Denisse Ariana Perez

RaceSex & Gender

Afro-Ecuadorian women & girls are celebrated in this rare, touching photo series

July 25, 2018
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Denisse Ariana Perez and her aunt, an Afro-Caribbean woman who is a professor in social education, embarked on a journey to visit various Afro-communities in South America, specifically countries that aren’t known to have Afro populations. Communities of people of African descent are mostly known to reside in the Caribbean, Brazil, Colombia and the US, however “African descendant people, made it to all corners of the American continent from the North all the way to the South. They even made it to the territories that didn’t even touch the Atlantic,” says Perez.

Perez and her aunt started in Ecaudor where Perez’s aunt currently resides. Their intention was to visit Esmeralda on the North Coast but conflicts with Colombian rebels resulted in the two starting in the small town of El Chota. El Chota gifted Perez and her aunt with a group of Afro women who shared their experiences for hours in a small one-bedroom house. The women talked and Perez took their pictures, capturing their process of opening up in conversation on camera.

The women spoke of the hardships attached to being Afro-Ecuadorian and how difficult it was to be a minority in a country that overlooked them. They spoke of wanting access to better education that also included them and the history of their people in the narrative. “They confessed about their individual life journeys, about being made fun of because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair not only by others but by members of their own community. Some of them were a mixture of indigenous and Afro, which put them in this ambiguous racial limbo where they were not deemed neither black enough nor indigenous enough,” says Perez.

Perez was deeply taken by their stories and as someone of Afro descent who grew up in a Latin country, she was made to realize the differences and similarities of Afro communities throughout North and South America . Perez concluded by saying “Nevertheless, that shared root, even if far-flung still creates a bond, an ineffable cosmic-like connection. And because of this silent bond this one-bedroom house became an intimate space, a space for sisters to share tales. Tales that can only be fully felt by another sister of color.”

The openness of these women and girls allowed Perez to emerge from the afternoon with an arresting photo series that captured the presence and beauty of these Afro-Ecuadorian girls and women. With just a couple of hours of sunlight and a few chairs to work with, a quiet presence in the diaspora were given their moment in the light.

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