Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Latino a Race or Culture?

“You are a goddamn Negro! You think being Puerto Rican lets you off the hook? That's the trouble. Too many of you damn black Puerto Ricans got your eyes closed. Just because you can rattle off a different language doesn't change your skin one bit. Man, if there are any black people up on the moon talking that moon talk, they are still Negroes. Get it? Negroes!”
From “Down These Mean Streets,” 
by Piri Thomas,(1967)


Proud Afro-Peruvian Nicomedes Santa Cruz helped to raise public awareness of black Peruvian culture.

One day at a Burger King in Oakland, CA, a some Latinas working the register and I got into discussion about their manager who is from a heavily populated black area of Mexico called La Costa Chica. I struggled to keep from laughing when they told me that she was not black, as if her skin color is supposed to change simply because she is Mexican.

Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, at a young age, was inspired by a school teacher to study black history when he was told that blacks have no history and have never accomplished anything of note.

In an on line forum, an Afro-Puerto Rican woman pointed out to me that the term “black” only refers to black Americans. She became very upset and started attacking my character when I asked her about the racism and discrimination against blacks in Puerto Rico and reminded her that African-Americans do not have a monopoly on black skin.

I'm not “black,” I'm “Do-min-i-can,” said African-American actor/comedian Doug E Doug in in a scene from the film “Hanging with the Homeboys” as he was caught crashing a Latino party.

I have to respect the fact that people in Latin-American countries see themselves by their nationalities first and their race second. Marcus Garvey, whose United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) included branches in Latin-America was told by a Cuban delegation that they were Cubans first and blacks second. Does this sense of staunch patriotism stop racial discrimination in these respective countries? Obviously not. From my personal travels to five Latin-American countries, I've noticed a blatant absence of blacks, Asians, and indigenous people working in shops, as police officers, or as bus or cab drivers, let alone those working in office and corporate settings. Just pick up a newspaper and you can count the people of color, if any, are featured unless they are criminals, athletes, or entertainers.

Thus, I'm thankful for the surge of black pride and civil rights groups springing up all over Latin America these days. Since 1997, the La Costa Chica area of Mexico has been having an annual convention of black villages. In Ecuador, there is an annual celebration of Afro-Ecuadorian culture in October.

Black Latinos, Stand Up by Nadra Kareem


  1. The concept of race is a social construct that has been used by the dominant society to justify a superior/inferior status on people based on skin color. Unfortunately "Colorism"...("If you White, you alright...If you Brown, stick aroung...If you Black, Get Back!") has been embraced by many people of the African Diaspora and we are using it to oppress and deny ourselves, our dignity and our exemplary history and heritage. Deny it to the point that it makes no logical sense. How can you be Black, kinky hair, wide nose, thick lips and at the same time be White? (And I'm not talking "Race" as the social construct...but what you look at everytime you stand in front of a mirror.) And then go on to mistreat each other based on how close to African Black we look? I call this "Internalized Oppression".

    All I can say is the brainwashing has been through and complete world wide....its even, I'm sorry to say...on the continent of Africa! Unfortunately, until we collectively recognize that we have been brainwashed, that we are collectively suffering from a mental illness and that collectively we need to heal...across nationalities (i.e. African-American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Jamaican, Nigerian, Barbadian, etc.) this madness will continue on a large scale.

  2. Latino does NOT even really exist.

    RACE is a phenotype based concept, meanwhile ETHNICITY is a cultural based concept!

    Latino is a complex term and it is neither a race or a nationality but just a cultural umbrella term or grouping w/ people ...of all different races and racial mixtures

  3. Omoye, hey boo. Thanks for your visit and your input. Thanks for your visit.

  4. Mr. Martin, I agree with the cultural umbrella. What I don't agree with is one who denies his/her color due to the cultural umbrella.

  5. Well, good interesting point. While I do agree w/ you that Latino really means nothing more than just that one comes from a Spanish speaking country and nothing more, CULTURE is ultimately more important than race and a main defier/definer of who and what that person is.

    If people want to denie their color due to another label then so be it?

    Here is my thing. What I don't support is one identity to dictate a faction to all other identities.

    So in essence, mixed race and white Latinos NEED to be racialized as well. Why just point out the black Latinos and have them ostracized and pointed out as black? That is a racist double standard.

    ANd if one is perpetuating a mutual exclusivity betweent the black and Hispanic/Latino categories among others I can understand why a di que "black" Hispanic/Latino would deny or rather say that they are not black becuase they are claiming their culture. ALso it would be redundant for them to claim their color when it is clearly obvious through phenotype and just looking at them. Also what if that person is mixed or does not feel black or a connection to being black or of that color? After all labels and colors are relative? Also does it meant that that person is self hating or in denial? Now if that person denies having African ancestry then that would be a big issue. Denial(ism) of any ancestry is wrong and foolish. That is something I don't agree with.

    I think there is also confusion of many because they equate the term "black" with the native traditional colonial descent black populations of the USA. They don't share the same history, culture, and socio political almaglam that African Americans do and to disregard that would be a disrespect to both the AAs and Hispanics/Latinos(Afrodescendant among others or what not) SO other aspects needs to be taken into account when looking at this.

    I think there also needs to be an understanding between the differences of race, ethnicity, culture, nationality which are all completely seperate different things and factions

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  7. Mr. Martin,
    At the very beginning of my post, I addressed a white Puerto Rican who denied being white despite the obvious. My reason for focusing on the blacks only reflects the purpose of my blog. I'm primarily interested in Afro-Latino cultures.

    Granted, there are a lot of things we African-Americans do not have in common with Afro-Latinos due to the various Latino cultures. What we do have in common is our African roots, slavery, and discrimination. In our country, we had a civil rights movement that made a lot of positive, but far from perfect, changes in this country. Many of our Afro-Latino brothers and sisters got started with their civil rights movements after we African-Americans did.

    I once read an article in the Final Call Newspaper about Afro-Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Colombian civil rights groups were knocking on the doors of African-American civil rights groups seeking advice for their movement.

  8. True, but what if one saying that they are not black or white has to do w/ the fact that they can be of mixed ancestry? Keep that in mind as well.

    All I am saying is that there are double standards in regards to categorization and racialization etc that can be venal and promote and reinforce stereotypes.

    I agree that people should not be denying their ancestry or roots and justifying that w/ belonging to a cultural umbrella. Some of this denial or ignorance may just come from the fact of not knowing. Who knows.

    All I know is that some of these people don't like to be categorized and told who and what they are and feel offended when other groups of people try to label them and it reinforces or perpetuates hate and racism from that group towards the other group of people. I have noticed it and seen it many times. I would let those people remain ignorant and oblivious the obvious or logical. However it is NEVER a problem or too late to educate another person in a constructive coherent way and manner.

    Yes, and to those that do seek inclusion or kinship with African Americans and help from them, those are the ones to associate with and reach out to mostly since they are concious and aware and can see through the bullshit that exists in society. Those are the ones people should connect with. When both groups are working together and see a common cause or goal then it makes all for the better.

    Also keep in mind that race and perception and mentality in Latin American countries is different from that of the USA and race is not the topic of the day or an obsession like it is in the USA as opposed to how it is in other coutnries.

    There are many Afro Latinos or Latinos that have Afro roots that when they arrive to the USA they don't know they are black or Afro descent or they just don't identify as "black" in the USA. So that is on them and their problem to deal with. We can laugh or shake our heads but TO EACH THEIR OWN. Those ones are the lost ones and they can find their way. Sad but true.

  9. Bill,

    I recently read an intersting article regarding La Costa Chica and the area's rich and fascinating black history.


  10. Hi Gil,
    Do you remember the name of the publication and the title of the article?

  11. Also yes, Civil rights movement among blacks and Afrodescendants in varioius Latin American countries is on the rise and inspired by that of African American civil rights movement and ideas.

    And those are the things that bond or bind African Americans and Afro Latinos. So it goes hand in hand.

    People need to be aware of the intersecting of history between the two groups on an inter historical and inter Afrodiasporic level


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