Garifuna: The Young Black Latino Exodus You’ve Never Heard About

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2015-10-05 18:08Z by Steven

Garifuna: The Young Black Latino Exodus You’ve Never Heard About

Fusion
2014-06-04

Jasmine Garsd

Honduran migrants passing through Mexico often carry only the bare essentials: cash, some clothes and a cell phone, if they can afford one.

Gustavo Morales stands out among the migrant population here in Tequixquiac, a hot, dusty little town right outside Mexico City. The 21-year-old is traveling with an African drum that he plays during his downtime along the journey.

The drum isn’t the only reason he stands out. He’s a black migrant in a country where few people are of African descent…

…As Hondurans are being forced to flee their country, Garifuna, who have historically been shunned by society, are increasingly being uprooted from their homes on the Caribbean coast.

Garifuna (“Garinagu” in the Garifuna language) are the descendants of slaves brought from Central Africa and indigenous Caribbean people, including Arawaks and Island Caribs. They speak a distinct language that mixes all three influences…

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‘Pelo Malo’ Is A Rare Look Into Latin American Race Relations

Posted in Articles, Audio, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2014-12-13 20:57Z by Steven

‘Pelo Malo’ Is A Rare Look Into Latin American Race Relations

Morning Edition
National Public Radio
2014-12-10

Jasmine Garsd, Reporter and Host
NPR Music’s Alt.Latino


Actor Samuel Lange Zambrano plays Junior, a boy who becomes obsessed with relaxing his hair. Courtesy of the artist

“Pelo Malo” means “bad hair” in Spanish. It’s a term that is commonly used in Latin America, and it’s also the title of a new Venezuelan film that tackles racism and homophobia.

Junior is a 9-year-old living in a poor neighborhood in Caracas. School is about to start, and he has to have his picture taken. Junior, like many Venezuelans, has European, indigenous and African ancestry, which gives him thick, tightly curled hair. He becomes obsessed with straightening it, trying everything from blow-drying to applying gobs of mayonnaise. That last attempt drives his mother, a struggling widow, insane; she threatens to “cortarle el pelo,” just cut all his hair off.

Pelo Malo is a rare look into identity politics among Latin Americans, where racism is often a taboo topic. Despite the taboo, director Mariana Rondón says, the term “pelo malo” is common currency. “The origin of the term is very offensive. It’s very racist. But it’s also true that in Venezuela, we are so mixed, that in every single family there is someone with … ‘bad hair.’ We joke that the second most profitable industry, after oil, is hair straightening. Because everyone here wants to have straight hair.”…

…The film is very Venezuelan, but many Latin Americans can relate to it. Bianca Laureano is the founder of The LatiNegr@s Project, a virtual space that aims to discuss history and current events in the Afro-Latino community. She says the battles over hair are very much present in her own life: “I have family members who I have never even met. And I meet them, and part of the conversation will be, ‘I don’t like your hair the way that it is.’ ”

Laureano says while she wishes the movie had dealt with its issues in more depth, she thinks it’s representative of a sea change in the way Latinos discuss race. “What I definitely see an increase of is people who identify as Afro-Latino. This is who I am, this is my story. We take part in this as well.”…

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‘Las Caras Lindas’: To Be Black And Puerto Rican In 2013

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-27 21:47Z by Steven

‘Las Caras Lindas’: To Be Black And Puerto Rican In 2013

Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity
National Public Radio
2013-05-25

Jasmine Garsd

I am a black man
Who was born café con leche
I sneaked into a party, to which I had not been invited.
And I got kicked out. They threw me out.
When I went back to have fun with the black girls
All together they said ‘Maelo, go back to your white girls’
And they kicked me out. They threw me out.”

– Ismael Rivera, “Niche

In “Niche” (“Black Man”), iconic Puerto Rican singer Ismael Rivera navigates the labyrinth of race and ethnicity in the Caribbean. A light-skinned “café con leche” black man, he wanders through his island like a ghost of a colonial Spanish past, shooed off by both blacks and whites uncomfortable with his presence and what he represents.

In another iconic and deeply melancholy song, “Las Caras Lindas” (or “The Beautiful Faces”), Rivera sets aside the discomfort and pens an ode to his people: “The beautiful faces of my black race, so much crying, pain and suffering, they are the challenges of life, but inside we carry so much love.”

I was recently in Puerto Rico reporting on the island’s troubled economy and reignited diaspora. During that time, I had the chance to visit legendary rapper Tego Calderón. In his studio in Santurce, Puerto Rico, I found the entire place wallpapered with photographs of Ismael Rivera…

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