On Sunday, Afro-Ecuadoreans celebrated what they have gained, but also recognized there are still challenges.
To mark “National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People,” Ecuador’s National Congress passed a resolution Saturday that ensures the history of the country’s racial minority will be included in school textbooks starting next year.
“After various years of constant struggle, it has been agreed together with the Ministry of Education to include in textbooks the history of Black people in Ecuador, its importance and participation in the main historical events of the nation,” Assembly Member Zobeida Gudiño told state news agency El Telegrafo.
The historic move comes as Afro-Ecuadoreans across the country celebrated their heritage Sunday to honor the historic achievements the racial minority has made, while highlighting the challenges of racism and discrimination they continue to face today.
In the upcoming days, Afro-Ecuadoreans turn the public spotlight on the importance of their lives, historical legacy and culture through an array of parades, musical performances, marches and academic panels to mark the 11th year of the “National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People.”
Every first Sunday of October, Ecuador’s Afro-Ecuadorean community celebrate this day after it became a hallmark in 1997 following a national mobilization that pushed Congress to declare the “National Day of the Black Ecuadorean,” the recognition of Alonso Illescas as national hero, and the inclusion of Afro-Ecuadoreans into national history.
For Victor Zambrano, an Afro-Ecuadorean student and activist from the coastal province of Esmeraldas, this day is bitter-sweet; a reason to celebrate what Afro-Ecuaodoreans have gained, but also to remember the challenges ahead for the 604,000-strong racial minority.
“Proclamation by Afro-descendant woman that highlights the fortitude and struggle of Black people.”
“The National Day of the Afro-Ecuadorean People is an achievement because through this decree of Congress we have been recognized and made visibile, recognizing our struggles and contributions to Ecuadorean society,” Zembrano told teleSUR English.
“On this day we have to remember all the contributions we have made as a people and bring it, together with our history, to the rest of the people because many don’t know it, which enables a lot of forms of discrimination,” he added.
Zembrano sees this discrimination manifested in everyday life, but also in the labor market.
“When walking through the streets at night you become ‘suspicious.’ People change streets and prefer to walk very fast to avoid getting robbed. The same work opportunities don’t exist because they prefer people ‘that are presentable,’ that is to say, that they sell a stereotyped mestizo image. A lot of us don’t fit that image,” the 24-year-old activist for Afro-Ecuadorean and LGBTI rights said.