NPR’s Panel On Afro Latinidad Asks The Big Question About Who Exactly Gets To Claim The Title

Credit: NPR

“In some rooms, I’m never Latina enough, in other rooms I’m never black enough, I’m constantly code-switching…”

NPR’s Latino USA had an amazing discussion on the topic of Afro-Latinidad, zeroing in on the panel’s thoughts about who actually gets to call themselves “Afro-Latino.” The panel, expertly led by NPR’s Latino USA anchor Maria Hinojosa, consisted of Amilcar Priestley, director of the Afro-Latino Project and co-director of the Afro-Latino Festival; Marjua Esteves, Senior Editor at Vibe; M. Tony Peralta, artist and creator of lifestyle brand Peralta Project; and Jamila Brown, of HUE, a digital marketing company.

NPR’s Latino USA held a panel that kept it ? on Afro-Latinidad.

The conversation ran the gamut, from the realization that as a Latino you could even be black, to the “pelo malo vs. pelo bueno” conversation, to the discussion about whether ancestry, physical appearance, or both, are the main qualifiers over who gets to claim to be Afro-Latino. An important point that everyone gave a big “mmm-hmm” to was someone phrasing the question of Afro-Latinidad as “What color does a police officer think you are?”

The conversation of anti-blackness and racism within the Latino community came up when discussing the case of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a Mexican-American police officer. Of Yanez’s motivation, Hinojosa says “you bought into the entire narrative of anti-blackness as a Latino and you acted on it.”

The conversation ends on what can be done about changing views, with the suggestion that white people educate and challenge themselves as people who can have a major impact on dismantling white supremacy from the inside. Another important suggestion was to build on the work of others who have been making an effort to dismantle anti-blackness in Latin America for centuries. Most importantly, the panel states that we need to unite around the issues facing us, from racial profiling to being targeted by the police and deportation of immigrants, many of whom are black Latinos. The panel ended on “we all need each other, particularly in this political climate.” Word.

Later in the radio program, Hinojosa spoke to Congressman Adriano Espaillat on his experiences as an Afro-Latino.

Rep. Espaillat, of New York’s 13th District, made history as the first Dominican to serve in the U.S. Congress. As an Afro-Dominican, he was welcomed warmly by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But he faced opposition when he tried joining the Congressional Black Caucus. This isn’t the first time Espaillat has come up against opposition for being Afro-Latino, and he isn’t as frustrated about it as one may think. Not being frustrated, however, doesn’t mean he isn’t a fighter and isn’t ready to kick some doors down.

Listen to the second part of the program to hear what Rep. Espaillat’s Afro-Latinidad meant to him and how it helped shape his political career.

Credit: NPR

Rep. Espaillat is still waiting to hear whether or not he’ll be accepted into the Congressional Black Caucus. According to Hinojosa, an official reply should be out within the coming weeks.

[H/T] NPR’s Latino USA

READ: Afro-Puerto Rican Rapper, Princess Nokia, Dropped A Dope Video For Her Song G.O.A.T. And Her Story Will Amaze You

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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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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