cities. The growing miscegenation between black slaves and free mulattoes increasingly increased the population of free mulattoes. The drastic reduction in the importation of slaves to Guatemala and increased free slaves eventually prompted some places that have a predominance of slaves pass to have a predominance of free blacks. Moreover, the mixture of mulattoes and mestizos caused higher incomes and a higher position for those with lighter skin. While some roads were blocked for people of African descent, especially in college and in the church. While miscegenation and learning the Spanish language and standards were increased, more Afro - Guatemalans have access to jobs.[2] So also, the slave population was mixed also with indigenous and white populations of Guatemala and the whole group of African people in the colony, were not "pure black", to call that.[3] Many slaves were hired to work in various jobs such as in the carnage. The mulattoes were often involved in the illegal killing of livestock. Although we know little about Afro - Guatemalans working in the agricultural sector, several sources in the last third of the sixteenth century, identified Afros farming communities in the present Jalapa, El Progreso, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa departments, and in the area surrounding the city of Sansonante, in the current El Salvador. Many of these slaves were born in Africa, usually in the region of Senegambia. However, it also had African slaves born in America. The Pacific coast was also home to many blacks and mulattoes free sticking by his great abilities as vagueros, to the extent that the laws of the sixteenth century forbidding them riding on horses or have weapons were almost always ignored because their skills were as necessary as feared, skills that would later valuable recruits from colonial militias and gave opportunity for upward social mobility. 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.[2] 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.

Between 1595 and 1640, the Spanish crown signed a series of contracts with Portuguese traders to dramatically increase the number of African slaves in America. So many slaves came from the Angolan port of Luanda, mostly slaves who were used as laborers in the sugar cane, since in these years were enormously developing sugar production in the territory.[2]

Afro-Guatemalan militias

In 1611, 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 1630s, 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 companies browns in Guatemala and two in El Salvador. Soon there were also places like chivalry in Sonsonate Department and Chiquimula. 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, including the San Diego de la Gomera. 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 them.[2]

San Diego de la Gomera: a community of free Mulattoes

In the first decades of the seventeenth century, some free people of African descent living in Chipalaga, founded a new community directed only to the Cimarron (or Maroon) communities, the Village of San Diego de la Gomera, founded by Count de La Gomera, president of the audience of Guatemala between 1611 and 1626, to solve the problems of the Maroons of Tulate living illegally in Indian Territory. Several free mulattoes fought the Maroons (who had a duty to arrest the runaway slaves and came to their territories, to give to their owners in exchange for legal recognition) and could have won the right to establish an independent community as a reward . They were given the saline control along the Pacific coast in the borders of Coyolate River and Sipacate, which produced the revenue needed to pay the Laborío ld

LowkktrrrrTribute to the crown that people needed. They had their own mayor, town councils and councilors. Spanish officials who were to perform site visits, prevented him when they could, so that the common people are accustomed to ignoring outside authorities, refusing even priests pay or go to church. So when the saline control was threatened, they did their best to defend it, even took up arms in 1700 against the forces of the Audiencia. Ironically, they fought and showed their military experience to the same Audiencia that before had trained to they militarily (and others free slaves of African descent) for decades as militants. According to Ann Jefferson, Guatemalan slavery was clearly in decline in the eighteenth century and the commercial development and production in the agricultural converted many mulattoes from Guatemalan east, some of them very prominent in landowners. In addition, at the end of the colonial period, over 50% of the militiamen were mulatto, struggling to improve their situation and refusing to pay the taxes that were required to the crown. Although most slaves were engaged in sugar production, freed slaves, who expanded their business in the region, eventually be dedicated in producing cochineal, which will acquire a dominant role.[2]

Afro-Guatemalans Contributions and Use of Witchcraft and Sorcery in Colonial Guatemala

Martha Few, Women Who Live Evil Lives: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial Guatemala, 20

In early colonial Guatemala, Africans have always played a critical role in the colonial economy and society. In early colonial Guatemala, Africans have always played a critical role in the colonial economy and society. African slaves first made an appearance in 1524 with the army of Alvarado (Few 20). They were coming in small numbers to colonial Guatemala until the 1580s. The slaves, often referred to as “bozales” would enter through Cartagena and various other Honduran ports. Most ‘hispanicized’ slaves who could speak Spanish would work as servants at homes and religious institutions. It was only the wealthiest of Spanish families in Santiago de Guatemala that could afford to have slaves, a symbol of high prestige and pride.  Historically, numerical information of imports to Guatemala of blacks have been misrepresented and incomplete. Most ‘hispanicized’ slaves who could speak Spanish would work as servants at homes and religious institutions. In the first half of the seventeenth century, 90% of slaves sold were defined as black. However, by the second half that report changed dramatically with over 70% reported being mulato (Few 20). As a result of inadequate reports of African slave population, it makes demographic estimations difficult as well as breakdowns of ethnic populations. This suggests that in the seventeenth century, imports of African slaves declined and instead there was an increase of miscegenation as a result of informal and formal unions.

Martha Few, Women Who Live Evil Lives: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial Guatemala, 71

Although the number of slaves may seem insignificant, it is the exact opposite effect that bozales had on colonial Guatemala witchcraft and sorcery practices and their prevalence. For much of colonial Guatemala, there were no medicinal regulations for inhabitants, and so they adapted regulations much like that of the Spanish model-where doctors had to go through examinations, licensing and the court system (Few 71). It was only after 1646 that doctors with university degrees were allowed to practice medicine. As a result, Afro-Guatemalan inhabitants were quick to realize various healing strategies in association with others such as doctors, healing shrines, midwives, surgeons and barbers to name a few. And in an attempt to push back on the epidemic that accompanied the Spanish conquest of the Americas, colonials began to establish medical institutions in response to the problem. In 1502, the Spanish crown ordered all of the settlers to build hospitals for both Indians and Spaniards. Catholics, who were concerned with keeping Catholicism alive and maintaining the presence of healing activities, certainly obliged. In Guatemala, hospitals were to care for social and racial groups and did not have European-trained doctors until the late sixteenth century. This proved the willingness of the Afro-Guatemalan population to work with medical institutions to establish regular and logical practices while trying to maintain Catholicism alive through healing activities so that the prevalence of the religion and its practices would not fade away from the colonial Guatemala.

Martha Few, Women Who Live Evil Lives: Gender, Religion, and the Politics of Power in Colonial Guatemala, 74

It was a wide belief that it was evol that caused illness, and that if one was ill, they would be the subject of malevolence which is essentially the cursing of someone by someone else (usually by hatred). Afro- Guatemalans and other inhabitants would use herbs and leaves and powder in an attempt to inflict illness through the use if such ritual objects. Mayas also used a method called cupping and it was done by making small cuts on the body with lances and then placed a gourd over the opening to extract any illness. This practice was influenced by the mayans, however also widely used by Afro-Guatemalans, including Spaniards, and on their loved ones. It was believed that through this practice, all the bad spirits, insects, or any foreign object that was not supposed to be in the body would be extracted and removed and no longer have a place in the person's body. There have also been connections between African cultures, curing, and sorcery. Afro-Latin populations increased with the merging of ideas between the two cultures and in result created new ideas to practice healing. For example, in the Ibo of southern Nigeria, “healers acted as a buffer between the natural and supernatural worlds through their ‘spirit membership’, where a saint or an ancestor told where a sickness came from and how to heal it” (Fewer 74). To further this train of thought, Afro-Latin American Populations drew on African ideas about illness and healing and combined them with indigenous and European ideas, and created new practices in colonial Spanish America.



They are the mix black with white or Amerindian and form the majority of the descendants of slaves now Guatemala. They were mainly settled in the Pacific southern and inland areas. Marimba a type of xylophone, created in Guatemala is believed to be of African roots.

Garifuna and Antillean

The Garifuna entered Guatemala in 1823, after independence. They occupied the Caribbean lowland. They were later joined by free blacks of the colonial era. In the latter part of the 20th century, West Indian workers were brought in to work the banana plantations. A few made Guatemala home.[4] Because of their differences and independence, through the years the Garifuna have been feared and discriminated by Guatemalans and accused of devil-worship, voodoo, polygamy and speaking a secret language.[5]

Further reading

  • Opie, Frederick Douglass. "Black Americans and the State in Turn-of-the-Century Guatemala,"The Amerias, vol. 64 (April 2008), No. 4. pp. 583–609.


  1. ^ Google Book: Rutas de la Esclavitud en África Y América Latina (in Spanish: Routes of Slavery in Africa and Latin America). Page 202. Posted in 2001, by Rina Cáceres Gómez.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Del olvido a la memoria: africanos y afromestizos en la historia colonial de Centroamérica (in spanish: From Oblivion to Memory: Africans and Mulattoes in the colonial history of Central).
  3. ^ a b Influencia africana (in Spanish: African influence)
  4. ^ Guatemala Overview.
  5. ^ Eripere: Garífunas Archived 2013-02-12 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on January 30, 2012