I could not be more supportive of the Afro-Latin movement for it amplifies the idea of reunification within a broken West African diaspora which now lives in the Americas. As we all know about Spain and its racist colonial history, which still exists today, movements such as the Young Lords in New York, or the Panafrican campaign promoted by Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, or Fidel Castro in both the Caribbean and South America, the existence of Afro-Latin pioneers such as Celia Cruz the legend, favored the emergence and recognition of the in-betweeness which characterizes the Afro-Latinos. In reggaeton and Caribbean music, artists such as the Orishas in Cuba or Tego Calderon from Puerto Rico have never stopped writing about their pride in their blackness. Contrary to what the younger generation thinks, the Afro-Latin movement was not invented by Amara la Negra (whom I like and support) but has existed for centuries and has been supported by authors such as Nicolas Guillen in Cuba among others. Yet, it is true that the pro-blackness trends of the 2010s have encouraged a younger generation eager to decolonize the minds of their ancestors and parents to dig into the past and re-explore their identity and how they have been manipulated over the years.
The Boricuas, among many other Caribbeans, have always been told that their original ancestors came from Spain. Even until this day, many Mexicans and Central Americans with deep Native Mayan or Aztec facial features wrongly believe to be the offsprings of Spaniards for they were brainwashed. The degree of trauma imposed upon the Caribbeans and Latin Americans has not been fully explored yet as most do not manage to understand that their racial admixture is, for the most part, a consequence of rape and nothing less. The lighter tone is celebrated yet, the exoticism praised by Black American men was never rooted in love, peace or equality but rape, brutality and horror. A woman like Eva Longoria, Vanessa Bryant the wife of the late Kobe, or Jennifer Lopez were not supposed to be mixed with Spaniards. If the invasions had not taken place in the beginning, they would have been fully natives, unlike women like Sofia Vergara, Paulina Rubia, Kat Von D, Shakira or Thalia who are white of European descent. Therefore, the Afro-Latin movement has become extremely important in the fight against colonialism and the desire of many Caribbean scholars, historians or musicians to get together and express their feelings regarding their position in the in-betweeness.
Yet, the Afro-Latin movement seems to have become extremely cool and exploitable. Jessica Krug was guilty of it as if pain, struggle and oppression were fun enough to give one authenticity, hence a feeling which breaks with boredom. When I was 14, the first documentaries which focused on Afro-Latinos in the continent began to appear on Youtube. A collective of mixed-race scholars, a couple I believe who looked native to me, travelled extensively to Central America, the Caribbean and South America to meet and preserve the black populations there. However, the Afro-Latinos shown on the screen were not like the ones shown today. They were dark skin Negroid peoples with little to no admixture and they clearly looked like Africans who had just been brought to the Americas from the Kongo or Angola. And this is how an Afro-Latino is supposed to look like actually. The creation of such platform was supposed to represent people like them not the mixed-race individuals who claim to be them but whose features are favored for being closer to whiteness.
Over the years, the movement, has it became more popular during the BLM protests, has led to the intrusion of white mestizos -understand quadroons and octoroons- who were always used to leaving black people behind, all the while exploiting their culture and legacy. When it benefited them the most, they would jump into the black heritage thing. When facing issues of racism, these white Mulattoes often claim that racism does not exist in the Latin community as everyone has different origins. The whitest Latinos were however the first to downplay the narrative held by the visibly black populations as if to say, like ignorant Charlemagne, that these issues were in their heads. Therefore, mixed-race Latinos have become the new faces of Afrolatinidad and once again the dark skin populations are excluded.
Recently, the case of reality troublemaker Evelyn Lozada, a Boricua, made headlines. Confused like many Boricuas and called a “White Latina” by many Black Americans, I always thought she was a Black Boricua but she didn’t seem to consider herself as one, clearly. Actually, many Caribbeans who are visibily black will not claim blackness but Borinquen or Dominican, and that’s why Cardi B never said she was Black in the beginning due to the confusion. Now claiming that she is Afro-Latina, she does not have one visible black parent but would rather descend from MGM peoples who were mixed with consequent African and Spanish mostly. Yet, genetics being comparable to the lottery, some individuals in her family clearly favored more African features than others. Cardi B is not a Black woman but she is mixed and multiracial for none of her parents look like Amara La Negra’s father. The new so-called Afro-Latinos actually use the excuse of “black ancestors” lost somewhere down their lines to justify a proximity to Africanidad, when they should not. Many dark skin Latinos in Cuba do have white blood but they are denied such right to be closer to them. It is not uncommon to see White Mestizos use this issue or the “first man came from Africa” to erase the Black Latin narrative. The white skin Latinos also jump into the reversed one drop rule to steal jobs away from actual Black Latinos in casting roles. Lian Amado, a White mixed Cuban Latina was caught curling her hair to go to a casting call in order to play a role destined to Afro-Latinas.
Upon looking into her ancestry and after having been exposed for colorism towards OG, a Nigerian-American athlete she referred to as a “monkey” in one Instagram post, Lozada has started to claim Afro-Boricua saying she was 25 per cent African. Yet, there lies a problem.
The brown or caramel skin tone of many Boricuas and South Americans does not always go along with the presence of an African heritage at all. Indeed, most Native Americans were brown skin and caramel. Today in Venezuela, many indigenous tribes are my skin tone, yet they were not Negroid from West Africa at all. And worst, Lozada’s features are much more Native than West African. And today, many Caribbeans eager to claim their right African heritage are still confused for the Africanidad is based on the skin tone only. For this reason, inclusion of improbable opportunists with mostly white heritage who now want to claim black, such as Veronica Vega among others is problematic.
Women who look like Angie Martinez now can claim Afro-Latinidad just because they would have one black grand-parent somewhere down the line. Martinez -whom I admire greatly- does have some African but like Jennifer Lopez, she is clearly a mixed native woman.
Many Black Latin activists also make the mistake to claim the whole Americas’ roots as African when it is not true. Countries like Chile, whose native population has been decimated and diluted criminally, is mostly white European, mixed with native but there was a little black community sent over there, the majority being concentrated in the Caribbean which also comprises the northern coasts of Latin America.
Mixed Latinos can claim blackness but problem is, they have become the new face of the movement and this does not change nothing for, eventually, Blacks are still at the bottom. Amara la Negra may be dark skin but she is mixed, still. Yet, the leaders should be careful what they do to include the darkest types as much as possible and isolate the imposters who want to steal the cover. Everytime a black group finds their peace, the quadroons and octoroons want to steal their shine as well. And this is the danger as some will disappear.
All Rights Reserved, VKY