Culture

Here’s What You Missed At The Long Beach Afro-Latino Festival

Black History Month is a time when the many African influences throughout Latin America should be acknowledged and celebrated. The Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beach, California did just that on Sunday, Feb. 24. The second ever Afro-Latinx Festival featured dance, musical performances, vendors and a collection of traditional Latin American food to eat. Check out some of the highlights and what attendees said about what makes them proud to identify as Afro-Latino.

Music and dances of traditional Afro-Latino culture were well displayed.

Photo by Javier Rojas

The Lidereibugu Garifuna Ensemble, a Los Angeles-based traditional dance and drumming group, performed among a standing room only audience. The group consists of dancers from historically Afro-Latino areas like Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize.

There was various food trucks selling dishes from countries like Brazil and Peru.

Photo by Javier Rojas

What would a festival be without good food? The event didn’t disappoint on that part. Traditional Afro-Latino meals were available thanks to food trucks like The Tropic Truck, Mikhuna Peruvian Truck and Tender Grill Gourmet Brazilian. There was even a huge selection of agua frescas for sale that included flavors like watermelon, hibiscus and kiwi.

There was a huge selection of merchants selling traditional Afro-Latino goods and products.

Photo by Javier Rojas

Toni Shaw, owner of House of Mosaic, was one of many vendors at the Afro-Latino festival. She is an entrepreneur that sells candles as an homage to her cultural upbringing. Shaw says events like this are important beyond just a one-day celebration.

“Not only am I meeting new business owners like myself but I’m getting a sense of what identifying as Afro-Latino means to others,” Shaw said. “We need more days like this that’s a for sure.”

Jolin Miranda was another business owner who talked about what identifying as Afro-Latino means.

Photo by Javier Rojas

Miranda is the owner of an artwork and accessory collection called Boricubi.” The collection is a nod to her roots and an expression of her passion in art. Miranda says the art has not only helped her connect with other Afro-Latinas like herself but give her a voice.

“My art is a reflection of how I see myself and the vibrant roots of my culture,” Miranda said. “It’s powerful and we should never forget to express ourselves with others.”

Veronica Lennon, a jewelry maker, says having an Afro-Latino festival goes a long way when it comes to representation.

Photo by Javier Rojas

“This event is important for some if us who have a mixture of cultures in our backgrounds and rarely get talked about,” Lennon says.

She sells items that are a combination of traditional Latino and African merchandise that Lennon says represent what being Afro-Latino is all about. “We need to be proud of our background and take pride in events like this,”

Isabel Walker, who hails from Panama, voiced what festivals like this mean to her culturally.

Photo by Javier Rojas

“It makes me happy to see people come out and enjoy this day where sometimes people forget our small communities.” Walker said. “I’m from Panama and all this dancing and art just brings me home.”

One of the biggest highlights of the event was a performance by the
ABADA Capoeira team.

Photo by Javier Rojas

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art form that was developed by slaves. It allowed slaves to disguise that they were practicing fight moves that they would later utilize by making them look like they were dancing. The martial art is used in various Afro-Latino communities.

Performers allowed children to get in on the capoeira as well.

Photo by Javier Rojas

The art of capoeria combines self-defense, acrobatics, dance, music and song together. Children took to the stage to show off some of their skills and put it to test against performers.

The festival is a perfect example of the importance of celebrating the Afro-Latino background and culture.

Photo by Javier Rojas

Officials say attendance sizes reached well over 600 people throughout the day. MoLAA officials hope to host a similar event in the forthcoming year with an even bigger lineup of artists and vendors. We are already looking forward to it.

READ: Latin America Truly Is A Food Oasis And Here Are Some Of The Best Dishes

Ritchie Torres Is Running For Congress To Give His Community The Representation It Deserves

Things That Matter

Ritchie Torres Is Running For Congress To Give His Community The Representation It Deserves

ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Politics is getting particularly young, and we like it. From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to State Senator Alessandra Biaggi to Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou to legislator Caleb Hanna, all of these young politicians are bringing a breath of fresh air to their policies and to the political discourse. Now, there’s another name to include in the list that is breaking barriers in more ways than one.

Meet 31-year-old Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres who is running for Congress. If he wins his next year, he will be the first openly gay black or Latino member of Congress.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Do not think for a second that Torres, while young, is new to the game. Born and raised in the Bronx, Torress has been in the political world since 2013, bringing change on a local level but making a considerable impact. Currently, he is the chair of the Committee on Public Housing and is a deputy majority leader. He is also the chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee. 

Next year, Torres and 12 others will seek to replace Rep. José Serrano in New York’s 15th Congressional District. His competition includes Assembly Member Michael Blake, Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Tomas Ramos, among others, Buzzfeed reports. But he is a frontrunner in the campaign, and here’s why. 

While Torres is running against several other Latino politicians, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has officially announced they are officially endorsing him and helping to fund his campaign.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“In a crowded field, Torres has been able to build a strong and diverse coalition of support from labor groups, LGBTQ groups, and many of his own colleagues on the city council,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas, chair of BOLD PAC, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “He knows the issues that keep Bronx families up at night — not just from his time as a city council member — but from growing up in the Bronx and being raised by a single mother. He’s proven to be the stand-out Latino candidate in this field, and BOLD PAC is proud to put our full support behind his campaign to bring home a victory next November.”

Of this endorsement, Torres tweeted, “Honored to earn the endorsement @BOLDDems which has been at the forefront of strengthening Latinx representation in Congress. The backing of @BOLDDems is a game-changer in the #SouthBronx, which is home to one of the highest Latinx populations in the US.”

The ambitious politician is half Puerto Rican and half Black.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“I was raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage, and I lived in conditions of mold and vermin, lead and leaks,” Torres said in his campaign video. “I remember asking myself, why would the city spend $100 million on a golf course, rather than on the homes of struggling New Yorkers like my mother. I knew at that moment that I had to fight for people like me.” 

Here he explains further why he chose to become a lawmaker and serve his community in the Bronx.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“As a product of public housing, public schools, and public hospitals, I had a dream of fighting for my community in the hopes of building a better Bronx,” he said on his website. “At 25, against all odds, I became the youngest elected official in New York City, and the first openly LGBT elected official from the Bronx. I have represented Bronx communities on the New York City Council, and now I’m running to represent New York’s 15th Congressional District – because the Bronx needs one of our own to fight for us in Washington.”

His motto is: “If you do nothing, nothing will change.” 

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Torres is inspiring significant change already. Several of his staff employees are young people of color. One of the young Latinos that work for Torres said in a video published by the New Yorker that most kids that are from the Bronx work hard to leave the area. He said he remains there to give back to the community, which is why he works for Torres. 

Fun fact: he was named Ritchie after you guessed it: Ritchie Valens.

According to a 2015 interview in Newsweek, Torres said his mother wanted to name him Ritchie after she watched “La Bamba.” Well, that does it. He’s got our vote.

READ: This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Latinidad Is Being Cancelled By Afro And Indigenous People Who Do Not See Themselves Represented

Culture

Latinidad Is Being Cancelled By Afro And Indigenous People Who Do Not See Themselves Represented

indyamoore / Instagram

While we’re in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to note how the outdated term “Latinidad” excludes a large portion of the Latino community. We’re talking about the existence of indigenous and Black Latinos. The “Hispanic” label specifically includes those from Spain, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month feels completely weird if you’re Afro or indigenous. 

There’s been more of an uproar recently between Hispanic, Latinos, and Afro-Latinos after musical artist Rosalia got awards and praise for her music as a Latin artist. The thing is that she isn’t Latina, she’s Spanish. That entire debacle was just another nail in the coffin that proves how white-washed our society is, and it’s not just coming from Caucasians but Latinos as well. 

People on social media are using the hashtag #LatinidadIsCancelled to discuss anti-Blackness in the Latino community. Not to mention, how society, in general, discriminates against Black Latinos when referring to Latinos as a whole demographic.

Journalist Felice León did a brilliant segment for The Root titled, “Black and Indigenous Millennials Are Cancelling Latinidad” in which she discusses how Black Latinos are not included under the Latinidad umbrella.

“Latinidad just really just centers on the shared history and shared culture, but doesn’t necessarily, like, delve into all of those multifaceted identities,” writer Janel Martinez told León and added she’s straying from the term Latinidad. “And for me, Latinidad ultimately serves white cis-gendered, straight, wealthy men.” Martinez continued, “I am none of those things, so for me, I’m at the margins of this term.”

While we know Latinos are already excluded from significantly from TV and film, the ones that are visible are mostly white Latinos. 

Credit: @TheRoot / Twitter

You ever noticed how the most popular Latino celebs are light-skinned? We’re talking Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello, Gina Rodriguez, America Ferrera, Rosalia and that’s just when referring to the women.

The topic of canceling Latinidad shows how racist our own people are against Black Latinos. 

Credit: @EnLatinidad / Twitter

Ever notice how some Latinos praise a baby that is born with light skin and blue eyes? Or how they object to someone dating a Black man? It is a sentiment that has been part of the Latino community for a very long time.

Afro-Latinos face so much discrimination because of their ancestors, their dark skin, and their hair. 

Credit: @juni0r973 / Twitter

How can a group of Latinos fit nicely and perfectly under the Latinidad family if some people there clearly don’t want to include Black Latinos? It’s kind of sad how light-skinned Latinos favor their whiteness as superiority. Black is beautiful. When will the Latino community finally realize that? Thanks to the inclusion of Black Latinos in the media, we’re able to see the representation even though it’s still quite limited.

The exclusion of Black Latinos could also be seen in this year’s Latin Grammy nominations, which excluded a lot of reggaeton artists. 

Credit: @rosangelica4u / Twitter

Another hashtag making the rounds on the internet included #SinReggaetonNoHayLatinGrammy after several artists spoke out against the Grammy’s exclusion of reggaeton artists. The most nominations this year went to two Spanish artists, Rosalia and Alejandro Sanz

While we know some Latinos are racist against their own people, it’s important to know that colonized societies have been white-washed and that cycle continues to this day. 

Credit: @themermacorn / Twitter

How do we break a cycle of racism against our own people? By educating ourselves about the history of our diaspora, and not by closing our eyes to the reality of colonization. We’re not perfect people, but we can learn to be more inclusive by realizing our own hate and blindness. The blatant and longstanding practice of ignoring the Afro and indigenous identities within the Latino community has justifiably left so many people done with Latinidad.

It’s funny how Rosalia was beloved from day one until she starting owning her Latinidad on a public stage. 

Credit: @elliottraylassi / Twitter

During her acceptance speech at this year’s MTV VMAs, Rosalia said, “Wow. I wasn’t expecting this, honestly. Thank you, because it’s such an incredible honor. I come from Barcelona. I’m so happy to be here representing where I come from and representing my culture. … Thank you for allowing me to perform tonight singing in Spanish.”

So if she said she’s representing where she came from, which is Spain, she is certainly not Latina so why is she cradled into that group so openly?

As one person put it nicely on Twitter, @gacd86 writes, “Latinidad isn’t just for white Latinos though. Mestizos participate in the normalization of anti-blackness and the benefit of the exploitation of indigenous communities.” The rampant and dangerous anti-Blackness in the Latino community needs to stop now.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month.

READ: Spain Has Colonized The 2019 Latin Grammys And Latino Twitter Has Some Serious Thoughts