Culture

Afro-Latinos Continue To Make Huge Impacts On Global Politics

World history books do not always include large sections to detail the accomplishments of Afro-Latinos across North America, South America, and the Caribbean. So many Afro-Latinos have thrown their hats in the rings and led their countries through difficult moments and elevated the political discourse needed to push contries forward.

Cecilia Tait

Olympic silver medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Cecilia Tait became a champion off the volleyball court as well in her native Peru when she entered politics 10 years later. After dipping her toes in local politics, she eventually became the first Afro-Peruvian elected to the country’s Congress.

María Isabel Urrutia

Another Afro-Latina Olympic medalist from South America who went into politics once retiring from sports is Colombian María Isabel Urrutia. She won her country’s first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games and then transferred into politics, holding a seat in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia.

Julio Pinedo

In 2007, Julio Pinedo, a direct descendant of African slaves in Bolivia, was officially recognized by La Paz as ceremonious king of his Afro-Bolivian community. 

“He is a symbolic figure,” Spanish photographer Susana Giron told the New York Times in 2015. “For the Afro-Bolivians, he is important because he gives them a cultural identity. It shows they are a people descended from Africa. It is about their history and culture.”

Benedita da Silva

After Brazil’s military dictatorship ended, black Brazilians started to gain prominence in politics. One such example is Benedita da Silva, Brazil’s first female senator. Her resilient attitude was honed throughout her life, including when she received her high school diploma at the age of 40 and went to college at the same time her daughter was studying.

Her political resume includes becoming a senator, as well as the first Afro-Brazilian governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and Minister of the Secretary of State. 

She is also a fierce advocate for women’s rights in Latin America.

Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat

Paula Marcela Moreno Zapat is a Colombian politician, engineer and college professor. She was appointed in 2007 to serve as Colombia’s Minister of Culture, thus becoming the first Afro-Colombian woman to hold a cabinet position in her country, also the youngest. As part of her work as Minister of Culture, she has put Colombia’s name on the map, literally. She has acquired spots for her home country to exhibit at book fairs, film festivals, concerts, and conferences around the world.

Luis Gilberto Murillo

Another Afro-Colombian engineer who had a successful career in politics is Luis Gilberto Murillo. 

In 1998, Murrillo won the governorship for the state of Chocó, becoming one of the youngest people to do so. However, he was stripped from his governorship in 1999 due to what some newspapers and residents called a controversial court ruling.

Murrillo was kidnapped in 2000 in Colombia and after being released a few hours later, he fled the country with his family. He returned in 2011 after mostly working in Washington D.C. and continued to work in politics, most recently as the former minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in Colombia. 

He continues to be outspoken for issues on environmental sustainability and has not let the bumps along the road deter him from fighting for causes he is passionate about.

Pío Pico

Alta California’s final governor under Mexican rule was Afro-Mexican rancher and politician Pío de Jesús Pico. He served twice as governor and once he gained U.S. citizenship, was asked to be part of the Los Angeles Common Council, although he did not assume the office. If you’re in Los Angeles, you might recognize him as the namesake of Pico Boulevard. 

READ: Latino Politicians Sound Off Over Tom Brokaw Saying Latinos Need To Be Better At Assimilating In The US

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How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

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How Afromexicanos Fought For Their Place on the 2020 Mexico Census and Why It Took So Long

Photo via SusanaHarp/Twitter

Black history month is the time of year that we shine a spotlight on the rich and unique history of people of African descent in the United States–a past that has consistently been downplayed, ignored, and in some cases, erased from our history books.

At this point, it’s evident that the Black experience is not a monolith–there is no “one way” to be Black. And yet, many people still struggle to comprehend the fact that Afro-Latinos exist.

When you hear the term Afro-Latino, you might immediately think of a few Caribbean Spanish-speaking nations with explicit ties to the African diaspora–Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, for example.

But the fact is, Black people are everywhere in Latinidad. But Afro-Latinos in non-Caribbean countries often feel overlooked, erased. And this phenomenon is especially true for afromexicanos.

In 2020, after years of fighting, Afro-Mexicans finally got recognition on the Mexican census.

The question was simple, but powerful: “Por sus costumbres y tradiciones, ¿se considera usted afromexicano, negro o afrodescendiente?” (“Based on your culture and traditions, do you consider yourself Afro-Mexican, black or Afro-descendant?”)

For Americans, especially, it can be hard to understand why the question wasn’t on the census in the first place. After all, Americans live in a country where identities are divided into strict categories: Black, white. Hispanic, non-Hispanic.

But for Mexicans, the concept of race and ethnicity is a bit more complicated. To critics, separating people into Black, white, and Indiegnous categories on the census seemed divisive. Many Mexicans identify as mestizaje–a combination of indigenous, European, and, to some extent, African roots.

But for the organizers of the #AfroCensoMx campaign–a campaign to add the negro/afromexicano to the census–the movement was more than just identity politics.

Self-identifying as Black on the Mexican census is, of course, a little bit about pride in one’s identity, but it also has more practical concerns.

The census numbers who also inform organizations about socio-economic patterns associated with being Black in Mexico–information that is invaluable. Because as of now, afromexicanos have unique experiences that are informed by their heritage, their culture, and their place in the Mexican stratum.

As Bobby Vaughn, an African-American anthropologist who specializes in Black Mexicans, put it bluntly: “Mexicans of African descent have no voice and the government makes no attempt to assess their needs, no effort to even count them.”

But for afromexicano activists, being identified as such on the Mexican census is empowering.

Lumping all Mexicans together and ignoring their (sometimes very obvious) differences can have the effect of making certain groups feel erased. Yes, Black Mexicans are simply Mexicans–that fact is not up for debate. But stories abound of afromexicanos being discriminated against because of the way they look.

An Afro-Mexican engineer named Bulmaro García from Costa Chica (a region with a significant Black population) explained to The Guardian how he is grilled by border guards and asked to sing the Mexican national anthem whenever he crosses into Guerrero.

He says the guards’ behavior is “classic discrimination due to skin color. [They think] if you’re black, you’re not Mexican.”

The differences exist, and by acknowledging it, we are more able to speak truth to power.

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Latino Congressman Lou Correa Fights Back at Insurrectionist Trump Supporters Who Harassed Him at a D.C. Airport

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Latino Congressman Lou Correa Fights Back at Insurrectionist Trump Supporters Who Harassed Him at a D.C. Airport

Photo via screenshot

As the nation still struggles to come to grip with the horrific events that took place at the Capitol on last Wednesday, the aftermath of the debacle threatens to be just as horrifying as the event itself.

Videos are still continuing to pop up of unhinged far-right Trump supporters making public spectacles of themselves. But one such video became viral when the target of their hate refused to lie back and take it.

Recently, a video went viral of Democratic California Congressman Lou Correa being harassed by a crowd of Trump supporters right after the storming of the Capitol.

The incident took place at the Washington Dulles International Airport right outside of D.C. Based on the location and the timing, its safe to assume that these enraged Trump supporters were part of the insurrectionist mob that stormed the Capitol.

In the video, we see Rep. Correa defend himself against an irate mob who is getting in his face and hurling vitriolic insults at him.

Videos if the confrontation were posted by various right-wing social media pages, ostensibly trying to “expose” Correa for standing up for himself.

The video begins with various Trump supporters raving to Correa about “communist China” and “antifa”. When Correa explains that he was in Washington, D.C. to defend democracy, one of the Trump supporters tells him that the U.S. “isn’t a democracy, it’s a republic.”

The video then shows a large, deep-voiced many getting in Correa’s face and bellowing “Who are you?” and calling Correa a “F–ker”. Off screen, another man yells at Correa: “Nobody here voted for you. We don’t want you,” to which Correa responds: “That’s okay! 70% of people in my district did.”

In the face of such hatred, Correa held his own, refusing to be cowed by a group of bullies who recently showed themselves to be no better than terrorists.

In various interviews since the video went viral, Correa described the events that led up to the incident.

Correa told The OC Register that he had had roughly 15 minutes of sleep the night before after having stay up late to ratify the electoral votes after the process was interrupted by an angry mob.

He says he turned the corner to head towards his gate when the angry Trump-supporters recognized him as a lawmaker. “They picked me out, and boy, they came at me,” he told CNN.

Correa added that he was “surprised” at how “brazen” the hecklers were.

“They started lobbing all kinds of statements and just getting in my face, and I wouldn’t back off,” he said to the Register. “It was a situation where they were amped up and I have no idea why they came at me. Then I was surrounded by them and I stood my ground.”

But Correa, who was born in East LA and spent much of his youth in Mexico, says that he wasn’t intimidated by the bullies.

In the same interview with the Register, Correa described himself as from “the hood” and said that he is used to having angry citizens confront him for one reason or another. But this incident was unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

“I’ve never seen our nation so divided,” he said. “I’m OK with people coming up and expressing their anger and what have you. It’s another thing when people go out of their way to surround you and go after you.”

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