Walter Mignolo

Thoughts on modernity/coloniality, geopolitics of knowledge, border thinking, pluriversality, and the decolonial option.

Tonight in Buenos Aires I Saw a Black Man

I pasted this story in FB. Then i realized that one of the proper names was wrongly spelled. So i deleted, corrected the original (apparently you cannot edit directly in FB) and pasted again. It so happened that the new pasting reproduced the text without paragraphs. I tried several times. Failed. So i am posting it here, and then i will post the link in face book. Technology, as people say, is wonderful to save time.

 

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.

 

 

8 responses to “Tonight in Buenos Aires I Saw a Black Man”

  1. Ryan McCoy says:

    Hello Professor Mignolo,

    My name is Ryan McCoy, and I am a student at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona. I am writing to you because recently I have become very familiar with your writings on decoloniality and epistemic disobedience. I participate in the youth activity called policy debate, where I work with and compete against students from across the country. This year, our topic, or resolution, was “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement with Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela.”
    Obviously, this topic brings up a lot of questions about the nature of US economic engagement with these countries, and as I was seeking out literature about the flawed background and historicity of our foreign policy, I stumbled across your work. Since then, I have been reading an advocacy of epistemic disobedience in the debate sphere, with the fundamental idea being to interrupt and challenge the dominant views and paradigms of engagement put forth in the activity.
    With that long winded explanation out of the way, I wanted to ask for your thoughts on this advocacy. I won’t be using this correspondence as evidence, nor will I use it as an argument in debate, but I am very curious as to your thoughts about epistemic disobedience in the context of a youth activity like debate. Additionally, I wanted to ask you about your thoughts about subjectivity in relation to decoloniality – what, in your eyes, is the role of the individual in decolonizing and delinking from dominant Westernism? If you have already written about this, I apologize, but I’m not sure that I have been through all of your works yet. If not, do you have some other sources you think would be helpful for researching that aspect? I would be highly appreciative.

    Thank you sincerely,
    Ryan McCoy

  2. walter says:

    Thanks Ryan for this. I would like to know more about the debates you are talking about and particularly on this sentence: “I have been reading an advocacy of epistemic disobedience in the debate sphere, with the fundamental idea being to interrupt and challenge the dominant views and paradigms of engagement put forth in the activity.”

    On subjectivity and decoloniality, well you cannot decolonize any thing by public policity, military intervention or any other means while the subject and the subjetivity remains modern and complicitous, knowingly or not with, imperial designs. So since coloniality of knowledge is coloniality of being (there is an article by Maldonado Torres “On the coloniality of being” that you can find in the web. This is part of the story the other is decoloniality of being. We are doing that through reworking aesthetics/aesthesis, for aesthesis means sensing, sensibility, and “artistic expressions” is one way of working toward decoloniality of being, healing the colonial wound.

    I recommend you read first, in this collection, the last piece, the letter by Michelle K. And you would understand better what coloniality of being, and decoloniality of being means.
    http://socialtextjournal.org/periscope_topic/decolonial_aesthesis/
    Then you can read the first article on decolonial healing and also Robbie Shilliams article on the same. I am talking about subjectivity here, once you enter in that process (for it is a process, it is not like baptism where you become Christian in one day or getting a passport, it is a process, and it is in the process of decolonizing subjectivity, the person in the communal, not just the individual “a la americana” more the person in the communal, like in Native Americans life, that you would get into the process.

    Arguments are fine but you can argue opposite arguments by remaining a subject similar to the subject that put forward the arguments that you are rebuking.

    Hope it helps,

    Regards,

    Walter

  3. Ryan McCoy says:

    Professor Mignolo,
    Thank you for your response. I am currently reading the piece you recommended by Maldonado-Torres, and I have also read the letter which was very interesting and revealing.
    As for debate, it is a very complex activity, which is why I sort of skimmed over it in my initial comment. The particular form of debate that I participate in is called policy debate. Students are expected to debate both sides of a resolution, which this year is, as I said, “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement with Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela.” Traditionally, the way to defend that resolution is to advocate a policy by the US government. For example, this year, many teams advocate that the government should remove the Cuban embargo.
    However, when I am called to defend the resolution, I do so in a different way. My argument is that a pre-requisite to effective engagement is a project of epistemic disobedience. We offer studies and data which support the idea that the foreign policy community in the US is flawed now – it views policy in Latin America in a self-interested way which preferences the United States’ strategic interests above all else. Then we say that any policy we would defend would be steeped in this flawed form of knowledge production, which would create disastrous consequences, even if we have the best of intentions. I think that this is in line with your philosophy, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this advocacy and any tips you would have for refining and improving it.
    I am not sure that I understand what you mean when you say “Arguments are fine but you can argue opposite arguments by remaining a subject similar to the subject that put forward the arguments that you are rebuking.” Initially, I thought that you were saying that it is important to argue both sides of an issue in order to understand it more fully. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I think you might have meant that the subject is the key because the only way to advocate flawed, colonial arguments is to have a flawed, colonial perspective. Could you please shed some more light on what you meant? I will anxiously be awaiting another reply, because this conversation has already been very helpful and informative.
    Thank you,
    Ryan

  4. julia lindbeck says:

    me interesó mucho el título, y lo he leído con interés, Walter, pero de pronto me gustaría saber más sobre esta frase.

    “But apparently, in Argentina, if you marry a white-woman from this area and you are a black man, you have to surrender.”

    • walter says:

      How would you feel if you are a person of color living in among a middle class white society? I suspect that somehow you have to surrender, that is to say, you have to assimilate. And for me assimilation is a sort of surrender. My experience is not that of Black person but that of the son on immigrants in Argentina, an immigrant myself in France and in the US. I find that “migration”, being an in-migrant is general feeling share by people of color, even if you are off-white, and by queers in a milieu where heterosexual are the majority. It is not a personal issue, it is embedded in the logic of coloniality.

  5. Federico Ferrer says:

    Estimado Walter, disculpe que escriba por este medio pero no me deja escribir en la opción de contacto.

    Quería saber si tenia planeado venir a la Argentina durante este año?

    Saludos!

  6. Francesco says:

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    Feel free to visit my page … livres mobi (Francesco)

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