Let me scream it extra loud so you all can hear me in the back: LATINO IS NOT A RACE. Latinos come in all races, skin tones, and backgrounds, from Chino-Cubanos to Afro-Peruvians, every single country in Latin America has a beautiful mix of racial identities. Indigenous, Asian, African, European — Latin America has been colonized for hundreds of years and has seen an influx of immigrants from all over the world.
I think we can all agree that race isn’t an actual scientific categorization, but rather a societal construct that has allowed those with privilege (mostly white European colonizers) to concentrate and maintain their power, wealth, and status. Regardless, race affects the way others perceive us, and let me tell you, being Afro-Latinx is incredible, but it’s also really hard.
As an Afro-Latina (identified as a Latina who has and embraces their African heritage), it’s been difficult explaining to my Black friends what my racial identity is. I never saw myself (or any Latinas with darker skin tones) represented in film, TV, music, fashion, or beauty. Thank GOD for my father, who made it his mission to teach me about the three cultures that make up Puerto Rican identity (Taino, Spanish/European, and African). He was also incredibly open and frank about the fact that the Black parts of our ancestry were often ignored and cast aside, even though they can be seen and felt in everything from the food we eat to the music we listen to and the hair we straighten. Black communities all across Latin America are marginalized. Even if and when we have apparent African lineage, it’s often denied. There is undeniable shame attached to being Black across Latin America.
We must raise these next generations not only to recognize but to appreciate their mixed racial backgrounds and identities. As more of us grow up here in the United States and intermarry, our cultural and racial identities are going to continue growing in complexity and richness, and that’s something to celebrate. We can start by making sure our children know of the accomplishments of prominent historical figures that look like them (and that don’t look like them too). We have to uphold role models, current and past, who buck trends and blazed paths. We have to teach them that no matter the texture of their hair or the color of their skin, they are beautiful and worthy. Being colorblind is NOT the goal, but instead recognizing and honoring the richness of diversity and cultures. There is so much to learn from our indigenous and African ancestors, and if we don’t harness that knowledge and pass it down, we are only doing our children a disservice.
Let’s make sure to start by educating ourselves and making sure that we embrace each other’s differences as much as we welcome our similarities.