Sunday, September 9, 2012

Black Latinos Who Deny Being Black

“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. Too many goddamn Negroes all over this goddamn world feel like you do. 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!”

Excerpt from “Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas


My goddaughter Daniela of Chincha, Perú
is the only Black in her family.

I was in Burger King conversing with a group of employees who happened to be Latin-American immigrants. We got into a discussion about their manager, and miraculously, I managed to contain an outburst of laughter when they told me that this manager was not Black. The manager and I had spoken before as I looked directly at her dark-brown complexion, her brown eyes, and her wide nose. The only difference between her and me is that I was born in a Black community of St. Louis, MO, and she was born in a Black community of La Costa Chica in Mexico.

I need to point out that this is not an issue with all Black Latinos. I have personal friends of Afro-Latino heritage who are Black and proud. I have Facebook friends from Puerto Rico and all the down to Argentina who celebrate their Black heritage. But for those who do deny being Black, I can certainly understand their confusion. 

In countries where racism is swept under the rug and where interracial relationships and marriages were never outlawed as they were once here in the USA, but encouraged in an attempt to whiten the nation, it is very easy to view yourself by your culture first, and your race second--if at all.

Through my travels and associations with various members of Latin American communities, I've seen families where the colors are like rainbows. Fair-complexioned mothers with Black and White children, and Black mothers with fair complexioned children; Whites with Black and fair siblings, and Blacks with fair and Brown siblings. 

My goddaughter Daniela is a perfect example. She is the only black in her family; and is well loved. She speaks only Spanish and her culture is Peruvian; the only culture she knows other than I who visit her once a year.

If she were to move to the USA where race is more clearly defined, Daniela has no reason whatsoever to detach herself from her culture and embrace a Black population that is foreign to her in terms of language, customs. and social norms. 

However one evening, I was teaching Daniela to play chess, and I told her that I will take the black pieces because I am Black. She immediately tapped her arm and said she is Black too. I felt proud that she recognizes her identity. Of course, living in the hub of Afro-Peruvian culture, and next door to the family famous for Afro-Peruvian music and dance also helped her true identity as well.

In the Dominican Republic, dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled from 1931 until his assassination in 1960, told his black population that if they have one drop of white or Indian blood, they are not black, and they believed him. 

A Puerto Rican woman out of Chicago told me that the term "black" only refers to African-Americans. I asked her if she has been to the Puerto Rican towns of Loiza or Carolina where there are still cultural and linguistic ties to Western Africa. 

Instead answering my question, she lashed out at me with a tirade about my being a self-loathing African-American. I had no clue as to what she was belly-aching about. What I tried to remind her, assuming she is as educated as she says, is that there are black people of many different cultures who speak many different languages. In fact, globally speaking, African-Americans are a minority when it comes to the Black race.


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog and your cultural perspective on things! :) Very enlightening. It's truly an amazing thing to embrace and welcome and learn about the African diaspora. I'm a proud Blacktina or Latinegra lol. Culturally I feel more American with sprinklings of Latina, but it is truly amazing to see how close black and Latina cultures are and how few people truly realize this! Keep up the good work and I look forward to more posts.

  2. I am a frequent poster at this site and enjoy your musings about the Afro-Latino Experience both in the United States and in Latin America! EXCELLENT!

    I don't know if this is a typographical error or not, but I've noticed that in your reference to the city of Carolina, Puerto Rico; the birthplace and home of Afro-Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente, on more than one occasion you have called it "Catalina". :-)

    Anyway, the entire municipality of Loiza, as you mention, is the seat, the cradle, of Black Puerto Ricans, Black Puerto Rican culture, religion, music and dance. It reminds me more of the Dominican Republic than of Puerto Rico. Carolina, which is the largest city in the area, is also home to a large Afro-Puerto Rican population. Loiza is more "laid back" and "rural feeling" and Carolina has a "city feeling". You are right about both places: They are the home of many Afro-Ricans!

    1. John, thanks for the edu-ma-cation. Seriously, I appreciate your input.

  3. And speaking of Loiza....
    In the September 13, 2012, entry of Dash Harris's wonderful blog dedicated to the Afro-Latino Diaspora: there is a wonderful post about a Black Puerto Rican/African-American ethnographer who went to Loiza and "found herself!" Please read, repost, ---and pass on! GRACIAS!

  4. Correction: Dash Harris's blog is

  5. I enjoyed reading your blog. I've always been puzzled as to why many Latinos deny their African Heritage. Being African American myself means that my nationality is American but my ethnic orgins are African. My African orgin is a part of me that I never would or could deny. Not only because it is present in my appearance but also because it is present in my soul and in my DNA. It is a rich and deep heritage filled with people of many different languages, complexions,traditions and who were an important link in shaping not only Africa but the World. African people have made endless contributions to humanity. A strong proud people who survived slavery and racism. For hundreds of years people of African descent have been told by other races what they are and what they are not and most of what we have been told is not good. It saddens me when people with African orgins or part African orgins do not see the richness of what is in their DNA. They readily embrace their caucasian, indian, asian ancestry but find their African ancestry unacceptable. If only they knew the beauty of what they carried in their DNA. I proud to say I am American but I even more proud to say I AM BLACK.

  6. It saddens me also that so many so-called Latino's shrug off or hate their African or black heritage. The reason I say so-called Latino's is because I mainly see Indigenous or African features on them but so many say they are white or spanish.
    I think there are more Indian Black mixes, different percentages on which bloodline has more, in these so-called Latin countries than the Mestizo they always say. I believe these countries make up the racial diversity of their countries.


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