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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Young Latina's Introduction to the African Diaspora


It was during my first trip to El Carmen, Perú when I met thee-year-old Daniela. My heart automatically connected with her. Although, I'm generally a very logical person, I have no explanation as to why I developed such an immediate fondness.

After returning to the US, I would call Daniela's family from time to time. When Daniela got to be about five years of age, I told her over the phone that she is my “niece.” She immediately asked me if she could be my “daughter.” I was so touched by that request that I now refer to her as “mi hija (my daughter)” to members of her community, and Daniela refers to me as “su papi en Estados Unidos (her daddy in the United States).” 


Daniela at age 7 and me during my second trip to Perú

I always try to find creative ways to educate and enrich Daniela's life during my limited contact with her by phone and during my Peruvian vacations. I teach her a little English and basic computer skills. I have even drilled her on her math, and taught her to play Scrabble, Monopoly, and Chess.

When people contact me through my blog or on my Facebook and Couchsurfing accounts expressing a desire to connect with Peruvian members of the African Diaspora, I always connect with them Perú's famous black musical family, the Ballumbrosios; Daniela's next door neighbors. This is the family I stay with when I make my my visits to El Carmen, Perú. Each of the visitors that I refer to the Ballumbrosios are encouraged to meet Daniela and show her some love; even buy her favorite ice cream. These visitors, primarily are blacks from the United States, England, and Nigeria.


 
Daniela at age 8 with Danielle of Great Britain

I want Daniela, in particular, to connect with African-Americans and get a good feeling about my community here in the US. So many people around the world, including blacks, are fed a lot of negative stereotypes about black Americans. Blacks from foreign countries have told me that the reason why so many of them keep African-Americans at a distance when they come to this country is because they believe what they see and hear through the media and through personal messages.



Kumbi (R) of Nigeria with Daniela's next 
door neighbor Maribel Ballumbrosio (L)

Fortunately Afro-Peruvians, from my experience, have positive views African-Americans. Many, like Rinaldo Campos, the late founder of the world famous dance troupe Perú Negro (Perú's version of Alvin Ailey's Dance Theater of Harlem) was inspired by the African-American black pride movement of the 1960s. And there is Monica Carrillo, leader of Lundú—one of Peru's civil rights organizations who was inspired by the US's civil rights movement..

As Daniela grows into maturity, I want her to have the same positive views of the African Diaspora outside of Perú, and above all, the African-American community. I want her to remember the love that she received from cultured, African-American people who visited her, and if she ever hears any of the negative stereotypes, she will know better from personal experience.