During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the ships stopped along the way.
An estimated 100,000 enslaved Africans were brought to Venezuela where their descendants, Afro-Venezuelans, are subject to colorism. As in the United States, if you’re white, you’re alright. If you’re brown, stick around. But if you’re black, get back.
Afrodescendants face discrimination in a region that has a fondness for racial caricatures. The Mexican comic book character Memín Pinguín is popular throughout Latin America. Loathed by Afro-Latinos, the caricature has been denounced by Hispanic American civil rights organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza).
A study on “Hate Speech and The Language of Racism in Latin America” found:
In Latin America where Jim Crow state-mandated exclusion never existed, racist speech about Afro-descendants is ubiquitous and facilitates the social exclusion of Afro-descendants. In addition, to the term “negro” (black/negro) being derogatory, Afro-descendants are stereotyped and referred to as inherently criminal, intellectually inferior, overly sexual, and animalistic. Because the racialized stereotypes of Afro-descendants are pervasive, they are commonly understood to smell like animals and in particular monkeys.
The Guardian US reported:
Racial caricatures have been used as brands across the region. In Colombia, Mimo’s ice cream flavours were depicted by race: a black man for chocolate, a white girl for vanilla.
A little over two years ago, a Venezuelan couple set up shop in Harlem. They chose to brand their products “The Monkey Cup.” The company’s logo bears a striking resemblance to Memín Pinguín.
The co-owner says the name stems from her husband’s love for monkeys. Truth be told, “monkey” is a common derogatory term Venezuelans use for people of African descent. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s first president of African and Indigenous descent, was called “Miko Mandante” (“Ape Commander”) by his opponents.
With the help of a Georgia-based company whose New York City marketing team is lily-white, the couple plans to open a second location on the street named after Adam Clayton Powell Jr., an iconic historical figure who fought against Jim Crow laws and practices.
There is a long history of monkey iconography that depicts blacks as less than human. The caricatures are used to support a system of white supremacy and racial discrimination.
The use of a name and image associated with American – and Venezuelan – racial exclusion effectively denies access to a public place to people of African descent. In Venezuela, I would be considered “brown” or “mestizo” so maybe I would be welcomed. But I’d rather drink muddy water than a drop of whatever they’re brewing at “The Monkey Cup.”