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Feb. 27, 2022

Afro-Latinos Need to Embrace Their Blackness

Afro-Latinos Need to Embrace Their Blackness

Just like the Spanish exterminatin’ Tainos, rapin’ the black and Indian women, creating Latinos.

Those were the lyrics of Peruvian rapper Immortal Technique in the song, Point of No Return.

In both Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Afro-Latinos make up most of the population. Brazil has the largest Afro-descendant population outside of Africa in terms of absolute numbers.

As a Dominican-American I say this to say, I’m gonna’ need Afro-Latinos to start embracing their blackness.

I was born in Passaic New Jersey, from Dominican immigrants. Diversity, in my eyes, was normal. Natural. In my family we have light skinned, dark skinned, darker skinned, and fair skinned folk. My grandparents were dark enough to be confused with some of the African Americans I grew up around. My great grandmother Doña Maria, who I had the privilege of knowing, was an indentured servant back in the day and is very much brown skinned. My parents are both light skinned. I came out looking Arabic, or Indian. My sister, on the other hand, looks like a Caucasian girl, equipped with blue eyes and all. My point serves no other purpose then to identify the diversity I grew up around and the different strands of genes and bloodlines that we all have inside.

In the very diverse industrial town of Passaic, I grew up knowing nothing less than the diversity that was around me in the 80s and 90s. Blacks, Latinos, whites, and other minorities all intertwined in one world. It's all I’ve ever known. Although the struggles were different, you couldn’t tell me we weren’t all the same.

Fast forward to today, I’ve been introduced to a new kind of racism that I, quite frankly, wasn’t aware existed.  I feel like racism is even more prevalent now as it ever was back when Tupac was rapping about keeping your head up or screaming that it’s me against the world!

Although I am American by birth, I am a proud Dominican. The more I began to study our ancestry and our roots the more I began to realize where we all come from. We are all black. Well, Afro-Latinos to be exact.

The origins of the Dominican Republic and its culture consist predominately in a European basis, with both African and Native Taino influences. In other words, we are for the most part, descendants of slaves a lot of whom were raped by their “masters” and hence creating a race of mixed people. Historically this is true about a large majority of the Latino regions in Latin America. In any given Latino be it Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, or Brazilian, there exists anywhere from 30% to 50% African ancestry.

My point in all of this is that identity for U.S Hispanics is a multidimensional and deeply rooted reality. The numbers show that only 24% of Hispanics in the U.S identify as Afro-Latino. The numbers dive deeper into the subject, but I’ll just post a link so that you can explore that yourselves: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/01/afro-latino-a-deeply-rooted-identity-among-u-s-hispanics/

My goal is to awaken Hispanics and Latinos to the reality of their roots.  Whether you are dark skinned, or light skinned, don’t EVER reject the origins of your roots. Racism exists in all shapes and sizes, and it certainly exists among Latino groups as well. Colorism is also a very real thing, but that is another story for another article. When an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd get murdered, we as Latinos must not say, “they killed another one of them”, NO! They killed another one of US. When the marches and the Black Lives protests go on, we should be standing right there beside our brothers and sisters.

Sure, the cultures are different, the music is different and ultimately the path to freedom might’ve been slightly different, but in the grand scheme of things, we are all more alike than we are different.

When Kool Herc, Lovebug Starski, and Keith Cowboy were busy inventing Hip-Hop in the mostly Latino and black populated areas of the Bronx, NY circa 1970s, we were right there dancing and spray painting alongside them. Let's start acknowledging and accepting our Afrocentricity.

We aren’t just part of the culture; we are the culture.

So, I’m gonna’ need Afro-Latinos to start embracing their blackness.


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