Written by Diego Garcia
When you think about Latinos you usually think about the obvious. You picture Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Mario Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, or even Becky G. These are very successful Latino people who have made it far despite adversity and are icons in the Hispanic community and all over the world. We love them and love watching them succeed and give representation to a culture and ethnicity that is hardly represented. However all these people who I’ve named are Latinos, but they all have very European features. I’m not shaming them for being fairer skinned and having euro-centric features because they are still mi gente and are our little source of representation. But where are my fellow Afro-Latinos.
Recently, Amara La Negra showed exactly how Afro-Latinos get treated by white passing Latinos in an episode of Love and Hip-Hop: Miami.
In every Latin country you will find Afro-Latinos. Approximately More than 10% of the world’s Latinos are Afro-Latino. Now those numbers are likely flawed due to many Afro-Latinos denying their African roots and heritage. Many AL’s will deny and take offense to being called African or Afro-Latino due to racial stigmas. Many AL’s don’t feel beautiful in their skin because they can’t look like Selma Hayek or Ricky Martin. The people that they see in T.V and in movies are the ones they look up to. It’s already hard to find a Latino role model so imagine how it feels for us ALs.
I am Colombian and PuertoRican, my dad is from San Andres, Colombia and my mom is from Carolina, Puerto Rico. San Andres, Colombia is rich with African roots and heritage. Almost everyone there has a dark complexion and African features. The culture there is mix of Colombian culture and African culture. You can see it in their dances their clothing and their daily activities. My mom was born in Carolina Puerto Rico but her mother is indigenous to the island, she is a Taino. Tainos have dark complexion and a very unique culture. Many African slaves brought to Puerto Rico by the Spaniards ran away to live with the Tainos and their cultures mixed and flourished. So you can obviously tell that I am very Afro-Latino. But growing up many of my cousins and friends were not. I spent a lot of time around my cousins who were half white or my cousins from my step-grandfather’s side who were half Cuban.
When I watched T.V. and movies I would always look for the Latinos because it used to make me so happy seeing people like me on T.V. But when all I saw was very Euro-Centric looking Latinos a part of me got sad because they didn’t look like me.
Even in cartoons like “Xiaolin Showdown” or “The Proud Family” the characters like Raimundo or Lacienega were fairer skinned with European features. I would always wish that I was fair skinned Latino like them and had straighter hair like them and European features like them. But then I moved to a place with a very high Dominican population and I realized a lot of them looked like me. I learned to love my culture and my body and embrace being AL.
Despite the almost zero Afro Latino representation in media there are still very successful Afro Latinos in music, the screens, and sports but many are confused for black or are just completely over looked. Celia Cruz is probably one of the biggest Afro Latino trailblazers. She was born in Havana Cuba and became a Latina icon through her music. She was beautiful with her dark complexion and African features and had an explosive Latina personality. But where is her biopic or her post mortem make up line. No shade to Selena who was also one of if not the most iconic Latina in history, but Celia was just as important but many shades darker. Zoe Saldana the beautiful DominiRican Actress from New Jersey is another successful Afro Latino From her kick ass roles and blockbuster success she has gained so much attention. But many media outlets tend to forget she is Latina and mark her as black.
We Afro-Latinos are a big population in this world and we really need more people to look up to. It is a shame that many of us hate our skin color and our features and refuse to acknowledge our African roots due to this lack of representation. We are beautiful people and we have so much culture. So we will continue to wait for the day a movie or T.V show comes out about an Afro Latino family so we can get our representation. Until then we will remain the invisible Afro-Latinos.