MRG Podcast: May 2011
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Welcome to Minority Rights Group International’s May 2011 podcast. This month we hear about how it’s hard to be black in Argentina, learn how minorities in Libya are being affected by the country’s bloody revolution and experience the pleasure and the pain of Spain’s gypsies through flamenco music.
First up we have an interview with Nengumbi Celestin Sukama, president of the Argentinian Institute for Equality, Diversity and Integration, which works in Argentina to defend the rights of asylum seekers and political refugees from the African continent, and to combat racial discrimination against African descendants.
The interview provides a first hand account of the strong challenges faced by all black people in Argentine society from the specific perspective of someone who arrived in the country some 15 years ago as an asylum seeker from the Democractic Republic of Congo.
Along with Afro-Argentineans of colonial period ancestry and post Second World War African migrants from the island of Cabo Verde, over the past decade Argentina has been experiencing an ever increasing inflow of migrants from African countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Ghana. This is in addition to African descendants from Uruguay, Haiti, Brazil and Colombia. All face discrimination and official disinterest, with roots that date back to the very beginning of the formation of Argentine society and its institutions.
Next up an interview with Akli Bessadah, an Amazigh from Libya. Unrecognised by the Libyan government, the Amazigh people have been forced to flee their desert homes because of harsh environmental conditions and lack of resources. They remain on the sidelines of mainstream society, face discrimination and are forced to live isolated from the rest of the population.
In the interview, Akli expresses his deep concern about the plight of the Amazighs in Libya, and lists his community's demands: recognition of their culture, language and traditions, equal treatment and a heartfelt desire to participate in Libyan social and political life.
Finally our minority music selection this month comes from Spain, a classic piece of flamenco sung by one of the country’s finest singers, Carmen Linares. The song is called Fragua, Yunque y Martinete (literally Forge, Anvil and Hammer) and forms part of a particular kind of stripped down sub-genre of flamenco, sung acapella style to the beat of a hammer on an anvil.
Flamenco music and dance originated in Andalusia in the 18th century. Spanish gypsies played an essential part in its creation and evolution. Singing, guitar playing and dance are the principal facets of the genre.
Gypsies or Romani people in Spain are known as gitanos. The Spanish government estimates their numbers to be between 650 and 700,000
For hundreds of years gitanos have faced persecution and harassment in Spain. Since the death of Franco in 1975 the government has made steps to try and address the community’s problems, providing special education programmes, welfare and social services and housing.
However despite these measures, and the immense and immediately recognisable contribution they have made to Spanish culture, the poverty and social exclusion that gitanos have experienced for centuries has unfortunately still not been eradicated.
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