In 1810, a third of Buenos Aires was African. Still, the received, albeit simplistic, narrative – placing the Argentine expanse as a land of opportunity for Europe’s masses and Buenos Aires as the cosmopolitan center (a la Paris) – maintains the Argentine story as a narrative sans Africans, or, one in which Africans conveniently disappeared (‘They were all sent to the war with Paraguay,’ etc.).
Defensa 1464 chronicles one woman’s struggle to amend that narrative, while weaving together the stories of six more Afro-Argentines “telling the stories their grandparents told them.” Freda, an Ecuadorian woman of African descent, founded a cultural center (Defensa 1464), and, while threatened with eviction – her landlord cut her gas and electricity for over a year – found a tunnel used by slaves in the 18th century. She made a museum there, and began putting together events celebrating Afro-Argentine history (though the blackface used by the children and young man in the clip below gave us pause – can/should/does the North American history of blackface have anything to say about blackface at a celebratory cultural/historical even in Buenos Aires?)
And thus came to be the film Defensa 1464, a documentary directed by David Rubio. So far, we haven’t been able to track down a version or trailer with English subtitles (though we’d be thrilled to), but these opening 8 minutes are available on Vimeo:
The woman who begins speaking at 1:15 says:
When they see me walking in the streets, they say: you’re Brazilian; you’re Uruguayan; you’re Central American. I tell them no – I’m Argentine. But you cannot be Argentine and black, they say. And I say yes, and we are many.