Where are your ancestors from?

I went to an Internations http://www.internations.org event last night, which is a great cocktail party where expats from various countries and Peruvians who have lived abroad (there are actually events around the world). It takes place once a month on a Friday. I happened to arrive before Matthew, so I got the occasional guy that would come up to me to see if I was single or not. I saw this one guy staring at me from across the room and about 5 minutes later the following conversation began:

European guy: But what county is your family from?

Me: I’m African-American – so some country in Africa

European guy: But which country?

Me: (really) So, they brought African’s over in ships and they didn’t keep records of where people were from. (Stank face)

European guy: I’m not trying to be I just, I lived in Africa for a while and you look like you are from Angola.

Me: Where are you from?

European guy: Portugal

Me: #WhyAmIHavingThisConversation – oh really I actually have Portuguese ancestors as well.

European guy: Oh so we’re brothers (the direct Spanish translation of siblings is brothers)

This conversation continued for another 5 minutes are so and my thoughts were “why is he acting like he didn’t know about slavery. He’s from Portugal-your Portuguese ancestors were the ones who started the slave trade to the Americas- #BRAZIL hello”

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade began around the mid-fifteenth century when Portuguese interests in Africa moved away from the fabled deposits of gold to a much more readily available commodity — slaves. By the seventeenth century the trade was in full swing, reaching a peak towards the end of the eighteenth century. It was a trade which was especially fruitful, since every stage of the journey could be profitable for merchants — the infamous triangular trade.

Who Started the Triangular Trade?

For two hundred years, 1440-1640, Portugal had a monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. It is notable that they were also the last European country to abolish the institution – although, like France, it still continued to work former slaves as contract laborers, which they called libertos or engagés à temps. It is estimated that during the 4 1/2 centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Portugal was responsible for transporting over 4.5 million Africans (roughly 40% of the total).

via  http://africanhistory.about.com/od/slavery/tp/TransAtlantic001.htm

I was wondering what your thoughts are about this. Please leave a comment about the conversation and how you would have responded.

Also please send out a quick PSA to your European friends about the African slave trade to the Americas. Thank you. FYI this is the second time I’ve had a conversation like this at an Internations event.

*** I have met really great people at the Internations Events and will continue to go =)

4 thoughts on “Where are your ancestors from?

  1. Oh, man. Yes! While I was travelling in Europe I encountered a very interesting type of what I felt was definitely racism. I remember some really difficult conversations in Spain and Ireland–I heard things I’ve never, ever heard in America.

    While we struggle with race in America, it’s because of our EXPOSURE, I think, that we don’t hear these same kind of ignorant comments (as often.) I imagine South America is somewhat different than Europe, but I’m not really sure how, since I’ve only been there once. I kept getting asked if I was Brazilian while I was in Argentina, that’s about it.

    Very interesting though. Nice way to stand your ground, I commend you for that!

  2. Great Read!!! Sometimes I am reticent about saying what I would have done because I don’t feel that anyone knows the full weight of an event unless they were there. For example, when you hear blks say if I lived in that time “I would’ve never” and that is true they would never do it but that is because they were never in that time. That is then boiled down to idle pompous talk. With that said, I would have simply responded in lightly funny but condescending with “You DO know that Portugal started the slave trade” coupled with that smug face of bewilderment that reads “sorry you don’t know your own history.”

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