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AQ Slideshow: The Least Colombian Department in Colombia

On May 25, raizales—Afro-Caribbean people living on the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina—participated in the Colombian presidential elections.

The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is a Colombian department located 137 miles (220 km) east of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, and 482 miles (775 km) away from mainland Colombia.

Even though the archipelago is closer to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and shares cultural similarities with other Caribbean islands, the Colombian government has had jurisdiction over these three small islands since 1822.

View a slideshow of Colombia's May 25 presidential elections in Providencia below.



View an expanded version of the slideshow here.

Afro-Caribbeans here call themselves raizales: they speak San Andrés Creole (similar to Jamaican Patois), and many are Protestants who have names and customs inherited from the times when the archipelago was settled by English Puritans. Spain captured Providencia in 1641 and assigned the islands to the Viceroyalty of New Granada (later Colombia) in 1803.

Overall, the history, culture, and identity of raizales bears little resemblance to the rest of Colombia.  The Colombian state has promoted Catholic missions and the migration of white, Spanish-speaking Colombians to the islands, yet, sometimes these measures conversely succeeded in arousing anti-Colombian sentiment among some members of the local population.

Some Raizales do not see themselves as Colombians and are part of movements like The Archipelago Movement for Ethnic Native Self-determination (AMEN-SD), which promotes separation from Colombia. Others advocate for the construction of a Caribbean political union similar to the short-lived West Indies Federation, which several Caribbean islands formed in the late 50s and early 60s to become independent from British rule.

Many raizales were skeptical after a 2012 International Court of Justice ruling awarded 43 percent of the disputed Caribbean maritime territory to Nicaragua. In the eyes of much of the population, the sentence undermined the legitimacy of the Colombian state in San Andrés and Providencia.

On May 25, raizales participated in the first round of the Colombian presidential elections along with the rest of the country, but 71.8 percent of Providencia’s residents abstained from voting.

All photos courtesy of the author.

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Colombian Elections, raizales, San Andres

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