In response to one of my blog posts, Confusing Afro-Latinos with African Americans, a hurt and embittered Afro Latina whom I will refer to as Liliana, posted her comment:
“This is the problem, African Americans want to believe that we Afro latinos and Caribbean peoples are the same and the only thing dividing us is a boat stop. No it's more than that. We act differently, our culture is different and our morals. There is nothing similar about us. The only thing we share is skin color and we wish not to associate with African Americans. They have no culture, respect, morals, values, nada. And "slavery" was very different in Latin American and the Caribbean. We aren't scarred like African Americans...”
This black immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Stephen Hotesse, was included among the famed African-American fighter-pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
In once sense, Liliana is right. African-Americans and Afro Latinos, regardless of national origin, are indeed different as of result of our respective cultural environments. What we do have in common; however, is the perpetual racism that affects the whole African diaspora. Here in the U.S., racism is much more blatant and not swept under the rug as done in Latin America.
One white woman from Colombia, South America commented on another one of my blog posts that we Americans make a big deal out of race as if Colombian people do not. I pointed out to her that when I visited a predominately black and brown city in her country, Cartagena, how I noticed that the best jobs were held by whites and the most menial jobs were held by blacks. If this is not making a big deal out of racism, then what is?
When I reached out to Liliana to inquire of her home country, I knew instinctively that she was going to tell me the "Dominican Republic." Historically, Dominicans, including many of the black Dominicans, appear to have deeper race issues than than those in other Latin-American countries. And many Dominicans have an even deeper hatred for Haitians for historical reasons where race was made to play a role by the Dominican government.
I explained to Liliana that I traveled to nine (9) Spanish-speaking countries going on 11, and not once have I experienced the hatred that she is preaching from fellow blacks because I am African American. In fact, quite the opposite as I experienced admiration because of our historical stand during the civil rights and black power movements that are now being emulated throughout Latin America today.
Black organizations have sprung up in places most would not imagine, such as Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. In Peru, I myself became an honorary member of Ashanti and Makungu Para El Desarrollo, two black civil rights organizations.
I explained to Liliana that it sounds as though she herself has been scarred by a very ignorant segment of my community (African-American), and want to paint us all with the same brush. After some probing, it turned out that my assumptions were right on target. She says, a majority of African Americans are not kind to foreigners, especially Caribbean and Afro Latinos.
I heard the same complaint from immigrants from the African continent who say that once an African American realize they are from another country, they suddenly become distant, and in many instances, hostile. A young black man from Brazil shared his experience in school how he was bullied by African-American students because he was "different."
In Caracas, Venezuela I was taken in, fed, given a place to sleep, and treated like family by Felix and his extensive family, and am always being invited back.
If I had experienced the same unpleasant welcome from black Latin America as Liliana experienced from black America through my travels, I am sure that I too would have been as hurt and embittered as she. I assured her that if there was anything I could do to console her, I would be happy to accommodate.
I am by no means defending the ignorance of fellow African Americans who rebuffs black foreigners as I see them as not privy to what Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X tried to instill in the minds of black Americans during their heydays let alone not knowing their own history. The black race is much, much bigger and more diverse than black America will ever be.
I long to visit Bolivia where their Black community strongly embraces black pride and the freedom struggle.
On the other hand, blacks from other countries, as Liliana pointed out to me, are warned to stay away from African Americans. My ex-girlfriend from Eretria, East Africa heard the same warning, which only made her want to get to know us even more fervently. This seems to be a divide-and-conquer tactic by those in power who do not want to see a revival of what Marcus Garvey attempted to establish, a united African diaspora.