Many of us grew up not knowing our full history especially that of our homeland and the diasporas and pre-colonization history. We identified as Latino—or Puerto Rican or Mexican or Dominican, etc. without fully grasping the evolution of those identities. We swapped ethnicity and culture for race, and didn’t acknowledge being Black, or white either. In doing so, a huge part of our heritage was erased. So for many decades, we thought something like Black History Month, didn’t really apply to us. We did our Black History Month projects in school or we engage with it on social media and don’t think much else of it.
Now, as adults living in the 21st century, things are different. We have an entirely new awareness of the difference between race and ethnicity, we’ve faced the implications of colorism within our own communities and our minds have wrestled with the atrocities that have been committed against people of color for all of time. That awareness has led us to dig deeper and learn more, and in doing so, some of us have discovered and embraced our true racial identities and come to learn of the many ways Black history is also Latinx history.
While we know many Latinxs are still navigating and figuring out some of those things, there’s no reason we shouldn’t join our Black brothers and sisters in celebrating Black History Month. In fact, here are some of the reasons all Latinx people should be celebrating Black History Month:
Latinx History is also Black History
Did you know that the vast majority of African slaves who survived the Middle Passage during the transatlantic slave trade ended up in Latin America? According to DomincanosUSA, only 400,000 out of 10.7 million enslaved Africans were brought to the United States. Not only that, but Latin America as a whole, has the largest population of Black people in the world, outside of the African continent. And we’re not just talking about Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba either. While not all were slaves, Africans were brought to nearly every country in Latin America. Many millions of Latin Americans have African ancestry and can or do identify as Afro-Latinx or Black Latinx.
We Are Stronger Together
When Black and Brown people come together, we’re no longer minority groups in the United States. Together we are over 100 million. Together we are stronger. Together we have power. Together our voices matter. As allies, we can pool our knowledge, our talents, our abilities and our resources, and create real and lasting change. But in order to do that, we need to be informed about each other’s histories.
We Are Striving for the Same Thing
We all want the same things. We want justice. We want equality. We want equal pay. We want respect. We want dignity. We want to live in peace. By acknowledging and understanding our histories, we can stand up and speak out for each other with a boldness and confidence that is absolutely unshakeable.
We Need More Afro-Latinx Representation
For so long, Afro-Latinx people simply didn’t identify as Black, and usually didn’t even identify as “Afro,” and it’s problematic. If we knew our history—which in many cases may have been intentionally kept from us—we would have known that being Latinx and being Black are not mutually exclusive, and we could have asserted ourselves sooner. Consequently, Afro-Latinx representation in all areas continues to lag behind. By accepting our Blackness and learning about Black history, we have the power to make ourselves known and represent both in our personal and professional lives.
We Benefit From Black Sacrifices
Racism and white supremacy in America doesn’t just apply to Black Americans. But, it’s Black Americans who have worked the hardest and made the biggest sacrifices to fight for equal rights for all of us. When Rosa Parks sat in the front of that bus and Martin Luther King Jr. marched from Selma to Montgomery, they did it for every non-white person in America, whether they knew it at the time or not. The changes that have been made to legislature in America thanks to the civil rights movement and the incredible work that Black Americans continue to do in the name of justice every single day, benefit every single one of us.
The Beloved and Popular Genres of Music with Black Roots
By now, we should all know that basically all of the most popular styles of Latin music have deep African roots. Whether we’re talking about bomba, reggaeton, salsa, samba, bachata or merengue, we owe it all to our African ancestors and the Black artists who have devoted their lives to honoring our African heritage through their work. Latin music is Black music, so when we celebrate Black music during Black History Month, we are celebrating our musical history as well.
The Rich and Diverse Flavors in our Food
If you’ve ever heard of African fufu, you’ve probably realized how similar it is to Dominican mangú and Puerto Rican mofongo, and those are far from the only Latin American dishes that have been influenced by our African ancestors. Our cuisines and food culture were formed by the millions of African slaves that were disbursed throughout Latin America, many of whom had to feed themselves and their families with very little, and were desperate to replicate something from their homes.
Our Black Heroes and Icons
Some of the most influential Latinx figures in history are Afro-Latinx and their legacy continues to make an impact. From Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente and Cuban salsa icon, Celia Cruz to Dominican American writer, Julia Alvarez, and Olympic gold medalist, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Black Latinx people have made huge contributions to American society and culture.
So many of the spiritual traditions that exist throughout Latin America come from our African ancestors. The practices of brujas, curanderas and santeras, were and continue to be, influenced by the practices of the African slaves that were brought to countries throughout Latin America. If it weren’t for our Black ancestors, we wouldn’t have many of the ways that we connect to the Earth and our inner selves.
Our Stories and History
The more effort and energy we put into acknowledging and accepting Black history, the more aware we will become of our own history and the parallels and intersections between the two. And the more aware we become, the more empowered we’ll all be to tell our stories, and that mija, can change everything.