Things That Matter

Famous Afro Latinos Figures Who Changed The World For The Good

Updated June 1, 2020.

famous afro latinos From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King Jr., the country’s effort to focus on Black contributions and civil rights history is something, but it’s not not enough.

Many people in the Latino community still willfully ignore the contributions made by Afro-Latinos. Sometimes the mere emphasis on their true identity is what has paved the way for their existence to be celebrated in the Latino community. Here are some Afro-Latinos who have made waves and paved ways for other people who exist in the duality of being Black and Latino.

Celia Cruz

@celiacruzonline / Instagram

Cuban legend Celia Cruz is probably the most famous Afro-Latino of the world. She received the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton in 1994 for her contribution in spreading the sounds of salsa music to the U.S. and the world.

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez

@marsrader / Twitter

Méndez is the first person of African heritage to travel into space. He was born in Cuba and orphaned as an infant and went from shining shoes to traveling in Earth’s orbit. That’s something to be proud of.

Adriano Espaillat

@zabalaaldia / Twitter

Espaillat is the first formerly undocumented immigrant to ever serve in Congress. The Dominican-American now serves as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 13th Congressional District and is an unwavering champion of immigrant rights in the process.

Amara La Negra

@amaraln / Instagram

Amara La Negra brought the topic of Afro-Latinidad to public discourse after Young Hollywood criticized her afro during a business meeting on “Love & Hip Hop: Miami.” You can tell from the Dominicana’s stage name that she’s fiercely Afro-Latina. She is forcing us to have conversations about accepting Black identity within the Latino community.

Lisa Lopes

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_6eCzvjyRc/

Born in 1971 in Pennsylvania, Lopes was born to a mother of African-American and Mexican descent a father who was African-American and Cape Verdean. As a member of the R&B girl group TLC, she won four Grammy Awards and inspired little girls across Black communities with her voice and message.

Minnie Miñoso

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9CbBemgs_o/

Nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” Miñoso was a Cuban Negro league and Major League Baseball (MLB) player. The first Black Cuban in the major leagues, Miñoso was an All-Start Third baseman and the first black player in White Sox history.

MJ Rodriguez

@PoseOnFX / Twitter

She’s the first trans Afro-Latina starring actress to be on a television series drama, and she’s crushing it. The Puerto Rican star has skyrocketed to fame playing Blanca Evangelista on FX’s “Pose” and her star is not coming down any time soon.

Roberto Clemente

@JohnDreker / Twitter

Roberto Clemente is a Puerto Rican legend. Clemente was the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and is remembered for his tireless and selfless commitment to helping the world. He died in a plane crash while taking supplies to Nicaragua following a devastating earthquake.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

@aimeeesq / Twitter

Schomburg was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1874 to a freed slave, Mary Joseph Alfonso and Carlos Schomburg, a German merchant living in Puerto Rico. When Schomburg was in elementary school, one of his teachers claimed that Black people had no history, heroes or accomplishments. He became determined to prove her wrong and went on to become a Black historian and major intellectual figure during the Harlem Renaissance. Today, The New York Public Library Harlem branch has an entire Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, made up of his own collection of slave narratives and other books.

Felipe Luciano

@aprilRsilver / Twitter

Luciano was the founder of the Young Lords New York Branch (which was like the Puerto Rican version of the Black Panther Party). He’s also known for his poetry and his membership in the Original Last Poets.

José Celso Barbosa

@blackarcheology / Twitter

Barbosa was the first Afro-Latino to earn a medical degree in the United States. After accomplishing that major feat, he went on to join the first Puerto Rican Senate and advocated for statehood.

Soledad O’Brien

@soledadobrien / Twitter

O’Brien has become one of the top names in journalism with a slew of awards and her own show to prove it. The ACLU asked O’Brien’s parents, an Afro-Cubana and Australian, to be the couple that would test the ban on interracial marriage. Her parents had to marry in D.C. where the laws were less restrictive at the time.

Gwen Ifill

@michele_norris / Twitter

Ifill was one of the first Black women to host a national public affairs program in the United States and the first to moderate a vice presidential debate. The Panamanian journalist paved the way for many others and Afro-Latino journalists today have Ifill to thank for the path she blazed.

Princess Nokia

@princessnokia / Instagram

Puerto Rican artist Princess Nokia is known for rapping her feminist agenda with no apology. She’s speaking truth to words in a way that is uniquely relatable to Afro-Latinas. She is not holding back when she stands up for herself anf her fellow Afro-Latinas.

Judy Reyes

@itisijudyreyes1 / Instagram

While we mostly think of current icons, Amara La Negra and Cardi B, actress Judy Reyes has been paving the way for much longer.

“I would get really positive reactions at auditions for both African-American and Latino parts. But, I didn’t look Latino enough because of the curly hair, and the freckles, and the nose and all that stuff,” she told NBCUniverso.

Sylvia del Villard

@blogdiva / Twitter

San Juan-born Sylvia de Villard grew up around dance, but it wasn’t until she moved to NYC where she committed her life to it. She joined the ballet group Africa House and went on to create the Afro-Boricua El Coqui Theater.

Julia de Burgos

@gaychickendad / Twitter

Burgos is a Puerto Rican poet and journalist who’s known for her work in the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. The celebration of her blackness has influenced many Afro-Caribbean writers that have come after her. Her lasting legacy is something to be admired.

Miriam Jiménez Román

@LatinaRAS / Twitter

Jiménez is one of the foremost leading thinkers on Afro-Latinos in the U.S., known for her book “The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States.” She’s helped create space for Black Puerto Ricans and Afro-Latinos like her and she’s not slowing down.

Laz Alonso

@MeettheBlacks / Twitter

“You’re not one or the other. You’re both. And you should be proud to be both and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Alonso said in the NBCUniverso documentary “Black and Latino.”

Piri Thomas

@REMEZCLA / Twitter

Thomas paved a path for Afro-Latino voices with his memoir “Down These Mean Streets.” His life is as full as it is nuanced, with a nine-year stint in prison, feeling neglected by his father for his lighter-skinned siblings, and eventually becoming a community organizer for Afro-Latino youth in Harlem. The Cuban-Puerto Rican poet is a legend.

Breena Nuñez Peralta

@theafrolatindiaspora / Twitter

Afro-Salvadorian-Guatemalan cartoonist Peralta is working to draw Afro-Latinos into existence via cartoons. She’s creating space for young Afro-Latinxs to see themselves as heroes, which makes her our hero.

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

Things That Matter

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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A Judge Has Cleared Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Opening Door For Challenge Against Jair Bolsonaro

Things That Matter

A Judge Has Cleared Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Opening Door For Challenge Against Jair Bolsonaro

Brazil’s political sphere has been thrown into chaos once again after a judge on the Supreme Court threw out convictions against former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The former president, among many others, was tried and convicted in a nationwide corruption sweep but detractors claimed that it was a politically driven campaign against the leftist leader and his supporters.

With his conviction being thrown out, the judge has opened the door to a potential run for the presidency in 2022, against the current president Jair Bolsonaro.

A Supreme Court judge has annulled the criminal convictions against Brazil’s former president, Lula da Silva.

A justice on Brazil’s Supreme Court has annulled corruption convictions against the country’s former leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — a move that could be the first step toward clearing him to run next year against an increasingly vulnerable President Jair Bolsonaro.

In a surprise decision, Justice Edson Fachin ruled that a court in the southern city of Curitiba did not have the authority to try Lula on corruption charges and that he must be retried in federal courts in the capital, Brasilia.

The decision means Lula would be eligible to run for president next year should he wish to challenge Bolsonaro, said the local newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Hailing the ruling in a Twitter post, Lula said it was “recognition that we have always been correct throughout our legal battle.”

Lula was jailed on corruption charges as part of a national campaign against graft.

The former president, widely known as Lula, who held office from 2003 through 2010, was found guilty in 2017 on corruption and money-laundering charges allegedly for helping a Brazilian engineering company secure lucrative contracts with Petrobras, the country’s state-owned oil company. In exchange, the former president allegedly received a beachfront apartment from the firm. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The conviction – part of a far-reaching corruption scandal known as Operation Car Wash — knocked the popular Lula out of the 2018 presidential race, where he had hoped to make a comeback. His absence from the race created an opportunity for the novice politician Bolsonaro, a brash right-wing nationalist who has frequently been compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Lula, despite his conviction and sentence, was released from prison in 2019 on grounds that he was denied due process. However, he still faces several other prosecutions.

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