Cali in Focus

About Afro-Colombians

Introduction

The Beauty of Cali

The Beauty of Cali

Colombia is one of the countries in which the richest segment of the population accumulates the greatest share of the income and has greater and better access to services. It is the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between rich and poor has increased in recent years, according to a report by the U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America. The percentage of Colombians who are indigent also rose from 20.2 percent in 2007 to nearly 23 percent in 2008, nearly double the region’s average. This inequality is closely related to the distribution of productive and social assets, opportunities, and the fruits of development. Measurements of inequality are generally related to the concentration of property, to income, and consumption costs, as well as to the benefits from the policies, plans and programs, health, and education. To a lesser degree, measurements of inequality are related to disparities of participation in politics and public policy, a topic that particularly interests the indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups. Afro-Colombians, due to racial, historic, and cultural factors, are limited in their capacity to fully participate in the social and political life of Colombia and in particular have experienced limitations in their ability to gain access to education, employment, and health care they experience a generalized inequality, the result of a historic accumulation of disadvantages. The pioneering studies of Frideman and Arocha show how the “invisibilization” of Afro-Colombians has been used as a mechanism of exclusion or marginal inclusion that in part explains the precarious participation this large population. The term poverty from the Afro-Colombian perspective is generally associated with not being able to provide for basic needs such as access to health, education, housing, and employment and the lack of cash income. For Afro-Colombians who for various reasons have migrated to the major cities, poverty is associated with the lack of opportunities for obtaining access to education, housing, health, and work. This situation is closely tied to the discrimination and lack of opportunity that occurs in cities with respect to the black population.

History

Economic disparity in Cali

Economic disparity in Cali

Afro-Colombians are Colombians of African descent. Colombia has the third largest black population outside of Africa and the second largest in Latin America, after Brazil. The black population officially is 26% of the total population; experts put it at 36-40% or 11 million. Afro-descendants can be found in regions such as Choco, Buenaventura, Cali, Cartagena, San Andres Island, and throughout the country. Read more:  https://sites.google.com/site/afropedia/afro-colombian Cali, with over two million citizens, the second largest city in Colombia, is the capital and economic hub in its department, the Valle del Cauca. Cali’s GDP was around 6 billion dollars at the end of the 1990s, representing 7% of national GDP and accounting for more than half of GDP of the department. The most important sectors in 1998 were manufacturing (15 percent of city GDP), communal services (22 percent), real estate services (15.9), financial services (11), construction (11), and commerce (9). The city population grew rapidly throughout the 1990s and continues to do so today. Administratively, Cali’s metropolitan area is divided in 21 urban comunas (where 94 percent of the population live) and 4 rural comunas. Decentralization in Colombia increasingly shifts implementation of programs from municipal governments to comunas but broad expenditure and revenue policy is still largely determined by the municipal government and legislature (the Municipal Council). Over two-thirds f Cali’s revenues stem from local taxes with central government transfers accounting for the rest. The national government transfers are conditional funds that can only be used for specific purposes, such as health, education, or housing. Cali and the Valle de Cauca were one of the hardest hit regions in the economic recession in Colombia in the second part of the 1990s and while the city was in deep recession the hands of the municipal government to counter the national economic trend were tied. The city hit its indebtedness limits at the beginning of 1997 and faced the tough situation of having to reduce real expenditures due both to high debt payments and lower tax revenues. The possibility of starting an expansionary counter-cyclical fiscal policy was hence limited. Poverty and misery increased strongly and according to national Household Surveys poverty in the city increased from 29.8% to 390% while the percentage of the city population in misery – defined as not even able to purchase a basic basket of food – doubled and rose from 5.3 percent to 10 percent. In 1998, more than 800,00 people lived in poverty in the city and more than 200,00 in misery.

Against this background, Cali launched a new effort to formulate a city development strategy in 1999. The goal of policy makers was to reduce poverty in the city and the instrument to be used to answer key questions for urban planning was the Cali Survey, the Service Access and Perception Survey in the Municipality of Cali (EPSOC). The Cali Survey was comprehensive and consisted of nine different modules; the household module, the housing and living condition module, an education module, health, nutrition and childcare, a transport section, labor market, and the civic participation module. The survey was representative of five areas and socio-economic strata and geographical areas. It was however, the analysis of welfare characteristics that caught the attention of policy makers and academics/civil society alike with respect to four findings. First, the link between the labor market, education and poverty, second, the incidence of hunger, third, the low coverage rate of targeted health subsidies, and fourth, geographical aspects of poverty in the city.

Challenges

Demand True Freedom for the Black People

Demand True Freedom for the Black People

Article:

In the past 20 years, the Afro-Colombian population has gone from being nearly invisible politically to assuming a more powerful role in public discussion and politics. But we are still a far cry from many of the promises made in the 1991 Constitution. Read more: http://americasquarterly.org/recognition-of-race-and-the-struggle-to-realize-change

Article:

Do more Indigenous and Afro-descendant representatives in national congresses make a difference?

Social inclusion is a buzzword for politicians these days. Whether deployed as part of a campaign platform (as Ollanta Humala did in Peru last year) or used as a catch phrase to describe the root of malaise (as Barack Obama has done in the United States), the idea of promoting inclusion of disenfranchised groups has entered the public discourse, and, in many cases, become a goal in itself.

Read more: http://americasquarterly.org/political-representation
What We Do
The BHRs South American Language Skills Acquisition project (BHRSALSA) is the Black Heritage Rider’s Latin American initiative. We implement community-based ESL instruction which along with educational enrichment resources, give Afro-American children living in South American impoverished communities a better opportunity to improve their lives. Our focus is on motivating and helping underserved Afro-American children advance and succeed academically. Providing young children with English language skills create educational opportunities that can overcome the overwhelming challenges of obtaining employment and work experience.
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