Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ecuador Celebrates Black Heritage Week

R1- 3A 
Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Center (below)

Negro, negro renegrido       Black, black, blackened
Negro, hermano del carbón       black, brother of charcoal,
negro de negros nacido       black of blacks born
Negro ayer, mañana y hoy       Black yesterday, tomorrow, and today
Algunos creen insultarme       Some believe they insult me
gritándome mi color       mocking my color,
más lo mismo yo pregono       but I myself proclaim it
con orgullo frente al sol       with pride in the place of the sun

Negro he sido, negro soy        Black I was, black I am
negro vengo, negro voy       Black I come, black I go
negro bien negro nací               black, real black I was born,
negro negro he de vivir       black black I must live
y como negro morir       and as a black I must die

~~~Nelson Estumpiñán Bass

In 1997, the Ecuadorian National Congress declared October 2 as the National Day of Black Ecuadorians. This, in turn, motivated black communities to organize and create Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Week in Quito, the nation’s capital, in an effort to raise awareness of Afro-Ecuadorian culture as well as their political and economic challenges, and where black leaders introduced a proposal to improve the economic, political, and cultural status of Ecuador's Black communities.

Monica Chalá, former Miss Ecuador

The existence of Blacks in Ecuador was brought to center stage internationally when it was revealed that two-thirds of Ecuador’s impressive 2006 World Cup soccer team, who made their presence felt, was of African descent. Ecuador’s performance brought in visitors from around the world, including me, to Ecuador’s black community in the Andes Mountains known as Valle del Chota (Chota Valley), which produces many of Ecuador’s professional soccer stars.

    Augustín Delgado, Ecuador's Shaquille O'Neal of the soccer world

According to the 2001 census, Afro-Ecuadorian population is 604,009, or 5 per cent of the total population. However, Afro-Ecuadorian organizations argue that this number is inaccurate due to problems with self-classification, such as those blacks who don't want to consider themselves black. They estimate Ecuador's black population to be at 10%, living mostly in the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas and in the south-central coastal region. About two-thirds of Afro-Ecuadorians now live in urban areas like Quito, the nation’s capital and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city.

Marí Chinquinquiá was the first slave in Ecuador to win her freedom. She did it through legal means.

Alonso de Illescas (1528-1585)
Ecuador's Nat Turner who successfully led black rebels against Spanish forces refusing to be slaves.

Antonio Preciado Bedoya
Ecuador's leading black poet today.

Nelson Estumpiñan Bass, literary giant; a contemporary of the African-American literary giant Langston Hughes who wrote about the black experience in Ecuador.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tri-Lingual African-Latinos, Bronx, NY

At first, I was a little put off by the fact that black Central American immigrants, mainly in the Bronx borough of New York City, where  large portions of them live, are advocating a separate category from “black” for race on various forms. They do not want to identify themselves as black or Latino because their true identity, which is Garífuna (pronounced Gar-EE-foo-nah), would be diluted. However, after my watching the film Garífuna in Peril for the second time, I developed great respect for the Garífunas and a richer understanding of why they are making that effort to preserve their ethnic identity. Many of them are trilingual with Garífuna their first language, a combination of West African and indigenous dialects, and Spanish being  primarily their second language, and English becomes the third language when they arrive in the US.This is all with the exception of Belize, which is an English-speaking country.

The Black Caribs, as the British referred to them, came into being when the British brought West Africans to the island of St. Vincent on slave ships. The British were subdued by a slave revolt, and the Africans made their way over to Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua’s Central American coastline. They intermarried with the native Carib/Arawak people forming a whole new ethnic group--the Garífunas, taking pride in the fact that they were never slaves. I had an interesting conversation with a Garífuna Guatemale at the film showing, and he explained to me how Garífuna could be born and raised in Belize and have relatives in Honduras or Nicaragua. He himself learned English after spending time in Belize before coming to Oakland.

To this day, young Garifuna people are being drilled in the love and pride of their ethnic heritage, and are encouraged to never forget who they are, regardless of where they go be it the Bronx, Houston, or Los Angeles. Even in their home countries where Spanish is spoken, and in the case of Belize, English, the children are encouraged to speak their Garífuna tongue amongst themselves to stay connected with their roots, and to speak Spanish (or English) when interacting outside of their villages..

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I'm Getting Love from Afro-Ecuadorians

 A community in Valle del Chota, Ecuador

I’ve been a member of the Afro-Ecuadorian forum for over three years on my Spanish Facebook account. Initially, I joined the group in preparation for my first trip to Ecuador because I wanted to make contact with the Afro-Ecuadorian community. This gesture worked like a charm as I was introduced to people who went out of their way to make my stay as pleasant as possible. What was even more uplifting was the fact that I referred other visitors from the USA and Great Britain to my new found friends who not only had a great time, but like me, learned a lot. It is in this forum where, even today, I keep pace with the latest on Black Ecuador.

Well recently, I announced in this Afro-Ecuadorian forum of my choice of Ecuador as the place where I eventually want to retire, be immersed in Ecuador’s black culture, and assist from behind the scenes, with the black struggle. I even expressed a desire to volunteer my time to teach English in a black community of 2000 residents, which is known throughout Ecuador for producing world-class soccer stars.

Since posting this announcement, I’ve been receiving a lot friend-request from Afro-Ecuadorian men and women, a couple who offered to mentor me in my acclimation into Ecuadorean life. There are two women who are giving me strong hints of wanting more than just a friendship, and my feeling is, please, not so fast! I want to make the best of all of my friendships as well as being a true friend myself. I believe this type of familiarity, in addition to the friends I’ve already made and met in person (thanks to Facebook) will make my transition into Ecuadorian life a lot smoother.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Controversy over Black Girl Winning a Latina Beauty Contest


From looking at a wonderful photo of a young Afro-Dominican beauty queen, Jakiyah McKoy, 7, crowned Chiquita Delaware (Little Miss Hispanic Delaware) posted by journalist Dash Harris, there was some speculation expressed about the controversy surrounding the pageant winner. As I myself explored this matter, I learned that the eight finalists, all very intelligent with pleasing personalities, had to demonstrate their talents by dancing or singing, modeling along the catwalk, and answering questions. Ironically, Jakiyah was the only contestant of African heritage, and the only contestant required to prove her lineage as a Latina.

After being announced the winner, there was an uproar stating that she is not the best representative of Latin beauty. It never ceases to amaze me how so many Latinos that I meet in my personal life who are so oblivious to the racial diversity in their own community. I hate to bust some folks bubble, but not all Latinas look like Jennifer Lopez. I’m not Latino, yet I myself have personally met and rubbed elbows Latinos who look like Denzel Washington, Merryl Streep, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Sun-Young-Moon. Where have these folks who criticized the winner been all of their lives assuming you have to be a certain color to be Latino. As I stated on another blog post, I’ve been in Latin-American restaurants and grocery stores in the US, Perú, and Venezuela that were owned and staffed by Chinese, and if I didn’t speak Spanish (or Cantonese), I didn’t eat. It was simple as that!

The pageant winner’s Latin-American bloodline goes back to her grandmother who was born in the Dominican Republic. Jakiyah herself was born in Brooklyn, New York where her mother currently lives. The little Miss Hispanic Delaware currently stays with her father in the city of Wilmington, Delaware. She likes to sing, dance and watch movies with her grandmother. Jakiyah McKoy has one brother, Shad, and a sister, Jamiyah. She loves spending time with her aunts, uncles, and her cousins and loves her godmother Relly. Her favorite pastime is drawing.