The recent waves of (orchestrated) revolts regarding the case of George Floyd around the world has allowed many members of the diaspora to open up when it comes to the issue of colonialism. For the first time in a long time, social media became the main platform through which millions of users of either African-American, African or Afro-Caribbean descent took to their accounts to express their inner pain while facing rejection. In this spectrum, the issues of Afro-Latinos, which remained unknown to many Afro-Americans was also brought up through Amara la Negra also, an Afro-Dominican singer and activist who defends the rights of Afro descendant individuals in the Latinized American world.
As the movie In The Heights was released in 2020, the same individuals who were vocal about the tragedy of George Floyd complained about the lack of Afrolatinidad in the piece. This time, the blanqueamiento -whitewashing- was not tolerated at all. The movie did not represent the reality as most black and brown faces were taken away from the representation. One can not forget that the directors, like many other Latinized Indigenous people, hope to remain closer to a white/Spaniard perspective and are not always okay with including black faces they fear will not encourage white Americans to invest their money in the project. Blacks have been, along with Natives, the two main cultures which built modern day South America/Caribbean area, yet, they have to remain in the back.
If many have pointed out the problematic of whitewashing, one also has to say one thing: there would be no whitewashing without the blanqueamiento of Afrolatinidad. As stated several times on this platform, fifteen years ago, the original faces of Afrolatinidad looked like their Angolan, Kongo, West African ancestors, hence dark skin individuals with Negroid features, little to no admixture who spoke Spanish. Those people, the original ones who are still millions in Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Borinken or the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, remain as hidden as the unmixed Native people no one wants to see in Hollywood.
Worst. When it comes to Blackness in the Latinized America/Caribbean, everyone forgets about the fact that some individuals can not be perfectly counted as black or else for they have been the direct products of lineages which strictly blended African and Native bodies. The problematic of Mestizaje only wants to include the individuals mixed with white Spaniard and that is how Amara La Negra and many other activists hope to get closer to an acceptation of the white colonial body and not that of the Natives. Many Dominicans, Boricuas, Bolivians, Peruvians are not the products of white people but of Africans and Natives, with their own cultures, particularities and phenotypes. Yet, these Afro-Native people remain hidden and excluded for they do not fit in the narrative of whiteness and beauty.
The problem with Afrolatinidad today remains in the manipulation of Hollywood, the mainstream tools and also the famous individuals who claim Afrolatinidad themselves. Most of them barely look African at all for they are mixed with a phenotype closer to White. How could Dasha Polanco, Julissa Bermudez claim Afrolatinidad and not Veronica Vega when all women mentioned previously have direct black African lineages? If Julissa can claim blackness and not Veronica Vega this means that someone is being dishonest somewhere. Before attacking the director of In The Heights one should question the real motives of the modern day Afro-Latin movement. Do the leaders want to get closer to Africa, blackness or depart from it to dilute it and fit in a mold designed by Europeans?
Most self-proclaimed Afro-Latinos today are not only African but the direct sons and daughters of Africans and Natives, not necessarily white people. Some individuals who look more Taino/Native can also have a deep African heritage no one can see per se. People like Cuban Link -ex Terror Squad and of Cuban descent-, Big Pun, Princess Nokia, Dasha Polanco, Cardi B can directly fall into this category, hence individuals of direct African and Native blend.
In order to be understood perfectly, the Afro Latin movement needs to go back to the roots, which means Africa and has to be associated to any form of Native revival. Since 1492 at least, Africans and Natives have been marching together and formed secret alliances to support one another. Yet, such unity has been erased as the colonizers had always wanted to become the main face of South American and Caribbean culture.
The Afro Latin heritage has to be attached to that of the Natives for Afro Latinidad can not exist if the original inhabitants of the land, the Natives are not placed at the center. Unfortunately, many modern day platforms in Afro Latinidad want to bring the movement closer to the colonial and pro-Spain Latin X movement often led by descendants of colonizers. Afro Latinidad is in essence African but also Native just like many Natives have adopted African customs as well.
In order to fight for Afro Latinidad, one has to reject the domination of Eurocentric mainstream media and break away with their systematic approval of our history and heritages. As most Boricuas are the direct descendants of the Tainos who NEVER disappeared, the modern day White Eurocentric historians refuse to acknowledge the fact that they are STILL alive in the Caribbean and in the customs for their desire is to accentuate the illegal Southern European presence in spaces where they forced their presence.
In that sense, Afro Latinos have to identify through the African lens, it is true, but also have to study their identity through the lens of the Natives. African descendants have more in common with the Native ancestors than with the colonizers who despise them. Therefore, instead of pushing the narrative towards the North it is more than important to take it South and make it ours, and ours only.
Therefore, a Native Taino from Borinken, Ayiti, or a Native Colombian who looks Native should not feel afraid to claim their own African-ness in race and culture even if the blackness is not seen, just like an Afro Latino should not be afraid to claim their Indigenous identity.
In reality, it is time to replace Latino with Indigenous and therefore Afro Latinidad with Afro-Indigenous.
All Rights Reserved
by Victoria Kabeya- VKY