Monday, April 25, 2016

Where Blacks and Browns Live in Harmony

Members of a community in my home away from home; El Carmen, Perú

While sailing on the South China sea years back on the aircraft carrier U.S.S Ranger, a Puerto Rican shipmate out of Chicago asked me if blacks and Puerto Ricans get along in my hometown of New York City. I gave him a resounding yes!

I grew up in a mixed Puerto Rican and African-American community, and in many instances, saw and experienced interaction and cultural exchanges between blacks and browns. Even in college, there was unity among black Americans and Puerto Ricans in getting our student needs met in addition to the establishment of African-American and Puerto Rican Studies programs

Fast forward to today, decades later, I do not notice as much interaction between blacks and browns as I did in my childhood and college years, that is, with the exception of a few political alliances, but a pleasing tolerance and respect for each others' presence.

I  am sitting center with a group outside of a home 
where I was staying in El Carmen, Perú

However, I have had the fortunate opportunity to travel to several South American countries, mainly Perú, where I have made repeated visits due to my family-like connections there. I could not help but notice how blacks and browns live in harmony, and even intermarry. 

I've seen more than my share of black people with brown babies, and brown people with black babies. In fact, my goddaughter was born out of wedlock to an Afro-Peruvian male and a mestizo female. And while I had my eyes on the black women, the brown and half-black women had their eyes on me.

In El Carmen, a small sleepy town in Southern Perú dubbed as the hub of Afro-Peruvian culture, I never heard a cross word among any of the residents .Everyone lives in harmony. 

At a block party El Carmen

Here in the U.S., there are many parts of the country where black Americans and Latinos are either at odds with each other or there is simply a chilly tolerance. 

In Oakland, California where I spent most of my adult life, I ran across many Latinos who wanted very little to do with blacks.  Many of them, not all, warmed up to me because of my ability to speak Spanish, and because I have a relatively better understanding of Latino culture as a result of my travels.

A black woman in Baltimore, Maryland, who also happens to be Latina, posted a personal ad for a date in an online romance forum. She insisted on meeting Latinos only, and added that she did not care if black men called her racist. The fact of the matter is that she is not racist; just confused.

 A mixed black and mestizo family in Perú

Latino is a culture, not a race, and her personal ad stated a firm preference for someone of her own cultureLatino. This explains why there is so much polarization between black and brown people in the U.S. where there is more harmony between blacks and browns in Latin-American countries as they are bound by the same culture. 

Here in the U.S., black and brown people have to be open minded enough to learn to understand and accept each others' cultures. I was only 10 years old when I started taking an interest in the Spanish language and Latin-American culture. This made it easier for me to get along with Latinos be they black, brown, or white throughout my adulthood.