Things That Matter

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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Ritchie Torres Makes History As First Gay Afro-Latino Elected To Congress

Things That Matter

Ritchie Torres Makes History As First Gay Afro-Latino Elected To Congress

Noam Galai / Getty Images

The 2020 election is far from over for the presidency. However, in the meantime, there have been some historic firsts in American politics. One of these firsts is Ritchie Torres, the first gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress.

Ritchie Torres made history as the first openly gay, Afro-Latino to be elected to Congress.

Torres won his race against Republican Patrick Delices by 77 points with 88 percent of the vote reported. Torres will represent the 15th district of New York, which includes the southern Bronx. Torres, who was a New York City Council member, is taking Rep. Jose Serrano’s seat. Rep. Serrano is retiring after 30 years.

Torres was eager to see a Blue Wave leading up to the election.

Torres has hopes of being part of a government where Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House. Torres told CNN that have that majority would be a chance for Democrats to boldly lead the U.S. into the 21st century.

“That to me is self-determination,” Torres told CNN. “That is decolonization. That is democracy.”

His election to Congress is an important part of the continued steps of representation in politics.

Torres has been making history in politics because of his sexual orientation. At 25, Torres became the first openly gay person to win a seat on the city council. Torres had to defeat a crowded primary race to get to the general election. This includes running against Democrat Ruben Diaz Sr. Diaz Sr, another city council member, is a Democrat who supports President Trump and has expressed anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality views.

New York doubled down on their history last night by also electing Mondaire Jones to the House of Representatives.

Jones understands the importance of his victory in national politics. Jones and Torres made history by breaking a barrier that has held steadfast for centuries. The two Congressmen-elects show that gay people of color can have a seat at the table in national politics.

“There’s never been an openly gay Black member of Congress in the 244-year history of the United States, and it was only in the past few years that I began to think that it was possible,” Jones said on The Mother Jones Podcast.

Congratulations on your victories!

READ: Ritchie Torres Is Poised To Become The First Out Gay Afro-Latino In Congress After Primary Win

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Netflix’s Newest Musical Teen Hit Series Stars a 16-Year-Old Black hispanic Newcomer

Entertainment

Netflix’s Newest Musical Teen Hit Series Stars a 16-Year-Old Black hispanic Newcomer

A new teen series has dropped on Netflix that the internet can’t stop talking about. The newest cultural phenomenon that has hit the juggernaut streaming service is a musical series called Julie and the Phantoms, based on the 2011 Brazilian show of the same name.

The series follows a 16-year-old insecure girl named Julie who has lost her love of music after the tragic death of her mother. But with the help of a (stay with us here) band of musical ghosts she stumbles across in her garage, she soon re-discovers her love of singing and performing. Backed by her band of “phantoms”, Julie confidently takes the stage again, blowing everyone away in the process. ,

But the wacky, heartfelt story-line isn’t the only reason people are excited about the show. The buzz around the show is building because its star, 16-year-old newcomer Madison Reyes, is an Afro-Latina singer-actress of Puerto Rican descent.

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Before landing the role of Julie, Reyes was just a regular shmegular Nuyorican girl going to high school in Brooklyn. Needless to say, the process of auditioning for Julie and the Phantoms was both a whirlwind and a game-changer.

“I found out about Julie and the Phantoms through my school. At first I was nervous to send my video in, but after talking to some friends, I sent it in and got a call back,” Reyes told Refinery 29. “From there it was just figuring out when I could fly to L.A. When I finally made it out there, the audition process lasted two days.”

Reyes, for one, understands the burden of her load. “[Julie] is Latin American, she’s got textured hair, she’s a strong and independent female character,” Reyes recently told the LA Times. “As a person of color who wants more diversity [on-screen], I’m kind of scared about the hate comments that I’ve seen other people have to go through, especially women.”

As if having an Afro-Latina actress at the center of a popular Netflix show wasn’t exciting enough, the series is also being helmed by Mexican-American director and all-around legend Kenny Ortega. For those of you unfamiliar with Ortega, he is the creative genius who directed bonafide classics like High School Musical and Hocus Pocus.

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Ortega has been publicly effusive in his praise of Reyes. “She has this raw talent that can take on any genre of music, and this promise of greatness that excited everybody,” he told the LA Times. “And yet she’s so relatable and grounded.”

Fans are already calling for a second season after watching the cliffhanger season finale. Reyes, herself, can’t wait to get back in the shoes of Julie. When asked in an interview about where we’ll see her next, she responded: “Hopefully in the next season of Julie and the Phantoms!”. We second that wish.

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