FOR A CROSS-CUTTING APPROACH
Located in Senegal, in the Bay of Dakar, the island of Gorée is a place of immense universal value. It symbolizes the umbilical cord linking Europe, Africa and America and bears witness to a painful experience unprecedented in the history of mankind: the trafficking of millions of human beings through the crime of slavery.
Today, this island plays a leading role in the recognition of African cultures, history and memories. In the aftermath of the trauma of slavery, Gorée has become an epicenter - a place that has seen one symbolic act after another for the establishment of lasting peace - and a land of pilgrimage for the entire African diaspora.
In 1994, a UNESCO program was created at another place of memory: Ouidah, in Benin. Developed in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization, the objective of this program was to crystallize the memory of slavery around a commemorative itinerary called "The Slave Route", which traces the path of the captives to the bars that took them away forever. This initiative, based on what is known as "ethical tourism", for the promotion of a certain type of cultural tourism: that of memory, was intended - following the example of the initiatives launched in Gorée - to publicize the fate of those who were torn from their continent and to raise the awareness of all communities around the world, so that such a tragedy would never be forgotten and would never be repeated.
These millions of men and women left Gorée, Ouidah or other slave-trading centers and arrived in New Granada (the ancient name for the region corresponding to the present-day states of Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador) at about the same time as the first European settlers. Slavery was first authorized by the Spanish Crown in 1510. Its evolution from domestic slavery to plantation slavery has varied according to the economic needs of the country, mainly agricultural, along the coast of the territory.
Estimates of the number of slaves taken from Africa to Colombia vary. It is estimated that between 130,000 and 180,000 people were living in captivity in the South American country at the end of the 18th century. The main port of entry was in the coastal city of Cartagena, while slaves came from various parts of Africa, as well as from different linguistic and ethnic groups.
In 1812, Cartagena prohibited the importation of slaves and in 1819, at the Congress of Angostura, the goal of total but gradual emancipation was set. In any case, slavery continued to exist, although in decreasing numbers, until its definitive abolition on May 21, 1851. However, the prohibition of this practice did not mean its elimination, and it lasted a long time before gradually disappearing over time. Decades later, in 2002, as a tribute to its abolition, May 21 was declared Afro-Colombian Day.
Today, in Colombia and other countries, this painful past is commemorated and the celebrations are accompanied by multiple processes of vindication and recognition of the cultures of Afro-descendant peoples, and in general, are part of the struggles for human rights and the dignity of peoples. Awareness and knowledge of history and origins are essential characteristics of the process of forming the cultural identity of peoples. For this reason, the recognition of the cultures of African and Afro-descendant peoples has always been a decisive struggle for the continent and its diaspora. In this perspective, if the island of Gorée is the starting point of a harrowing history of humanity, it also represents the heritage of the African diaspora in the world.
This memory of African cultural identity has made it possible to enhance a certain heritage, in which the "island of memory" has become a "temple of knowledge", an instrument of cultural mediation and a meeting place for the black peoples of Africa, Latin America, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean islands. The protection of this heritage is of utmost importance for the international community as a whole.