Happy Autumn! On our blog this month we highlight AfroLatino culture and history in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. There are vibrant and distinct Black communities throughout Mexico, Central and South America as well as the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The term AfroLatino refers to people with Latin American heritage who also identify as descendants of the millions of Africans who were forced to work as slaves on sugar, tobacco and rice plantations in the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries. AfroLatinidad is the tradition of struggle, rebellion and overcoming obstacles, which this community continues today.
AfroLatinos are an integral part of American cultures that blend African, indigenous and Spanish influences and resist racism. Historically, the significance of their contributions and experiences has been obscured by whitewashing, blackwashing or claims of color blindness. Latino-ness is often represented as necessarily pale-skinned and straight-haired. Blackness is often represented as exclusively English-speaking and originating in the U.S. South. In countries like Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Ecuador, mainstream institutions have consistently asserted that their national communities are free from discrimination because everyone can claim multi-racial heritage.
The growing AfroLatinidad movement lifts up the African elements of Latin American heritage and the Latino aspects of Blackness. Activists and organizations have also revealed that racial inequality endures throughout the Americas in a manner that disproportionately marginalizes people with browner skin and kinkier hair. AfroLatinidad’s voice empowers all of us to challenge the ways our experiences and presence are made invisible. Bring all of yourselves to all of our communities and demand respect.
Robin J. Hayes, PhD