Searching For A Motherland As A Black Latina

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-02 02:36Z by Steven

Searching For A Motherland As A Black Latina

The Huffington Post

Maria V. Luna, Associate Lecturer
Goldsmiths University of London

Author Maria V. Luna in the Dominican Republic on her way to celebrate carnival in 2011.
Maria V. Luna

For Black Latinx in the U.S., bicultural, bilingual ― if they are lucky ― and born to immigrant parents, there is no motherland.

Though 25 percent of U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, we are not always made to feel at home in our own country. To be Latinx in the U.S. is to encounter xenophobic rhetoric from the top of our nation’s political leadership down to its base. To be black Latinx is to discover that xenophobia layered with anti-black rhetoric brews even among our own ethnic group.

Scholars Miriam Jiménez Román and the late Juan Flores consider W.E.B. Du Bois when describing the experience of the Afro-Latino in the U.S. as a triple consciousness — an awareness of being black, Latino and American. It is an elastic awareness, a way of moving in the world that has been woefully underexplored in America and in Spanish-language media and entertainment.

As an Afro-Latina, I often wondered: Where are my people? Where are those who crave mangú for breakfast, a Cuban sandwich for lunch and tres leches dessert? Where are those who love the “One Day at a Time” reboot with a Latin cast but winced when Lydia, played by Rita Moreno, repeats with conviction, “Cubans are white!” Didn’t abuela dance to Celia Cruz every morning as she made breakfast?

As soon as I could, I journeyed far from New Jersey to find my people. I looked for my kindred in the Dominican Republic, in Brazil, in Spain and in the maternal monolith I once imagined Africa to be.

I was looking for that mythical interstitial place where my blackness and Latinidad could peacefully coexist. This is what I found…

Read the entire article here.

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By looking at Afro-Latinos, you kind of get a better sense of how fluid race has been. People have constructed it in different ways depending on conditions and circumstances.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-11-23 02:39Z by Steven

“Whether we look at race as a fixed notion or culturally constructed concept it is very real. Race itself is an invention, a creation. Many people feel race is something that’s fixed, rigid and doesn’t have variances. By looking at Afro-Latinos, you kind of get a better sense of how fluid race has been. People have constructed it in different ways depending on conditions and circumstances.” —Miriam Jiménez Román

Kim Haas, “Q&A with Miriam Jiménez Román,” Los Afro-Latinos: A Blog Following the Afro-Latino Experience, March 30, 2012.

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Q&A with Miriam Jiménez Román

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2015-11-22 22:02Z by Steven

Q&A with Miriam Jiménez Román

Los Afro-Latinos: A Blog Following the Afro-Latino Experience

Kim Haas

In February, Latina magazine listed “6 Afro-Latinas Who Are Changing the World.” Naturally, Miriam Jiménez Román was second on the list.

Her work as a writer, professor and head of the Afro-Latin@ Forum has educated the world about the Afro-Latin experience and made her an authority on the subject. Her latest work, The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, has been hailed for critics for its diverse portrait of Black Latinos in America.

Jiménez sat down to speak with Los Afro-Latinos about the book, Afro-Latinos in the media and bridging the gap between African Americans and Latinos.

Los Afro-Latinos: Why did you publish The Afro-Latin@ Reader?

Miriam Jiménez Román: After the 2000 Census was released [the mainstream media], basically posed Latinos and African-Americans in a Black vs. Brown dynamic. And it gave the sense that the [United States] was evolving into this post racial state and we didn’t really have to talk about race anymore. Latinos didn’t have a concern about race because the Census says Latinos, the largest minority group, can be of any race and this is a demonstration of overcoming race in [the United States]. My co-editor [Juan Flores] and I and a number of other people were appalled by that kind of analysis.

First, we’re not in a post racial state. Race is still a very important part of how all of us – globally – live our lives. African-Americans and Latinos need to get together, create change that will benefit not just Latinos and African-Americans but all people of color…

Read the entire interview here.

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Check Both! Afro-Latin@s and the Census

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-22 18:53Z by Steven

Check Both! Afro-Latin@s and the Census

NACLA: Reporting on the Americas Since 1967

Miriam Jiménez Román

Earlier in 2010 a series of public service announcements circulated on the Internet in anticipation of the U.S. Census. The three short videos, produced and disseminated by the afrolatin@ forum, a New York–based educational nonprofit, urged Latin@s to identify both racially and ethnically, to “Check Both” on the census form. Targeting Black Latin@s, the campaign sought to challenge the prevailing notion of Latin@s as uniquely exempt from standard racial categories. By claiming both national origins and Black identity, Afro-Latin@s assert the continuing significance of race, both within Latin@ communities and in the broader society. At the very least, being counted on the census as Black and Latin@ brings attention to a social group that has long been invisible and subject to ongoing social and political marginalization…

…Latin@s may well be the only social group in the world who so emphatically insist on their ethnoracial mixture. But even as mestizo, or mixed identity—expressed variably as raza, “rainbow people,” or “mutts”—is a commonplace collective designation, Latin@s are also understood to be “of any race.” This apparent contradiction can be traced to the convergence of two seemingly distinct racial formations. On the one hand, the national ideologies of our countries of origin emphasize racial mixture and equate it with racial democracy—even as whiteness continues to be privileged, and indigenous and African ancestry are viewed as something to be overcome or ignored. On the other hand, in the United States Latin@s have been allocated an ambiguous racial middle ground that invisibilizes those too dark to conform to the mestizo ideal, while simultaneously distancing them from other communities of color, particularly African Americans…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Latinos Seek Recognition, And Accurate Census Count

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-21 18:00Z by Steven

Afro-Latinos Seek Recognition, And Accurate Census Count

NBC News

Raul A. Reyes

NEW YORK, NY — Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the contributions of Latinos in the U.S., yet one group often feels left out of the Hispanic community. Afro-Latinos say that they struggle with acceptance from both Latinos and African-Americans. Now they are seeking recognition, acceptance – and an accurate count of their numbers. As was discussed at a recent Afro-Latino Forum conference in New York City, Latino advocates and educators are working with the U.S. Census Bureau to help make it easier for mixed-race Hispanics to report their background on the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau reports that in the 2010 Census, 2.5 percent of the 54 million Hispanics in the U.S. also identified as black – a figure that many say is an undercount. “I believe that what were hearing from the Afro-Latino community is that they do not believe that those numbers accurately illustrate the Afro-Latino community presence in the United States, and that’s the dialogue that we’re having,” said Nicholas Jones, chief of the Bureau’s Racial Statistics Branch.

The Bureau is currently weighing changes in how it asks about race and ethnicity. In the 2010 Census, while over half of Hispanics identified themselves as white, 36 percent checked “some other race.” The significant number of Latinos who did not see themselves in traditional racial categories has led the Bureau to consider offering a combined race/ethnicity question for 2020, offering “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin” as a choice.

The combined race/ethnicity approach is still controversial. Some Afro-Latinos support the idea because they believe it would make the Census more accurate. Others worry that it would encourage Hispanics to think of themselves as a separate race…

…“Among Latinos, the idea of talking about mixed race can still be taboo,” said Ed Morales, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. “It’s easier to say that you’re Dominican or Mexican, rather than delve into your racial background.” He attributes this to the traditional cultural forces at play in Hispanic culture. “In our own families, there is not a lot of discussion of being mixed race, there is not a lot of open acknowledgement of it.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-02 00:30Z by Steven

The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies
Volume 17, 2013
page 278-279
DOI: 10.1353/hcs.2013.0020

Mahan L. Ellison, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Virginia

Román, Miriam Jiménez and Juan Flores, eds., The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

As noted in the acknowledgements, this compilation of essays, poetry, prose, and personal narratives coalesced over the past two decades from readings for classes taught by the editors. The collection focuses on the intersection of the Black and Latin@ experiences, avoiding the exclusivity of either/or dualities and instead emphasizing the rich history and diversity found within the encompassing term of “Afro-Latin@.” The collection adheres to a geographical focus of the United States, but it is so vast in its coverage of the many facets of the Afro-Latin@ experience and history that this regional concentration is one of practicality rather than oversight.

The book is divided into ten sections, and these sections address the four central concerns (“coordinates”) within Afro-Latinidad of “group history, transnational discourse, relations between African Americans and Latin@s, and the specific lived experience of being Afro-Latin@” (3). Section I opens by providing historical background for Afro-Latin@s in (what would become) the United States, reaching back to Estevanico el Negro in 1528 and introducing census records showing that 56.5% of the Los Angeles population in 1781 was Afro-Latin@ (30). Other sections focus on the construction of racial identity, popular music, gender, public representations, and one entire section dedicated to Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. There are 66 individual chapters that offer a wide variety of genres, and this mixed-genre approach lends itself well to use in the classroom. The disparate themes each section explores contextualize Afro-Latin@ history while displaying the diversity of Afro-Latinidad. This dense reader is a wonderful resource for educators.

The readings are organized chronologically, beginning with historical context from the sixteenth century, but largely focusing on the twentieth and nascent twenty-first centuries. This chronological ordering allows the intersperment of poetry and personal memoirs among academic essays, thereby varying the narrative tone and form from chapter to chapter. For example, the section on Arturo Schomburg begins with an excerpt from an article penned by Schomburg, is followed by an academic essay by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, and concludes with a personal narrative by Evelyne Laurent-Perrault that considers the continued resonance of Schomburg’s legacy. This varied-genre approach to the topics creates a narrative flexibility that shows the breadth of the subjects and offers multiple points of view.

The collection includes an excerpt from Piri ThomasDown These Mean Streets, poetry by the Nuyorican poets Sandra María Esteves, Felipe Luciano, and Victor Hernández Cruz, and also more recent works by Tato Laviera, Louis Reyes Rivera, Willie Perdomo, and Mariposa (María Teresa Fernández). Section IX, titled “Living Afro-Latinidades,” is a collection of personal testimonies from Afro-Latin@s that explores the intimate and individual experience of being Afro-Latin@ in the United States. The first person narration that predominates in this section complements the academic essays and personalizes the poetry and fiction found throughout the reader. Section IX is followed by the final section that concludes the book with essays focusing on racial identity and social commentary. As Section I opens with historical context and Section X closes with analysis, these editorial choices emphasize the critical value of Afro-Latin@ identity and literary production.

The Afro-Latin@ Reader is a well conceptualized and executed resource for university instructors. Due to the fact that many of the works included in the reader are excerpts, the value of this book for research purposes is mostly bibliographic. However, as an introduction to the often overlooked areas of Afro-Latin@ identity and history, this collection serves as a valuable resource for students and educators. The variety of tone, content, and genre offers a broad and compelling view of Afro-Latinidad. This reader would serve well as a textbook for a class on Afro-Latin@ culture in the United States, or as an addition to reading lists on African, Latin@, or American culture and literature…

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African-Americans and Latinos: Conflict or Collaboration?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-11-02 22:08Z by Steven

African-Americans and Latinos: Conflict or Collaboration?

Ebony Magazine

Eugene Holley, Jr.

As Latinos now outnumber African-Americans as this country’s largest minority, could there be a political, social and economic union with our brown brothers and sisters?

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month – which runs through October 15th – EBONY interviewed African-Americans and Hispanics about the challenges, complexities and collaborations between these two groups. 

“The Census suggested a competition,” says Miriam Jiménez Román, Executive Director of the AfroLatin@forum: a research and resource center focusing on Black Latinos and Latinas in the United States. “And it ignored a history of, not only just collaboration, but inclusion within the rubric of Blackness. We are not in competition with the African-American community. They have been at the vanguard, in terms of assuring civil rights in this country. And for that reason, all of the privileges that we have as Latinos in this country owe so much to the African-American struggle.”

The New York-born Puerto Rican, who also co-edited the book, The Afro-Latin@ Reader, also points out that there are many Hispanics of visible African descent. “Many African-Americans don’t realize that the majority of Black people in the Americas are in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she states. “Ninety five percent of all the enslaved Africans landed in those places. There are 150 million people of African descent in Latin America.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Latino/a Identities: Challenges, History, and Perspectives

Posted in Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2012-09-08 01:56Z by Steven

Afro-Latino/a Identities: Challenges, History, and Perspectives

Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal
Volume 9, Issue 1 (2012-04-20)
Article 5

Sobeira Latorre, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Southern Connecticut State University

Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores, editors, The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 584 pp.

The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States explores the contradictions, complexities, and ambiguities surrounding the term “Afro-Latin@.” As editors Juan Flores and Miriam Jiménez Román argue: “The term befuddles us because we are accustomed to thinking of ‘Afro’ and ‘Latin@’ as distinct from each other and mutually exclusive: one is either Black or Latin@” (1). This distinction, as the editors rightly underscore, denies the experience of those who identify themselves or whose experiences mark them as both Black and Latino/a, and who do not fit comfortably into either category. The Afro-Latin@ Reader emerges as a noteworthy and valuable effort to validate that individual experience and to voice, document and historicize the collective experience of Black Latino/as in the US.

The editors of this groundbreaking collection argue that despite the historical relevance and rich cultural legacy of Afro-Latino/as, described as “people of African descent in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and by extension those of African descent in the United States whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean” (1), racial paradigms in the US remain rigid and narrow in their definition and the contributions and diverse experiences of this growing population in the United States continue to be understudied. Adopting a multidisciplinary and transnational approach to the study of Afro-descendants of Caribbean and Latin American background in the United States, The Afro-Latin@ Reader makes an invaluable contribution to the fields of Latino/a, Caribbean, African American and African diaspora Studies.

The exploration of the African heritage in the Americas is not a new scholarly topic. Different aspects of the African presence in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, particularly around music, religion, and other socio-cultural manifestations, have been documented, especially among scholars in disciplines such as history, anthropology, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Studies on individual Latin American and Caribbean countries have also yielded significant insights into the particularities of racial discourse within distinct national contexts. More recently, this exploration is taking place within the context of the United States and has extended to fields like Latino/a, Black/African American, and Ethnic Studies…

Read the entire review here.

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The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2012-08-06 22:52Z by Steven

The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (review)

Volume 35, Number 2, Spring 2012
pages 548-551
DOI: 10.1353/cal.2012.0030

Daynali Flores-Rodriguez, Adjunct Professor of Spanish
Inter-American University of Puerto Rico

Jiménez Román, Miriam, and Juan Flores, eds. The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.

Published a year before the United Nations declared 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent, The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, takes a deeper look into the complex world of ethnic and race relations in America. Miriam Jiménez Román, the executive director of Afro-Latino Forum, a research and resource center for Black Latinos in the US, and Juan Flores, Director of Latino Studies at NYU, engage Afro-Latin@s as a population that “bridge various communities even as they constitute a community in their own right” (xiii). Similar to Henry Louis Gates’s Black in Latin America (2011) a four-part documentary series shown earlier this year on PBS that explores the influence of African descent in Latin America, The Afro-Latin@ Reader focuses “on the strategically important but still largely understudied United States context of Afro-Latin@ experience” (3). Both are proof of an emerging interest in transnational relations of race as a way to challenge the homogenizing effects of national and regional constructs of identity.

The complex history of ethnic and racial movements in the United States is traditionally framed within a socially-progressive agenda intended to reveal and denounce hidden histories of racialization, colonization, exploitation and social mobilization still experienced by many. In their zeal to be acknowledged and recognized as equals in mainstream society, ethnic and racial groups often articulate identity in terms that foster the same practices of cultural disenfranchisement these groups were denouncing in the first place.

Likewise, in Latin America, the myth of racial democracy based on “mestizaje” or mixed race, is still touted as one of the most defining traits of a pan-ethnic cultural identity. Since slavery was a systematic practice brought upon Latin America by European colonizers and later adopted and asserted by the United States (considered the ideological and practical heir of Europe), racial discrimination and prejudice is considered a foreign problem that attests to the immorality of imperialist and colonial practices and a strategic attempt to distract and divide Latin Americans from their common goal to resist these advances. Indigenous and black identities are accepted (in that order) as long as they do not compromise the traditional discourse of racial harmony that makes Latin Americans stand strong against the neocolonial threat, represented by the United States.

The editors of The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States make a compelling effort to reveal the subtle and complex negotiations of social identity that take place when these two paradigms clash. While oral narratives and testimonies are a common point of departure for historians and social scientists alike, the material included in the collection demonstrates an innovative approach that encourages readers to keep reflecting on the contributions made by Afro-Latin@s, far beyond the strict academic setting that so strongly divides experience from theory. Voices of the past acquire a new meaning for our own times. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg’s plea for the establishment of a Chair of Negro History in 1913 demonstrates his relevance as a pioneer for Black Studies and resonates stronger nowadays, where ethnic studies (specifically Latin@ and Chican@ studies) are threatened amidst accusations of reverse racism and/or the false premises of a post-racial America heightened by Barack Obama’s election in 2008. The essays by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof and Evelyne Laurent-Perrault not only describe the world of tense racial coalitions and segregation Schomburg inhabited but how his legacy is kept alive and still facilitates the conversation about what it means to be an Afro-Latin@.

The strength of this collection is the diverse array of materials suitable for those reflecting comparatively on issues of race, ethnicity, and identity, whether for the first time or for the hundredth. The Afro-Latin@ Reader uses academic essays, memoirs, poetry, literature, interviews, Census statistics, short stories, music, film, and popular culture to establish a much needed conversation on the social othering of Latin@s…

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Afro Latinos: everywhere, yet invisible

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-06-02 17:40Z by Steven

Afro Latinos: everywhere, yet invisible

Our Weekly

Cynthia Griffin

Struggles with self-image, assimilation mirror Black American experience

Last year, during a discussion on increasing the number of African Americans in Major League Baseball, Angel’s centerfielder Torii Hunter in a USA Today interview called the dark-skinned Latino baseball players “imposters” and said they are not Black.

Hunter’s comments strike at the heart of an issue that is one reason scholar Miriam Jiménez Román is undertaking a three-day conference called “Afro Latinos Now! Strategies for Visibility and Action,” on Nov. 3-5 in New York that will be the biggest such effort her organization, The AfroLatin@ Forum, has undertaken.

“This is the first time we have done such a comprehensive event where we discuss Afro Latinos specifically. We’re going to look at the state of the field and where we want to be, and there is going to be a heavy emphasis on youth, especially those in middle school years.”

Jiménez Román says the confusion Hunter demonstrated about the connection between Africans born in Latin America and those born in the United States is particularly acute for U.S.-based 11- to 15-year-old Afro Latinos. In the context of a racist society like America, they are not only struggling to figure out how they feel about themselves, but also how they connect in relation to others, especially African Americans.

There are millions of Afro Latinos in America who live their lives in what is essentially a “Black” context but identify themselves as White, because of the perceived stigma of being African American, said Jiménez Román, who last year came to the West Coast promoting her newly released book “Afro-Latino Reader,” co-edited with Juan Flores. The 584-page publication, which grew out of the notes the two professors always pulled together for classes they taught, explores people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean…

…“There is the idea that Latino culture is Mestizo and European and Indian, and Black people don’t belong,” said the race and ethnicity professor about how many Latin American countries think about themselves. In fact, Latinos of African descent have been in many countries for at least 200 years.

If they do acknowledge their Black citizens, Jimenez Roman said officials will say “they all live on the coast.”

“This isolates them. Or in Bolivia, for example, there are Black communities in the mountains. They are totally isolated and ignored.”

But in reality, Afro Latinos are everywhere in Latin America as they are in the United States, says the head of the AfroLatin@ Forum…

Read the entire article here.

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