This essay addresses the centrality of space and place in the negotiation of identity in the African diaspora. It does so through the examination of how one particular geographic region in the Bolivian Andes, the Yungas, is implicated in social constructions of blackness among black and nonblack Bolivians and in the marked scarcity of those constructions. Bolivians of African descent have been concentrated in this rural agricultural region for centuries. The area's historical and physical characteristics have long encouraged the notion that the Yungas is somehow the “closest thing to Africa” in Bolivia and thus a “natural place” for black slaves to have ended up and a “natural place” for their descendants to have stayed. The ways in which Afro-Bolivians have been naturalized into the Yungas suggests a biologizing (in other words, racializing) of blackness that is largely denied in the context of Bolivia and, further, demonstrates how blackness is spatialized and space is racialized within the global African diaspora.

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