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‘Rural-Urban Migration, Racialization and Race-Based Mobilization in Cartagena during the Twentieth Century’

Wednesday 8 November 2023 at 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

A research talk by Orlando Deavila Pertuz, Assistant Professor, International Institute of Caribbean Studies, Universidad de Cartagena, Colombia.

Since the mid-twentieth century, thousands of rural migrants moved to the city of Cartagena in Caribbean Colombia, seeking a better life. Among these were men and women from Palenque, a former maroon community. Since their arrival in the city, they went through hardships typical of rural migrants: unemployment, lack of housing and cultural shock. Likewise, they faced a distinctive experience of racialization that placed them at the lowest point of the social scale; locals described them as ignorant, vulgar, immoral and uncivilized. This characterization was strongly associated with contemporary representations of blackness.

Building upon a variety of primary sources, including official records, newspaper articles, sociological studies, photographs, and oral histories, this paper discusses how, despite the discourses of racial equality established since the dawn of independence, race guided the historical experience of migrants from Palenque. Racial discrimination in particular led men and women from Palenque to create enclaves and endogamous communities apart from the mainstream society. This research demonstrates that this distinctive experience of racialization and racial discrimination also led to the creation of the first racial-based movements in Cartagena during the 1980s. The paper explores racial dynamics in contemporary Colombia as well as the intersection of race and space in the social construction of Latin America cities during the twentieth century.

Orlando Deavila Pertuz is a social and urban historian, working on the history of tourism development, the informal city and the making of race and ethnicity in modern Colombia. He is currently working on a book project provisionally titled The Battle for Paradise: Tourism Development, Race, and Popular Politics in the Remaking of Cartagena (Colombia), 1942-1984, which explores the spatial and social changes that Cartagena underwent amid its transformation into an international tourist destination.

This talk is co-sponsored by MMB and Bristol Caribbean Kitchen Table. It is open to all and free to attend.

Please contact Bethan Fisk here if you have any queries.

Deavila Talk Poster Nov 8 2023 (002)


Torre del Reloj, entrance to the historic centre of Cartagena (image: Rafaela Ely)


Wednesday 8 November 2023
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm


Arts Complex, G.H03
7 Woodland Road
Bristol, United Kingdom
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