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…

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For Many Latinos, Racial Identity Is More Culture Than Color

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-01-14 04:49Z by Steven

For Many Latinos, Racial Identity Is More Culture Than Color

The New York Times

Mireya Navarro

Every decade, the Census Bureau spends billions of dollars and deploys hundreds of thousands of workers to get an accurate portrait of the American population. Among the questions on the census form is one about race, with 15 choices, including “some other race.”

More than 18 million Latinos checked this “other” box in the 2010 census, up from 14.9 million in 2000. It was an indicator of the sharp disconnect between how Latinos view themselves and how the government wants to count them. Many Latinos argue that the country’s race categories—indeed, the government’s very conception of identity — do not fit them.

The main reason for the split is that the census categorizes people by race, which typically refers to a set of common physical traits. But Latinos, as a group in this country, tend to identify themselves more by their ethnicity, meaning a shared set of cultural traits, like language or customs…

…A majority of Latinos identify themselves as white. Among them is Fiordaliza A. Rodriguez, 40, a New York lawyer who says she considers herself white because “I am light-skinned” and that is how she is viewed in her native Dominican Republic.

But she says there is no question that she is seen as different from the white majority in this country. Ms. Rodriguez recalled an occasion in a courtroom when a white lawyer assumed she was the court interpreter. She surmised the confusion had to do with ethnic stereotyping, “no matter how well you’re dressed.”

Some of the latest research, however, shows that many Latinos—like Irish and Italian immigrants before them—drop the Latino label to call themselves simply “white.” A study published last year in the Journal of Labor Economics found that the parents of more than a quarter of third-generation children with Mexican ancestry do not identify their children as Latino on census forms.

Most of this ethnic attrition occurs among the offspring of parents or grandparents married to non-Mexicans, usually non-Hispanic whites. These Latinos tend to have high education, high earnings and high levels of English fluency. That means that many successful Latinos are no longer present in statistics tracking Latino economic and social progress across generations, hence many studies showing little or no progress for third-generation Mexican immigrants, said Stephen J. Trejo, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study…

…On the other side of the spectrum are black Latinos, who say they feel the sting of racism much the same as other blacks. A sense of racial pride has been emerging among many black Latinos who are now coming together in conferences and organizations.

Miriam Jiménez Román, 60, a scholar on race and ethnicity in New York, says that issues like racial profiling of indigenous-looking and dark-skinned Latinos led her to appear in a 30-second public service announcement before the 2010 census encouraging Latinos of African descent to “check both: Latino and black.” “When you sit on the subway, you just see a black person, and that’s really what determines the treatment,” she said. The 2010 census showed 1.2 million Latinos who identified as black, or 2.5 percent of the Hispanic population…

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Negra & Beautiful: The Unique Challenges Faced By Afro-Latinas

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2012-01-04 04:52Z by Steven

Negra & Beautiful: The Unique Challenges Faced By Afro-Latinas


Damarys Ocaña, Freelance Journalist

The frustrating ironies of being Afro-Latina hit Yuly Marshall with stunning regularity: At work at a Miami hospital, Hispanic patients of the Cuban-born radiology technician usually assume she’s African American, asking her, “Where did you learn to speak Spanish like that?” and expressing shock—even skepticism—that she’s really Latina. Other times, fellow Latinos will disparage African Americans in front of her with phrases like, “What can you expect from negros?” and then turn around and tell her, as if paying her a compliment, “But you’re not like that. You’re one of us.”
When Marshall talks about race issues with African American coworkers, they often tell her she has no idea what it’s really like to be black. Yet a few years ago, when Marshall dated a lighter-skinned black Latino, his parents persuaded him to break it off because of her dark skin. “They told him to find a white girl so he could adelantar la raza,” Marshall says, using a phrase that roughly means to ‘push the race forward’ by marrying a light-skinned person and producing children lighter than yourself.

“Sometimes I think, ‘When is this going to end?’” says Marshall, 31. “But I love my skin color. God created me this way, and I’m just as good as any other person.”…

…“People are increasingly identifying as Afro-Latino,” says Miriam Jiménez Román, who edited The AfroLatin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, a collection of essays by Afro-Latino writers that recently won the American Book Award. “They’re aware now that such an identity is a possibility.”
If it sounds strange that some young Latinas don’t know that it’s okay to be black and Latina, it’s because of the barrage of mixed messages young Afro-Latinas get.
Of the estimated 11 million enslaved Africans brought to the New World from the late 1400s to the 1860s, most were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean, with only some 645,000 landing in the United States. “So when you’re talking about blackness, you’re really talking about Latin America,” Jimenez says…

…Many Latin American countries have de-emphasized race for another reason, says Arlene Davila, Ph.D., a New York University professor of anthropology. “National identity was supposed to trump racial identity,” she says, supposedly making everyone equal. Black Latinos were made to feel as if trumpeting their race made them less Cuban, for example, though in reality, the political and economic power lay with light-skinned citizens…

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