Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black Latinos

I want to start off today by saying that I am Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. My mother is a dark skinned Latina (Puerto Rican) who worked for Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. More profoundly, she was at the bedside of Betty Shabazz before she passed away. My father is your typical light shinned Latino Male (Puerto Rican/Ecuadorian). He has worked his ass off for Con Edison and is blissfully retired in Florida. I define who I am through them.

The difficulty with being a Latinegro is not knowing where you are placed in general society. I was able to identify with both Black & Latinos growing up. I was able to be on both sides of the same coin. As a little kid in Catholic School for 8 (and 4 more if you count High School), I just went with the flow. However, I remember feeling that I was the ugly kid in class (braces didn't help) and at one point wondering why I wasn't born with the lighter skin or the nice hair. My family would make fun of my pelo (hair) and compare it to Brillo. Not to mention that I would be told that my abuelito (grandfather) was the reason for the bad hair.

A few of my female cousins are light skinned and to be honest, can pass for white. I remember them being told not to date black men. I was never really sure why they would say to them nor why they would say this with me in the room; as a matter of fact why anyone in my family would say it considering that we have some pretty dark people in my family was completely beyond me. As I grew older I began to realize that they were referring to African Americans. Being that I could not tell the difference at that time, I was told that I was not black because I am Hispanic (obviously). My ignorance ran so deep that when a white kid called me a Nigger, I said (and I shit you not) "I am not a black, I Spanish". Yeah his jaw dropped too.

Let me fast forward to college, because I think my point has been made. By this time in my life I have already told myself that I am black Hispanic. What really made me see how I fit in this world was when I had to sort of choose in a non verbal way who I would have to spend my time with. I love being Latino, but I was too dark to hang out with them in college. I just did not feel right. So I hung out with African Americans, but even then I felt a bit out of place. Kinda like a screw that quite didn't fit a hole. Frankly, I thought maybe it was just me. But now I know it is a shared experience.

I don't write any of this for sympathy. I write this because I know i am not the only one who have dealt with this. I have only dealt with this about a fraction of a degree that other Afro Latinos have dealt with it. In my last post I asked the question have you seen a Black Mexican? Well I here they are. Once that tickles your fancy as it did mine, click here for a brief history. The significance of all this is that as much as I may complain about where I stand in this world, I think about places like Costa Chica and Oaxaca. These Afro Mexicans are pretty much invisible to the rest of the world.

Funny thing...in my fury of writing my last post I was talking about how seeing if 5 famous Afro Latinos can be named outside of David Ortiz or Rosario Dawson. I am very surprised that I was able to do it. Anyway...I am going to list them: Arturo Schomburg, Celia Cruz, David Sanchez, Tego Calderon, & Gilbert Arenas. I purposely stayed away from baseball because that would have been way too easy.

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