Race Matters: What Do You Think About The Afro-Latina Struggle Being Both Black And Latino?

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Categories: For Discussion, News, Race Matters

Afro Latina

Must be two sides! We’ve seen this issue come up time and time again, particularly with celebrities like La La Anthony and Zoe Saldana. When they identify as Latino, black audiences sometimes feel some kinda way about it. And sometimes Afro-Latinas aren’t even accepted by other Latinos.

This is the subject broached in a recent article on Latina.com:

The frustrating ironies of being Afro-Latina hit Yuly Marshall with stunning regularity: At work at a Miami hospital, Hispanic patients of the Cuban-born radiology technician usually assume she’s African American, asking her, “Where did you learn to speak Spanish like that?” and expressing shock—even skepticism—that she’s really Latina. Other times, fellow Latinos will disparage African Americans in front of her with phrases like, “What can you expect from negros?” and then turn around and tell her, as if paying her a compliment, “But you’re not like that. You’re one of us.”

When Marshall talks about race issues with African American coworkers, they often tell her she has no idea what it’s really like to be black. Yet a few years ago, when Marshall dated a lighter-skinned black Latino, his parents persuaded him to break it off because of her dark skin. “They told him to find a white girl so he could adelantar la raza,” Marshall says, using a phrase that roughly means to ‘push the race forward’ by marrying a light-skinned person and producing children lighter than yourself.

“Sometimes I think, ‘When is this going to end?’” says Marshall, 31. “But I love my skin color. God created me this way, and I’m just as good as any other person.”

The article credits Marshall’s self esteem and other Afro-Latina’s similar attitudes on the rise of larger numbers of Afro-Latina celebs like Zoe and La La, Lauren Velez, Dania Ramirez, Soledad O’Brien and models like Arlenis Sosa and Joan Smalls. They also point to a rise in awareness and the formation of cultural groups that help foster healthier attitudes toward their heritage.

If you’re wondering how things got to this point in the first place, it’s important to understand the historical context as well. As the article points out, the bulk of people captured in the African slave trade landed in Latin America:

Of the estimated 11 million enslaved Africans brought to the New World from the late 1400s to the 1860s, most were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean, with only some 645,000 landing in the United States. “So when you’re talking about blackness, you’re really talking about Latin America,” Jimenez says.

Yet while African musical and culinary influence on Latino culture is often celebrated, the Afro-Latino experience in many Latin American countries has been muted. In the Dominican Republic, for example, the government once encouraged blacks to use the term ‘indio’ instead of ‘black’ to describe themselves, partly as a way to distance themselves from neighboring Haitians; Mexico officially recognized its extensive African DNA only recently, even though its second president was Afro-Mexican and at one point slaves there outnumbered their Spanish masters.

Many Latin American countries have de-emphasized race for another reason, says Arlene Davila, Ph.D., a New York University professor of anthropology. “National identity was supposed to trump racial identity,” she says, supposedly making everyone equal. Black Latinos were made to feel as if trumpeting their race made them less Cuban, for example, though in reality, the political and economic power lay with light-skinned citizens.

Immigrants bring that baggage with them to the United States, and acquire more when exposed to American race relations—which tend to be in stark black and white terms, with little room for the possibility of Afro-Latino identities. “A lot of kids grow up in homes where they are living this Latino life that is very white-based, because you have parents who bring with them negative prejudices about African Americans,” says Yvette Modestin, director of Boston’s non-profit Encuentro Diaspora Afro. To differentiate themselves, Montesin says, “parents hold on to their Latino-ness at all costs, imagining that they are making things easier for their kids. And they’re not. They’re making things harder.”

You can read the full story HERE, but we really want to broach this one for discussion. So what do you think? Does Black have to trump ALL other ancestry when it comes to our heritage? Why is it that our society (Black, Latino and otherwise) holds such a high regard for European features? Will there come a day when all Latino people recognize and embrace their African roots? What will it take to get there???

Please discuss!

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