“El Negro,” The Cabo Verdean-Argentine Captain of Argentina’s National Soccer Team.

Those with ancestry in Cabo Verde are known as “Cabo Verdean Argentines” that live in Argentina. There were roughly 8,000 back in the 1980 census. Other sources put the number of descendants of Cabo Verdean immigrants in Argentina at between 12,000 and 15,000. Of this number, only about 300 are believed to be African-born.[i] Before Cabo Verde gained its independence in 1975, its immigrant population was counted among the Portuguese. In the late 19th century, a limited number of people from Cabo Verde arrived in Argentina. Between the 1920s and WWII, there was a sharp rise in the population. The most significant number of Cabo Verdean immigrants arrived between 1927 and 1933 and again after 1946. Famine, a lack of employment possibilities, and resource depletion forced them to leave Cabo Verde.[ii]

 El Gráfico magazine covers.

The majority came from the islands of São Vicente, Santo Antão, and São Nicolau, with some also coming from Fogo and Brava. Buenos Aires Province is home to the largest concentration of Cabo Verdeans and people of Cabo Verdean descent in all of Argentina. Since the majority of them were skilled mariners and fishers, they were typically located near water and found work in ports. They anchored at places such as the South Dock, Ensenada, Rosario, Bahia Blanca, and San Nicolás de Los Arroyos. A large number of them found employment in the Argentine Navy’s Sea Fleet, Merchant Navy, and Fluvial Fleet at the YPF dockyards. [iii] In the largely European-Argentine society, there were many people who had to deal with discrimination. For more than sixty years, two groups have been dedicated to providing mutual support and fostering cultural interchange. The early 1930s saw the establishment of the Society of Mutual Aid, often known as The Cabo Verdean Union of South Dock. Around the same time, the Cabo Verdean Sport and Culture Club of Ensenada came into being.

It’s about time we took a moment to reflect on one of the few Afro-Argentines in soccer history. One of the best defenders in South American soccer history, José Manuel Ramos Delgado, passed away on December 3, 2010, in Buenos Aires.[iv] He was revered as a god by River Plate fans despite never having won a championship during his six years with the mighty club and drawing none other than Pelé’s Santos FC, where he was also magnificent when he was thirty-two years old. He was a calm leader and a pristine defender who captained the national team in sixteen of the twenty-five games he appeared in.[v] Quilmes, Argentina, is the place of origin for Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado. His father, born in São Vicente, Cabo Verde, gave him automatic membership in Argentina’s Cabo Verdean community. During the 1956 season, Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado made his professional debut with Lanús. Quickly, he was able to prove himself and transfer to River Plate, where he spent seven seasons and 172 appearances. Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado started working at Banfield in 1966. After a brief stint, he transferred to Santos FC in Brazil, where he played during the club’s glory years alongside legends like Pelé, Coutinho, and José Macia. He made 324 appearances for Santos and scored once in his career. In his final year as a professional, Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado suited up for Portuguesa Santista. When he was thirty-nine years old, he called it quits.[vi]

Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado managed to make his debut for the national squad in early 1958 and was summoned to the World Cup in Sweden despite having not participated in the qualifiers. He sat out of the Cup, sparing himself the humiliation of watching the “hermanos” get knocked out of the competition in the first round after a 6-1 loss to Czechoslovakia. Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado, also in 1962, traveled to the World Cup being hosted in Chile. His debut was a 3-1 loss to England, but coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo did not start using him until then. The defender did his part: Argentina didn’t concede goals from Hungary in the second game but didn’t score either. A new early elimination was confirmed when the score remained at 0-0. The turnaround occurred in 1964 and 1965, when Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado, or “El Negro,” became a regular in the starting lineup. He was the captain in the Albiceleste’s most major achievement until the 1978 Cup. Argentinian won the 1964 Nations Cup with a 3-0 victory over Brazil in São Paulo.[vii] Even though he played in every qualifying match for the 1966 World Cup, coach Juan Carlos Lorenzo, who took over the national team on the eve of the World Cup, ignored him and only used him in one of the final pre-World Cup tests, an unofficial friendly against Cagliari on June 1, 1966.

Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado accomplished all of his career highlights while wearing the white jersey of Santos FC. He took home the Paulista title four times (1967, 1968, 1969, and 1973) and the “Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa” trophy once (1968). Following his playing career’s conclusion, Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado served as the manager of Brazilian club Santos for a time before returning to Argentina, where he managed a number of different teams, including Belgrano, Deportivo Maip, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, Estudiantes de La Plata, River Plate, Talleres de Córdoba, Platense, All Boys, and his hometown club Quilmes. He also functioned as the manager of the Peruvian team Universitario. Soon after, he went back to Santos to work as a youth team coach, where he shaped the careers of future stars like Robinho and Diego. After completing training at the Circle of Sports Journalism in 1994, he began working as a sports pundit for a number of broadcast outlets.[viii]

Argentina National Team in 1964. Standing: Rattín, Varacka, Carrizo, Vieytez, Ramos Delgado, Simeone. Crouching: Onega, Rendo, Prospitti, Rojas and Mesiano. Credit: m.diariouno.com.ar.
Argentina national team in 1964. Standing: Rattín, Varacka, Carrizo, Vieytez, Ramos Delgado, Simeone. Crouching: Onega, Rendo, Prospitti, Rojas, and Mesiano. Credit: m.diariouno.com.ar.
Credit: Revista do Esporte number 447 – September 30, 1967.
Pelé and Jose Manuel Ramos Delgado “El Negro”

[i]  University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth. “1995 Cape Verdean Diaspora Population Estimates.” Retrieved on December 8, 2022.

[ii] António Carreira, Migrações Nas Ilhas De Cabo Verde (Lisbon: Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Ciências Humanas e Sociais, 1977).

[iii] Marta M. Maffia, “Migration and Identity of Cape Verdeans and Their Descendants in Argentina,” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 3, no. 2 (2010): pp. 169-180, https://doi.org/10.1080/17528631.2010.481954.

[iv] “ Murió El Negro Ramos Delgado,” La Nacion, December 3, 2010, https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/futbol/murio-el-negro-ramos-delgado-nid1330490/.

[v] “Anécdotas Del Superclásico: José Ramos Delgado – Deportes – Taringa!,” accessed December 8, 2022, https://www.taringa.net/+deportes/anecdotas-del-superclasico-jose-ramos-delgado_134p7d.

[vi] “Murió El Negro Ramos Delgado,” La Nacion, December 3, 2010, https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/futbol/murio-el-negro-ramos-delgado-nid1330490/.

[vii] “Murió El Negro Ramos Delgado,” La Nacion, December 3, 2010, https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/futbol/murio-el-negro-ramos-delgado-nid1330490/.

[viii] “Murió El Negro Ramos Delgado,” La Nacion, December 3, 2010, https://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportes/futbol/murio-el-negro-ramos-delgado-nid1330490/.

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