Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert M Maxon


This dissertation addresses the history of a small community of the African Diaspora mostly overlooked: the Afro-Zulians as the descendants of the first blacks brought over to the Sur del Lago Maracaibo region in Venezuela by the Basque-French slave trader Jean de Chourio in 1722. The significance of this group in the context of colonial Venezuela from the period of 1722-1811, the year of Venezuelan independence, is highlighted. This dissertation examines perceptions that the Afro-Zulian community has of itself, as well as the perceptions that others have of it both within and outside of Venezuela. The theoretical idea central to this study is that despite attempts by the European colonists and Creole elites to strip away the African identity of the Afro-Zulian peoples (deculturation), the Afro-Zulians have managed to hold on to both their racial integrity and those fundamentals of culture, language and religion that link them to the Imbangala peoples of pre-colonial Angola. These fundamentals in varying degrees have been transmitted to, and incorporated into, the larger Afro-Venezuelan and even greater multicultural Venezuelan historical and social matrix through a gradual process of acculturation and conflation. This study assists in augmenting an understanding of this overlooked minority's contributions to Venezuelan history and society. In addition, it will serve to generate further interest and investigation on the part of historians and researchers of the African Diaspora throughout the Americas.