Tourist Havens with Hidden Black History

Tourist Havens with Hidden Black History

September 7, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen

When you hear about cities like New York, London, and Johannesburg, you already know that they are cosmopolitan cities full of Black and Brown histories mixed into the mainstream. After all, if the town hosts Afropunk, you pretty much know that a vacation there is bound to be lit. But, you might be shocked to learn more about our top 5 favorites places with hidden Black histories. Some legends you may not have heard of and others you might think you know, but not quite like this. We’ll start clear on the other side of the globe and work our way back to the Americas.

Australia: While not all indigenous people are of African origin, in local parlance they are called Black. Aboriginal people of Australia and the Torres Island Straits are known for being darker-skinned and for being the original inhabitants of cities like Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, and Melbourne. Some genetics research has indicated that these first nations communities are less connected to Africa than some might expect. They share similar origins to the people from Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia. No matter where you find yourself in Oceania, you can appreciate Black Australian culture most visibly found in art centers and galleries that now feature traditional carving and weaving work from contemporary artists.

India and Pakistan: People from the Indian-subcontinent can bear many shades of brown. So, it is no wonder that many people assume that dark-skinned Indians are not Black. In some cases, they are and their roots tie back to long-standing maritime links with Africa – the east African slave trade, Islamic Nizaams, and shipwrecked fishermen are all rumored to be the forefathers of different communities on the subcontinent. Regions like Karnataka and Gujarat boast large groups of isolated African-Indian communities, known as Siddis or Siddhis. In Pakistan, the largest group is known as the Sheedis and they reside in areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Well, before 1947, Indian and Pakistan (and Bangladesh) were loosely united under British rule, so these communities can be found on both sides of the border. Black tourists in cities like Hyderabad in India and Karachi in Pakistan might find themselves hard to distinguish from locals. 

Spain: The Moors ruled over southern Spain for a very long time – 800 years to be exact. That means that North African identity is deeply ingrained in the country. Areas in the south are touted today as homages to Islam, but they could very well be considered monuments to Black life in Europe. Universities, libraries, and even music – like Spain’s famous flamenco – all go back to the African Berbers who lorded over the Iberian peninsula until the 1400s. When viewed through this lens, cities like Cordoba and Granada do not disappoint in the Black History department.

Mexico: Did you know that Langston Hughes spent a good portion of his youth in Mexico with his father, who moved there during Langston’s adolescence? That’s not the only Black history that Mexico has to offer. It is rich with old and new Black cultures. For example, African-Americans may have grown up hearing that enslaved people fled south of the border to find freedom (the same way they fled north of the Mason-Dixon). Those survivors didn’t just disappear! They formed communities with other free Blacks already in Veracruz, Acapulco, and even Mexico City. The city of Yanga is a UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to the rebellion and survival of Gaspar Yanga, said to be the Nat Turner of Mexico.  

Argentina: If you have been to Buenos Aires recently, it might be shocking to hear that Argentina has a deep history of Black and African identity. Today, Black people are rumored to be only 1% of the population. Just two centuries ago, they numbered over 65%. Long story short, 19th-century eugenics policies actually worked in Argentina, which became a haven for European refugees. The policy of “Whitening” the country would have worked, were it not for online journalists and culture keepers who don’t believe the hype. They are sharing more about the cuisine, dance, and religion of Argentina, all of which are clearly infused with Black lives that refuse to be erased.



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