Will Smith’s Colombia Visit Brings Up Questions of Local Perceptions of Blackness and Afro-Colombianos

Apr 26, 2018
12:16 PM

Will Smith has taken over Instagram since he joined the social media platform in December of 2017. Since he launched his page, he has posted motivational videos, social media challenges, and has shown off his Spanish-language speaking skills and love for Latinxs. Recently, he has been posting videos of Cartagena, Colombia, and the love he’s been getting from locals while filming the upcoming movie Gemini Man.

The fact that he is filming in Cartagena, where there is a large Afro-Colombian population, is not to be overlooked. While Smith loves Latinos, and his love for Colombianos isn’t new (see his collab with Bomba Estéreo), we got curious about how Colombians were perceiving his visit, both in the local community of Cartagena, and outside of Cartagena.

There is a deep-seated racism in Colombia, like in much of the hemisphere. Afro-Colombians suffer from systemic oppression, which often has violent repercussions, and from blatantly racist media representation. Earlier this month, an Afro-Colombian organization denounced the assassination of 27 leaders in mostly Afro-descendant and indigenous communities, all of which have happened within the first two months of 2018. In 2015, Latino Rebels published an article about the fight that AfroColombianos waged against a television personality who used of blackface.

So what then do Colombianos have to say about the presence of Will Smith in their country, in the face of racism? We scouted Twitter for some local reactions, and they highlight the country’s racial issues and the invisibility of Afro-Colombianos, and also how the perception of blackness shifts when it’s about someone who isn’t Afro-Colombiano, but rather a celebrity recognized worldwide. See for yourself.

Some have spoken directly to Will Smith’s positive reception in comparison with the treatment of Afro-Colombianos:

Furthermore, the perception of Will Smith may seemingly be received with open arms, yet some of the reactions have also been steeped with racial comments that speak to the often problematic consumption of African American culture.

And then there’s these tweets, which we’ll let you decipher yourself:

Amidst all, there’s also the pure joy because Will Smith CAN have that effect on people, particularly for the Afro-Colombian community of Cartagena: