Negra & Beautiful: The Unique Challenges Faced By Afro-Latinas

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2012-01-04 04:52Z by Steven

Negra & Beautiful: The Unique Challenges Faced By Afro-Latinas


Damarys Ocaña, Freelance Journalist

The frustrating ironies of being Afro-Latina hit Yuly Marshall with stunning regularity: At work at a Miami hospital, Hispanic patients of the Cuban-born radiology technician usually assume she’s African American, asking her, “Where did you learn to speak Spanish like that?” and expressing shock—even skepticism—that she’s really Latina. Other times, fellow Latinos will disparage African Americans in front of her with phrases like, “What can you expect from negros?” and then turn around and tell her, as if paying her a compliment, “But you’re not like that. You’re one of us.”
When Marshall talks about race issues with African American coworkers, they often tell her she has no idea what it’s really like to be black. Yet a few years ago, when Marshall dated a lighter-skinned black Latino, his parents persuaded him to break it off because of her dark skin. “They told him to find a white girl so he could adelantar la raza,” Marshall says, using a phrase that roughly means to ‘push the race forward’ by marrying a light-skinned person and producing children lighter than yourself.

“Sometimes I think, ‘When is this going to end?’” says Marshall, 31. “But I love my skin color. God created me this way, and I’m just as good as any other person.”…

…“People are increasingly identifying as Afro-Latino,” says Miriam Jiménez Román, who edited The AfroLatin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, a collection of essays by Afro-Latino writers that recently won the American Book Award. “They’re aware now that such an identity is a possibility.”
If it sounds strange that some young Latinas don’t know that it’s okay to be black and Latina, it’s because of the barrage of mixed messages young Afro-Latinas get.
Of the estimated 11 million enslaved Africans brought to the New World from the late 1400s to the 1860s, most were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean, with only some 645,000 landing in the United States. “So when you’re talking about blackness, you’re really talking about Latin America,” Jimenez says…

…Many Latin American countries have de-emphasized race for another reason, says Arlene Davila, Ph.D., a New York University professor of anthropology. “National identity was supposed to trump racial identity,” she says, supposedly making everyone equal. Black Latinos were made to feel as if trumpeting their race made them less Cuban, for example, though in reality, the political and economic power lay with light-skinned citizens…

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