Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Racial Confusion among Latinos & African Americans

 Two Black men portraying their Puerto Rican Pride
in the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York

Why is it so challenging for so  many people, especially African-Americans and U.S. Latinos, to understand that there is a difference between someone's race and someone's culture? Two individuals can be of the same race, but of an entirely different culture and speak a different language. Another two can be of the same culture and nationality, but a member of an entirely different race.

I was working as a counselor in San Francisco, California when an African-American woman who noticed my Spanish and pictures of Afro-Latinos on my wall; looked me right in the face and asked me to confirm that I'm black. Likewise, a Mexican-American woman with whom I engaged in a Spanish-speaking conversation, which included a discussion of my traveling through Mexico City, told an African-American co-worker, behind my back, that I am not black.

Afro-Bolivians jamming to their own
version of black
music  called "Saya"

Here in New York, when blacks from the Dominican Republic first began migrating here in droves, they insisted in heavily accented English, "I'm not black, I'm Dominican." They too were confusing their race (black) with their culture and nationality (Dominican). I have not heard them make such a blusterous comment since I moved back to New York from California. At least, not yet. But then again, I do not discuss race with Latinos, especially Afro-Latinos, until I get a better understanding of their ethnic awareness.

Black women of Guatemala

The other day, I was communicating with a Puerto Rican who happens to be a staunch Trump supporter on Facebook. He strongly insisted that I am not of his race. Since I never met him face to face, I don't know what race he is, but I had to ask him if he has ever been to Loiza, a city on Puerto Rico's east coast where descendants of African slaves (people of my race) lived for centuries. Bomba and plena music that is popular in that area has the same African roots as African-American blues and gospel music. That did not set well with him.

Afro Uruguayan "Candombé" dancer at a Carnival
in Montevideo, the nation's capital

What upset him even more was when I shared my travels through nine Spanish-speaking countries and sought out people of "my race" who viewed me as a "brother" from another "culture." He abruptly ended our little debate and wished me happy holidays.

Latin-American countries such as Cuba, Panamá, Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, and hell, even Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguay; countries where I have Facebook friends that are on my list of places to visit are "saying it loud, they are black and they are proud," and are struggling for black civil rights in their respective countries.

I'm showing a good friend from Ecuador,
South America around New York City

During my Latin American travels, I noticed that the racial discrimination for employment and housing is much worse than that of the U.S. In Peru, there are TV shows that stereotype Afro-Peruvians and Indigenous people as stupid, silly, and dishonest. In high-end stores, I've been racially profiled as not having enough money to purchase their items. In Ecuador, I had trouble catching cabs because drivers thought that I was a poor Afro-Ecuadorian out to commit a robbery.

On positive note, the police force in Latin-American countries, with the exception of Bogotá, Colombia, are not finding bogus excuses to shoot and kill or brutalize innocent, unarmed black and brown people as so commonly practiced  here in the U.S.A, which is why many black families, one whom I know personally, feel much safer living in Latin America.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Black Mexican Towns Hold Annual Conferences

XIX Meeting of Black Villages 
Coahuila, México
“El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!”
(The United Village Will Never be Defeated!)

This post is credited to Patrica Ann Talley, MBA who has been living in the Afro-Mexican region of La Costa Chica for over 20 years. 
See www.imagine-mexico.com for a full report

In 1999, a priest from Trinidad & Tobago arrived to help unite and educate Afro-Mexicans on their African history, and has since coordinated annual meetings of black villages in La Costa Chica (the small coast) section of Mexico, a region along the west coast encompassing the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero with large Afro-Mexican populations.

In contrast to the Afro-descendant communities on Mexico's east coast state of Veracruz, these communities along the Pacific coast (La Costa Chica) have experienced greater geographic isolation. This resulted in their being closer to their African roots, such as the practice of carrying objects on top of one’s head, using round thatch-roofed houses, which are constructed like African huts, as well as of religious traditions and social organization that link these communities to the African continent. 

The African presence in La Costa Chica is a result of colonial expansion in the area and the need for African slaves to work on large plantations. Oral tradition claims that the communities are also descendants of African maroons who escaped the shipwreck of the
Puerta de Oro (Gold Port) along the Pacific coast. Some of the current Afro-Mexican inhabitants are said to be the descendants of these maroons. 

Despite their social, cultural, political and economic contributions to the region and to the nation, the majority of the Afro-Mexican communities in the Costa Chica often suffer from poverty, lack of government investment and infrastructure, and discrimination. Until 2015, there was no constitutional recognition of Afro-Mexicans, as this group has been left out of government and institutional programs that aid in funding. 

It was through increased individual, community activism that  garnered greater attention to the contributions, rights, and goals of the Afro-Descendent communities of La Costa Chica. For example, there is a museum that is dedicated to teaching about the African presence in Mexico. It displays information and items related to this history including political and military contributions during the War of Independence and the Revolution, and artifacts used in cultural dances and celebrations. 

Moreover, civic organizations such as México Negro A.C. along with other community groups and local activists and scholars have convened an annual conference, the Encuentro de Pueblos Negros (Meeting of the Black Towns and Peoples), in order to foster awareness of the history and traditions of these communities, and to increase attention to their social, political, and economic needs.

As a result of their voices and efforts, in 2011 the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs announced that they would be creating a Department of Afro-Mexican Community Affairs in Oaxaca. The legal recognition of these communities is a crucial step in achieving not only state, but more importantly, federal recognition of Afro-Mexicans. 

Even though they were denied being counted as a separate ethnic group on the 2010 census by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, they continue to fight to be recognized as a specific ethnicity affording them all the constitutional rights and support. 

On their pathways to freedom, the voices and activism of the Afro-Mexican communities in La  Costa Chica continue to rescue and promote their cultural traditions, and to fight for a greater visibility that matches the extensive contributions that they have made throughout Mexican history.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Cuba's Black Female Slave Rebel

 Carlota Lucumí

Thank you AfroLatinidad for sharing ...

We African-Americans know about Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey, but their spirit was alive throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, such as Gaspar Yanga of Mexico, Benko Biohó of Colombia, and Alonso de Illescas of Ecuador, just to name a few.

Carlota Lucumí was also known as La Negra Carlota (Black Carlota). Carlota was born in the Yoruba tribe of West Africa before being captured by slave traders and sent to the island of Cuba. 

On Cuba's sugar mill plantation of Triumvirato in the City of Matanzas, now known as the hub of Afro-Peruvian culture, Carlota was known as one of the leaders of a slave rebellion on November 5, 1843.  

According to scholars, Carlota played a role in the rebellion by spreading it from the plantation where she worked to a neighboring plantation (Acaná) by garnering the support of masses of slaves and reached a total of five plantations by the end of the revolt. 

Other slaves knew her at the time for her violent attack on the overseer's daughter, which was brought up throughout many of the slave testimonies collected after the rebellion. 

Several Cuban scholars have categorized her as a martyr. Carlota's memory has also been utilized throughout history by the Cuban government as Carlota and the uprising at Triunvirato plantation are honored as part of the UNESCO Slave Route Project through a sculpture at the Triunvirato plantation, which has since been turned into a memorial and museum

As much as the Boers or the Americans hate to admit it. Carlota's name was later given to Cuba's 1980's operation "Black Carlota" in Southern Africa, which culminated in the defeat of the South African army in pitch battle. This lead to the negotiations that removed Apartheid