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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Boricuas Africanas: Afro-Puerto Ricans



Museo de Nuestra Raíz Africa
(Museum of our African Roots)
Plaza San Jose, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-4294

Open 8:30 – 4:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday
 
Boricua was the name of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, and Borinquen was the name of the island before the Spanish invasion.
  
I recently read a travel review by a man from the U.S. state of Minnesota who happens to be of Puerto Rican ancestry. As he  bragged about his Spanish/Corsica roots, he expressed disappointment in a museum that celebrated Puerto Rico's African heritage and not Puerto Rico's Spanish or French heritage.

Of course, I found it necessary to remind him that Puerto Rico, like every other Latin-American country that I have visited, have enough museums that exclude people of color, let alone people of African ancestry. Many people are unaware of Puerto Rico's African heritage as the island's emphasis is placed on Spanish and indigenous heritage while Puerto Ricans of African heritage are ignored. 


This is why I'm happy to learn of the El Museo de Nuestra Raiz Africana (Museum of Our African Roots) constructed and supported by young, highly conscious Puerto Ricans of all colors who recognize the diversity of their island's heritage. This museum is located near the main tourist attraction in an area of Old San Juan next to the entrance of El Morro, a fortress built by African slaves. This is the place to learn about the African cultural influence of Puerto Rico.

Afro-Puerto Rican (or Afro-Boricua) heritage in the Museum of our African Roots is celebrated through paintings, artifacts, documents and photographs. The purpose is to tell what Puerto Rican history books don't tell. It preserves and promotes the history and culture of the island based on the Black experience, including the arrival of African slaves to their encounter with the native population, the Tainos, and the Spaniards. 



The museum also addresses the African influence on the island making it the lively and vivid place that it is today with its hot salsa, bomba and plena music; festivals, cuisines, and customs.

As one who enjoy traveling and exploring black heritage in Latin-America, Borinquen, better known as the Enchanted Isle of Puerto Rico, is on my list of places to visit, and this museum that the Minnesota-Puerto Rican brought to my attention with his negative review, will be at the top of my visitor's list, along with the Afrocentric town of Loiza, not far from the capital, San Juan.













10 comments:

  1. As the Boricuas would say: "P'alante", Will! "P'ALANTE!" There are many You Tube videos about the predominantly Black Puerto Rican municipality of Loiza that may interest you.And, if I may ask, have you been to the island? If so, what were your experiences as far as the appreciation of Afro-Boricua culture?

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    1. John,
      Thanks for your remarks and thanks for your interest in my blog. The closest I've been to Borinquen, to date, is East Harlem and the South Bronx, where I was influenced by the Boricua community to learn Spanish and enjoy salsa music at a young age. I've been to nine Spanish-speaking countries so far, including Cuba, and PR is on my list of places to visit. I do want to visit Loiza and Catalina.

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  2. Thanks for this info! I have a friend sailing out of San Juan and she asked for suggestions on things to do the two days prior to sailing. I will pass this to her!

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  3. Great article Bill. There is another city near San Juan called Carolina that has a big Afro-Rican population. Many of the best baseball players came from that city including Roberto Clemente.

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    1. Thanks, AbeFroman, I started to mention it but I got Carolina confused with Catalina, and left the city out all together. Thanks again for clarifying.

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  4. Hey Bill, I am so happy about your blog, and also having interest in the Afro Puerto Rican culture. I am Boricua! Is nice that you can visit the Island someday. Puerto Ricans need to feel proud of our black roots! Thanks, Sammy Collazo

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  5. Bill, I love your interest in the Afrorican culture. Puerto Rico is a very rich culture. Sammy Collazo

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  6. Thanks for this information. I had come to know of it via a slam poetry artist of whom I'd never got her name. Since then I have studied and have come across the same information which you have so eloquently related.

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  7. Hello. I came across your blog while doing some reading online about Afro descendants in Puerto Rico. I am a African american woman born and raised in Ohio, with no Spanish/latin heritage. I enjoy reading and learning about black people in Latin America and the Caribbean. I traveled to Puerto Rico back in 1993, before there was internet,etc. I was surprised to see so many Puerto Ricans of very obvious Black African ancestry. I stayed in a small hotel in San Juan and saw many, many people with strong subsaharan African ancestry. I am a caramel complected Black woman and many of these Afro-latins were much darker than me. I had read books about Puerto Rico in the local public library (I live in Columbus, Ohio). These books would always say that the African heritage in Puerto Rico was minimal at best. After taking this trip to the island in 1993 and seeing with my own eyes, the African contribution to the genetic pool of the Puerto Rican population was not minimal. There is a lot more black African blood in Puerto Rico than people care to admit. I believe it is also true in other Latin American countries that received slaves. I watched the PBS series called "Black In Latin America". It was very interesting and informative, but not perfect. Dr. Gates said that the majority of the African slaves, close to 11 million in all, got shipped to Latin America. Only around 5 percent went to the USA. The travel brochures only show the white and very light skinned Latin/Hispanics. If you travel to many Latin countries, you will find that the people are much darker and have more African blood than what is shown on TV and in travel magazines. When you study the dances, music and culinary traditions of these countries, a lot of it comes straight from Africa. I also noticed some colorism in Puerto Rico. Most of the Puerto Rican men who have some degree of African blood preferred white women from the mainland USA and treated their own darker women with less respect.It puzzles me to no end why a lot of Latinos/Hispanics deny the African ancestry when it is so obvious in their physical features, music, dances, and food. I think that the African presence in Latin America makes the region a lot more interesting and colorful. Without the African influence, I think that the Latin culture would be a bit more bland.

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    1. Sharon, you are right. Were it not for African people, the music we know as salsa and merengue would be a whole lot different.

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