Sunday, June 5, 2011

Is It Shameful to be Latino?

Why do so many 
downplay their roots?

Ever since I was a child growing up near Spanish Harlem in New York City, I've met my share of Latinos who are in-your-face proud of their language and cultural heritage, but I've also met my share of Latinos who seemed ashamed. They avoid speaking Spanish, and get irritated when spoken to in Spanish. Recently, I read a blog by a Latina who happens to be fluent in English and Spanish; she was bitching and moaning because she receives business mail in Spanish. Here I am knocking myself out to increase my level of Spanish fluency and I meet native speakers who feel a need to rise above it. I know people of Latin-American ancestry whose parents restricted them to English only. Somebody, please tell me what is so wrong with speaking two, four, or six languages? 

I read a blog by a Latina fluent in both English and Spanish who was bitching and moaning because she receives business mail in Spanish.

Then I meet others who get annoyed when I pronounce their Spanish names “correctly” versus giving their names the “Anglo” sound. They've actually instructed me to mispronounce their names so it won't sound Spanish. Is something is wrong with the Spanish language and Latin-American culture that I need to know about? Why do so many “Americans” downplay their cultural heritage? The indigenous people are the only real Americans. The rest of us are nothing but gringos..

Here I am knocking myself out to improve my Spanish and I meet native speakers who want to rise above it.

Then I've met other Latinos who are annoyed by my interest in Latino cultures, and even questioned my loyalty to being African-American. It's as if I should stick to fried chicken with collard greens and abstain from arroz con pollo. Why shouldn't I enjoy both? What these people don't realize is that the more black history I read, the more I learn about Latinos who share my African heritage. The more I travel, the more I meet Latinos who share my African heritage.

I've met other Latinos who are annoyed with my interest in Latino cultures, and even questioned my loyalty to being African-American.

With all this said, I love Latin-American music, especially those with African influence, like bachata from the Dominican Republic, zamacueca from Perú, son-montuno from Cuba, tambor from Venezuela, and some cumbia and vallenato from Colombia. And jarocho music from Mexico? WOW, I CAN FEEL IT!!!

Now, the million dollar question: If you are of Latin-American ancestry and are ashamed of it and want to camouflage it, why? Is it internalized racism, or what? Please use the comment section below and enlighten me.


  1. Hi Bill..just came across your blog and I love it. I am an AA...NYorker who totally understands your journey!!! In response to this blog I feel that many Afro-Latinos are the way they are because there has not been a Civil rights movement in any Latin American country...They are victims of Racial Democracy.. that is the form of Racism that the Colonials (Governments) used in these countries to impede self-actualization from their African communities (if everyone is viewed as equal what would they complain about?) Bill I would love to correspond with you, Our journeys are parallel, except my language of choice is Portuguese!!...Check out my Facebook page DIASPORA...Nik

  2. Its a defense mechanism against the racist gringos

  3. Hi Ms Anonymous, I tried to find your DIASPORA page on Facebook. No luck. Would you mind going to my Facebook page: African American-Latino World, click like, then post a link to your page? I'd appreciate it. Thank you in advance.

  4. Bill,

    It's amazing just HOW intertwined black and Latin Amercan history is. Few want to admit that, however. I did some reading on Roy Campanella the other day and this is a perfect example. Many are unaware that he not only played in Mexico, but spoke Spanish fluently and was hearlded as a hero there.

    Why anyone, be they black, latino, etc be ashamed of their culture eludes me. Latin American culture is a beautiful one and frankly, one to be proud of.


  5. The truth is many don't know their history & sometimes would rather be something else. It happens everywhere because people must adapted & blend in to try & survive & be accepted.

    I mean you see this in countries like Cuba & other Latin American countries where afro descendants struggle fitting in & have lost all their culture that the only one they know is Latino culture. However, some have resisted & know their history & preserve it despite their struggle. Their are some that would also rather be Latino & forget about the past.

    When you look at why people are shameful to be Latino it is because they are in a new country and they are trying to blend in and survive. If you don't know English then you may get picked on. You have to hear many stereotypes that give you a low self esteem of your people.

    Some don't know their history that the Spanish Europeans came to the new world first & they basically controlled South America, Central America & parts of North America way before the English came. The Spanish were already in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, & Florida way before the first English colony was Established in 1607.

    Basically the Spanish had way to much land to control and with infighting among themselves & also the invasion of France by Napoleon into Spain they could not hold much of the North American parts. Many of the colonies became independent & wanted to forget about their rich history & people. Once you become independent from Spain you don't want to be seen as a loyalist.

  6. I think in the United States you get shown all the bad stuff Latinos are & not all the positive stuff that they have done. For example they are called illegal when the only people really legally her in the Americas are indigenous people. The are called Job takers when many of the jobs they take regular Americans would rather not do. They are called disease bringers when many of the diseases brought to the new world were by Europeans & killed a majority of the indigenous people.

    Listen the indigenous or Native Americans help the people of the first colonies survive & how did they get thanked for it. By the taking of lands, sent to reservations like prisoners who are in concentration camps. The got labeled savages. They got slaughtered at wounded knee like Hitler slaughtered the Jews. Then racist laws pop up in Arizona because they don't like brown people even though it was the land of the natives who are brown people. Remember Natives were nomadic & would often migrate to different areas.

    The people that I have seen that are ashamed to be Latino are the ones who don't know their history & have forgotten it.

    I have seen people of indigenous who are darker complexion with Spanish last names also try very hard to blend in so bad they forget what happen to their people & do everything not to be associated as being Latino. They forget Spanish, they marry white people of non Spanish decent & criticize their own people. they forget the struggle of their people & the destruction that has occurred to their own peoples identity. It is almost like a rape victim feeling guilty for being raped.

    I see our new President have the same tactics applied to him. They label him a failure & say he can't run the country even before he got into office. They call him a socialist & communist & Muslim even though he is none of those. It is pathetic but you have to be strong minded & not let them be proud of who you are.

    One example I have is Cain Velasquez & his Brown pride tattoo. Many whites were offended by it and even called it a racist thing. White Power, Black Power, Brown Power that is racist. but pride is being proud of who you are and your people. It was like a smack in the face for them after he won against the superiority of the so called white race.

    All I have to say is be proud of who you are & don't forget where you came from. Don't let other dis your culture so that you will reject it. Be strong minded & respect yourself.

  7. it is too easy today (2011) to criticize afro-latinos of not embracing their heritage. what people do not recognize is that there were laws in latin american countries (just like in the us) that prohibited a person of afro decent of being a citizen whether it be first class or second class.

    allow me to introduce myself. i am an american born of panamanian parents. i was born in the late 60’s. therefore, the link above directly affected my family. my ancestors (great grandparents) came from jamaica (as free people) to costa rica, then to panama in the early 1900’s to help build both countries to what they are today. they had to learn to speak spanish. their children grew up bilingual. when you have a repressive government, you do what is necessary to survive.

    my family migrated to the us in the mid 1960’s. english was the only language spoken in my home in an effort to loose the “patios” (which was believed to be a sign of ignorance in panama only because the native panamanians could not speak english).

    i, like you, am on a quest to immerse myself in afro-latino culture and perfect my spanish speaking skills.

  8. hi, take a look at the image you put on this post, Uruguay and Paraguay are swapped their flags ;) greetings

  9. ¡Que monse, as they say in Perú! Good looking out.

  10. You look like me, jajajaja


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