The history of African descendants in Colombia--as in much of Latin America is wrought wit conflict and much pain. Slavery wasn't abolished until 1851, and even though Afro-Colombians participated at every level of government and were key in Colombia's fight for freedom against the Spanish, the government still encouraged "whitening" policies to rid citizens of any trace of African or Native descent among citizens--an action that today still colors the attitudes and prejudices of many Colombians (and sadly, this is seen through all of Latin America).

That's why this hair contest, held in the city of Cali, makes me feel a bit encouraged about my country's efforts to celebrate and encourage pride in our African roots. 

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Every May, the entire country celebrates Afro-Colombian Week, which aims to encourage pride among Afro-Colombians. As part of that celebration, Cali hosts this hair styling competition, where the stars are the gorgeous curly locks of each creative stylist and contestant. The contest encourages the preservation of traditional methods of braiding, weaving, and other hair styling methods used by these artists.

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One particularly beautiful style featured an intricate woven braid pattern which stylist Maria Olave intertwined with banana and chontaduros, a savory, starchy fruit that was a staple among many coastal African populations. The style, to her, represented her ancestor's use of seeds to produce fruit.

Check out the of the video of the contes, below; it's pretty amazing and the hair is gorgeous!

 What do you think of this competition? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via ITN News

About the author

Yuliana is the Assistant Managing Editor of Mamás Latinas and a new-ish mamá (as her son is almost a toddler, she can't claim new mami-hood anymore). She was born in Medellín, Colombia and raised in New Jersey.

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