Tonight in Buenos Aires I saw a Black Man. About 45, good looking, dressed in a T-Shirt, dark blue with orange inscriptions. I couldn’t read. He was about 10 meters from my table. It was a round table. There were five. There was him, plus three women (one of the women older than the other two) and one man, they were all whites, Argentine white of course. That is, off-white. It was at a restaurant, dinner time, around 10,30 pm.
Why I was surprised to see him here? For those of you who know Buenos Aires, this restaurant is in the corner of Rio Bamba and Arenales, Barrio Norte, to be more precise. Barrio Norte and Recoleta blend in my sense of the city. But you can feel the difference.
For those of you not familiar with Buenos Aires, I am talking about the zone that goes from Avda 9 de Julio to Pueyrredon, running South-North and Santa Fe and Avda Libertador running East-West. That is more or less where Barrio Norte and Recoleta are. Barrio Note is “tres bien”. Recoleta “high chick.” This restaurant was in Barrio Norte.
High middle class, good looking people casually dressed and high casual too. Women in the sixties that try to look in the fifties and, believe me, they do; some with their natural blond hairs, some with nice wigs. Men look distinguished even if there are casual. Good haircut of their white hair, which I am envious they still have.
You do not see tourists in these kinds of restaurants. Or if you do, it is either because they have friends in the vicinity, they got lost and found the restaurant, or they were walking by, hungry, and saw these friendly looking restaurant with nice friendly people chatting and eating.
So, what was the black guy doing here? There was a round table, i already mentioned. I was facing him. The white guy was with his back to me. But when I left I walked slowly and took a pick through the window from outside. He was obviously the husband of one of the three women. The other two women were either their daughters or a daughter and a friend.
The black guy was following the conversation and smiling but he was mainly paying attention to a kid in his of her “cochecito” (I forgot the English word for that). So that he was having a double communication, listening to the four whites on the table and having a better communication with the kid, to whom he smiled, chatted and made faces.
I wonder what was his role. He was obviously not an enslaved African; or a Brazilian or Caribbean servant. He did not look like one and he did not act as one. However, he was like listening but not engaged in the conversation. And the other four apparently were having a conversation among themselves. At some point he picket up the kid (three moths old, let’s say) and took him/her into his arm.
The kid was white, Argentinian white, of course. But the Black guy acted and his action he looked like the father. If that was the case, most likely one of the two women in the forties, one of them was his wife. But apparently, in Argentina, if you marry a white-woman from this area and you are a black man, you have to surrender.
During my speculations over dinner, I thought of Artwell Cain, Quinsy Gario, Rolando Vazquez, Patrice Naiambana, Robbie Shilliam, Teresa Maria Diaz Nerio, Patricia Kaersenhout, Jeannete Elhers and Alanna Lockward, friends and decolonial camarades I see them at least once a year in The Netherlands, Germany, England and Denmark, and remain in Internet contact through the year and over the years.
Finally, I will not leave you with the impression that I believe that there is no Black in Buenos Aires. There was a time where people asked what happened with the Black people who were here in the nineteenth century, and were vey well documented. At the time of Juan Manuel de Rosas, there were plenty. Not longer.
It is to the population of African descent that we owe the tango. And recently, they have made themselves very visible in different areas of the city. But in this area, from 9 de Julio to Pueyrredon and from Santa Fé to Avenida Libertador, it is very rare to see a Black person. That is why I was surprised, i guess.