A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2013-04-02 22:34Z by Steven

A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans

Miami Herald
2007-06-10 through 2007-06-24

In this series, the black experience is unveiled through a journey: to Nicaragua, where a quiet but powerful civil and cultural rights movement flickers while in neighboring Honduras, the black Garffuna community fights for cultural survival; to the Dominican Republic where African lineage is not always embraced; to Brazil, home to the world’s second largest population of African descent; to Cuba, where a revolution that promised equality has failed on its commitment to erase racism; and to Colombia, where the first black general serves as an example of Afro-Latin American achievements.

Part 1: Nicaragua and Honduras: Afro-Latin Americans: A rising voice
Audra D.S. Burch
A close-up look at a simmering civil rights movement in a tiny port settlement along Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast.

…To appreciate the story of race here, is to understand the kaleidoscopic legacy of slavery, the historic demonization and denial of blackness and the practice of racial mixing.

This portrait is complicated by the lack of reliable census data because of traditional undercounting and because some blacks decline to identify themselves as such.

The dynamic along the coast is a layered quilt of Miskitos, mestizos and blacks. The ancestors of other Afro-Nicaraguans were free blacks who immigrated from Jamaica and other Caribbbean countries, lured by the good, steady jobs available for English speakers.

Stories abound about people who have hidden behind ambiguously brown complexions, “passing” for Miskito Indians, or mestizo.

“It’s hard to mobilize when you are still recouping the identity and just starting to openly use the term black,” says [Juliet] Hooker, the University of Texas professor whose father was a regional councilman…

Part 2: Dominican Republic: Black denial
Frances Robles
An examination on the sensitive nature of racial definition in a nation with inextricable ties to Africa.

SANTO DOMINGO—Yara Matos sat still while long, shiny locks from China were fastened, bit by bit, to her coarse hair.

Not that Matos has anything against her natural curls, even though Dominicans call that pelo malo—bad hair.

But a professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said. ”If you’re working in a bank, you don’t want some barrio-looking hair. Straight hair looks elegant,” the bank teller said. “It’s not that as a person of color I want to look white.   I want to look pretty.”

And to many in the Dominican Republic, to look pretty is to look less black.

Dominican hairdressers are internationally known for the best hair-straightening techniques. Store shelves are lined with rows of skin whiteners, hair relaxers and extensions.

Racial identification here is thorny and complex, defined not so much by skin color but by the texture of your hair, the width of your nose and even the depth of your pocket.  The richer, the “whiter.” And, experts say, it is fueled by a rejection of anything black…

Part 3: Brazil: A Great Divide
Jack Chang
Black Brazilians speak out and push for affirmative action laws in the hemisphere’s most Africanized nation.

…And Brazilians are finally discussing race after decades of telling themselves and the rest of the world that the country was free from racism, said Sen. Paulo Paim, author of one of the pending affirmative-action bills.

“The Brazilian elite says this is not a racist country, but if you look at whatever social indicator, you’ll see exclusion is endemic,” he said. “We want to open up to more Brazilians the legitimate spaces they deserve…

…”I have never seen any evidence that suggests anything other than there’s widespread racism in Brazil,” said UCLA sociology professor Edward Telles, who studies race in Brazil…

…Black leaders also blame what they describe as decades of self-censorship about race spurred by the “racial democracy” vision of their country, which long defined Brazilian self-identity.

Preached in the early 20th century by sociologist Gilberto Freyre, the vision depicted a Brazil that was freeing itself of racism and even of the concept of race through pervasive mixing of the races…

Part 4: Cuba: A barrier for Cuba’s blacks
Miami Herald Staff Report
Economic and political apartheid are alive in Cuba, despite a revolution launched in 1959 that promised equality.

..DISPARITY IN NUMBERS

Cuba’s official statistics offer little help on the race issue. The 2002 census, which asked Cubans whether they were white, black or mestizo/mulatto, showed 11 percent of the island’s 11.2 million people described themselves as black. The real figure is more like 62 percent, according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

And the published Census figures provide no way at all to compare blacks and whites in categories like salary or educational levels. Ramón Colás, who left Cuba in 2001 and now runs an Afro-Cuba race-relations project in Mississippi, said he once carried out his own telling survey: Five out of every 100 private vehicles he counted in Havana were driven by a Cuban of color.

The disparity between the census’ 11 percent and UM’s 62 percent also reflects the complicated racial categories in a country where if you look white you are considered white, no matter the genes.

“You know, there are seven different types of blacks in Cuba,” said Denny, who now works as a waiter but dreams of a hip-hop career. From darkest to lightest, they are: negro azul, prieto, moreno, mulato, trigueño, jabao and blanconaso

Part 5: Achievers: Racism takes many hues
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
An overview on the achievement of black leaders in the region. And a personal essay by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.

…Which brings us back to that earnestly debated question: Who is black?

A COMPLEX MATTER

The question is more complex than an American might believe. In Brazil, a nation of indigenous peoples and descendants of African slaves, European colonists and immigrants, a dark-skinned man who might automatically be called black elsewhere has a racial vocabulary that allows him to skirt the Africa in his heritage altogether. He can call himself moreno (racially mixed), mestizo (colored) or pardo (medium brown). Anything but “afrodescendente” (Africa-descended) or negro (black)…

..Brazil likes to think of itself as a racial democracy, says Miriam Leitao, but that’s a delusion. She has, she says, been making that argument for 10 years and has become one of the nation’s most controversial journalists in the process.

When she writes about racism in Brazil, people tell her she’s crazy. “I don’t know how to explain the thing that, for me, is so obvious,” she says

Multimedia

Read the entire series here.

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Boa Aparência (Good Appearance): How Colorism Plays Out in Latin America

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-11-22 00:04Z by Steven

Boa Aparência (Good Appearance): How Colorism Plays Out in Latin America

50shadesofblack.com | Fueling Conversation
2012-10-08

Dash Harris
In.a.Dash.Media

“Go to the banks and you’ll see how racist, this country is.” This was a sentiment expressed ad nauseam in my interviews about how colorism drives societal treatment. Interviewees in every country I visited for the docu-series always cited airports, banks and TV shows as representations of the aesthetic their particular country strives for:
 
Whitewashed.
 
It was true, I only saw one tanned bank teller throughout my travels, in Honduras. For any of the others jobs that were pointed out, the standard was homogenous, light skin and straight hair. This preference is blatant even within advertisements and postings for jobs…

…White supremacy and the aspiration to be the closest you possibly can is rooted in the idea of ‘mejorando la raza’ or improving or bettering the race by marrying white, if not white then light. Almost all of my interviewees have heard this phrase from a family member or friend as advice in the dating and marrying game. One Honduran, whom her friends call her ‘negra’ because she is dark skinned said her family said she hit the jackpot when she started dating her current boyfriend, a redhead very pale skinned Honduran. On the other hand when someone who is light or pale chooses to date ‘dark,’ families insist they are ruining or damaging the race. To preserve the privilege of being light, some have even resorted to marrying within their own family, like actress Michelle Rodriguez found out about her kissing cousins. Many of my interviewees came from mixed family backgrounds where their parents different colors caused a lot of fighting, drama, discontent, and familial problems that still persist to present day. The most common, was a dark skinned father and light skinned mother…

Read the entire article here.

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Hue & Phenotype: Colorism… Even More Complex

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-11-21 23:24Z by Steven

Hue & Phenotype: Colorism… Even More Complex

50shadesofblack.com | Fueling Conversation
2012-09-21

Dash Harris
In.a.Dash.Media

I have interviewed over 100 people for this docu-series and recently I’ve come across more and more interviewees who ask me about my background. I’ve had a handful of Caribbeans ask me if I were ‘dougla,’ a person of Indian or indigenous and African ancestry and when I was in Honduras I was called a mulatta, which means the same. Usually someone who identifies as a mulatto is of european and african ancestry but that’s not how it was used in Honduras among the people who described me as such. I asked the reasons for these assumptions and people pointed out that my skin wasn’t “very dark” and my hair was curly and my eyes were “different.” I found that interesting because I consider myself a chocolate brown, my hair has gone days without a comb being ran through it because of the wrangling that it calls for and I see my eyes as any other person’s eyes can be. One Garifuna young man said I wasn’t ‘black enough’ and I could remedy that by getting a ‘super black boyfriend,’ he graciously volunteered himself. All courting aside, I thought he and many others were just pointing out the phenotypes that guide perception and categorization of ancestry in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is important to note that the U.S. is the only country that followed the one drop rule of hypo-descent, where you were considered ‘Black’ no matter what other ancestry you had. This did not exist in Latin America so it gave way to many ways to describe someone based on skin tone, hair color, hair texture, size of nose, lips, eyes. These all decide what category you’ll fit into. Your desciptors may also vary just based on individual perception. In Brazil there are 134 color descriptors. In the Dominican Republic ‘javao’ describes someone who is of pale of light complexion with “African features,” the list below shows more…

Read the entire article here.

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American Identities: California Short Stories of Multiple Ancestries

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2010-01-13 01:07Z by Steven

American Identities: California Short Stories of Multiple Ancestries

Xlibris Press
2008
263 Pages
ISBN: 1-4363-7705-6 (Trade Paperback 6×9)
ISBN13: 978-1-4363-7705-8 (Trade Paperback 6×9)

Eliud Martínez, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature
University of California, Riverside

In many parts of the country, especially in California, when one passes by a school or strolls across a college or university campus, it is inescapable to the eye that the American student population looks very different from that before the seventies. Young people today are accustomed to seeing people from many ancestral backgrounds. In classrooms, at schools, colleges and universities; at shopping malls, weddings and other social gatherings, young people are aware that they are living in an increasingly multicultural America.

These then, are the voices and stories of today’s young Americans. Diverse, by turns uplifting, insightful, illuminating and heart-warming or heartbreaking, the stories give us moving portrayals of the young authors and their families, mothers and fathers. Some offer shocking depictions of military brutality and political violence. Others recover family stories and make touching tributes to earlier generations. Some stories help us to see how young people perceive themselves and their identities when they are offspring of mothers and fathers from other lands or of different cultures.

The young writers included in this anthology, or their parents and ancestors, come from Egypt, Ethiopia, Korea, China, Japan, Cambodia, Taiwan, India; from East Los Angeles, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Vietnam, Italy, Denmark, the Philippines, Cuba, and other places. Generational differences are inevitable between immigrant parents and their children, who are either American-born or grow up in America. The differences shape many attitudes to the ancestral cultures, customs, language and ways of life. The stories remind us of why some people came to America, of what they left behind, and what persists in ancestral forms adapted to American ways.

The stories provide telling evidence that collectively, there are many varieties of American identity among children of immigrants and their parents from other lands. These California stories tell of young lives that have been shaped by ancestry, time and place, national background, personal and generational experiences, geography, and by American social and immigrant history, conditions in their ancestral lands and lingering perceptions of race.

Many immigrants come in search of a better life or in pursuit of the American dream. Some Americanized children of immigrants struggle self-consciously to fit in. Their experiences invite dramatic literary expression. In two of the most powerful stories in this anthology, Jan Ballesteros and Thien Hoang exorcise their extreme pain, self-consciousness and struggle for acceptance.
In high school Ballesteros is repeatedly humiliated in his classes by four bullies who ridicule his Filipino appearance and his spoken accent. Extremely vulnerable, Ballesteros is perplexed because the bullies are all half-Filipino. In Hoang’s case, he is self-conscious about the Chinese reflection that looks out at him from the mirror. By writing their stories these two vulnerable young men come to terms with being American, and at the same time with being Filipino and Chinese, respectively.

More so than in Ballesteros and Hoang’s case a heightened consciousness of color and the desire to look American leads the Vietnamese mother in Kim Bui’s story—“Asian Eyes Westernized”—to change the shape of her eyes surgically. Ironically, the young author points out, the woman who in Vietnam used to work in the sun daily, here In America, she avoids being out in the sun, and resorts to skin whiteners. Kim Bui is struck by her mother’s advice to be proud of being Vietnamese, but to look American. In their stories Megan E. Chao, Chariya Heang, and Neha Pandey highlight their views of young womanhood in America when parents observe or desire to observe the tradition of arranged marriages. Conflicting points of view and parental cultural norms affect young women. Moving self-portrayals, characterized by thoughtful introspection and injections of irony and humor, attest to their dilemmas.

The Stories in this anthology are important for American education, I believe, so that young people can see themselves in these portrayals. In addition to the moving value of the stories the storytelling is of a high caliber. The storytelling is based on knowledge of ancestral traditions and customs, languages, cultural and social history, geography, family memorabilia, immigration documents, old photographs and family correspondence, materials and family stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. In addition to these sources, the young authors interviewed mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents, and in some cases in languages other than English, all to the young writers’ credit…. [T]he titles of the stories tellingly identify major themes, experiences, and issues that invited and received dramatic literary expression. These stories are valuable repositories of human experiences shared by many young people today. These then, are the stories and voices of young Americans. One may safely predict that the experiences of which these young people have written so candidly, and in many cases eloquently, will resonate with other people and invite thoughtful self-awareness and self-understanding, a deeper appreciation for the richness of the many immigrant cultures of America, and an enhanced understanding of people of multiple ancestries.

And according to the prospectus…

The decades of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in a productive, illuminating and prolific body of scholarly research and creative expression in all the arts. Much of that enterprise was devoted to the most admirable task of historiography—the reinterpretation of the past and the rewriting of American history.

These stories add artistic dimensions to American social and immigrant history, and complement the scholarly research and literary expression of individual groups. The subject matter, the themes, cultural issues and the very human drama of young lives, as depicted in these stories, are timely. Also, because many of the stories address the longing to belong, which historically, was denied to some American groups in the past, they illustrate how emotionally complex the task continues to be for vulnerable young people from many countries…. In the case of U.S. minority groups—as African Americans, Chicanos, Asian- and Native Americans were once designated—that past denial resulted in the retroactive recovery of our rich intellectual and cultural histories, creative and artistic roots, our arts, heritages and ancestries.

Imaginative and creative expression in the arts dramatizes scholarship in history and the social sciences…. Personal, emotional, direct and down to earth, these stories drive home the psychological and emotional impact of feeling different with a directness and immediacy that scholarly works can only approximate. As such, the anthology also complements numerous scholarly works about bi-racial, multi-racial and mixed-race people.

To read an excerpt, click here.

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Mixed and Multiracial in Trinidad and Honduras: Rethinking Mixed-race Identities in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-11-07 02:51Z by Steven

Mixed and Multiracial in Trinidad and Honduras: Rethinking Mixed-race Identities in Latin America and the Caribbean

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 33, Issue 2 (2010)
pages 195-213
DOI: 10.1080/01419870903040169

Sarah England, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California

The purpose of this paper is to explore what it means to be mixed in Latin America and the Caribbean and to ask if mixing in the ‘South’ can always be understood within the so-called racial continuum as opposed to the racial binary of the ‘North’. I do this through a comparison of two potentially mixed-race identities, the afro-indigenous Garifuna of Honduras and peoples of East Indian and African mixture (douglas) in Trinidad. Through this comparison I show that in both Honduras and Trinidad classification of mixed-race peoples can follow the logic of the racial binary or of the racial continuum depending on the historical context and the particular mix. I also discuss the way that mixed-race identities can sometimes be radical critiques of state racial projects of pluralism and at other times they can be the basis of state racial projects meant to obfuscate racial pluralism.

In his 1967 book, The Two Variants in Caribbean Race Relations, Harry Hoetnik argued thai the main gauge of racism within a society is not so much the degree to which different racial groups are integrated on the level of work and social interaction, but rather the degree to which inter-racial mixing (sexual, reproductive) is accepted and gradations between racial categories are recognized. Based on this premise he set out to characterize the racial systems of the Caribbean, within which he included the United Stales South and Brazil. He argued thai (here are basically three different systems: 1) the North American variant, characterized by a high degree of segmentation between black and white based on strict definitions of whiteness and rules of hypodescent that relegate any mixed people into the non-white…

Read or purchase the article here.

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