Black Latinos, or Latinos of African descent, comprise a demographic all too often overlooked within the Latin community. According to some sources, there are around 37.2 million Black Latinos/Latinos of African descent around the world, although these figures are very ambiguous. As a member of the Latin community, I have often seen the very present racism that exists within my community.
I grew up in the Bay Area in Berkeley, a very multicultural city compared to Mexico City, where I also spent some of my childhood. Growing up in Berkeley, I became accustomed to seeing a vast array of people from different races, ethnicities and cultures. However, in Mexico City, this was not the case. Mexico City is a very racially homogeneous city, with most people identifying as “mestizo” or mixed (Native American and European descent, as is my case) with fewer people being fully white, Native American, and even fewer Black. In Mexico City, only 1.80 percent of the population is described as having full or partial African descent, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
In addition, there is a lot of prejudice against the Afro Latino community within the Mexican and Latin American community. There are a number of racist sayings in Latin culture targeted towards Black Latinos. I remember once hearing the saying, “consiguete un/a güero/a para mejorar la raza” which translates to “marry a white person to improve the race.” This was a common saying in Mexico that families would say to young people who were getting married, and it shows us just how embedded Eurocentrism is in some aspects of my culture.
Despite this, we need to realize just how fundamental Afro-Latinos and Black Latinos are to the Latin community, and we must also teach people about the hurtfulness of these sayings and how counterproductive they can truly be. The truth is, we would be ignorant to deny how much Black Latinos have shaped Latin culture to this day. There are numerous outstanding Black Latinos that have had a profound impact within the Latin community and American culture in general. Celia Cruz, described as “The Queen of Salsa,” was a Black Cuban woman of African descent who to this day is one of the most important pioneers for salsa music. Another example is Zoë Saldaña, a Black Latina woman of African descent known for her superb role as Gamora in the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, one of the highest grossing movie franchises ever. Bruno Mars, a Puerto Rican-Filipino-Hawaiian singer known all over the world, is another very successful Latino of African descent.
There is no doubt that Black Latinos constitute a very important pillar in Latin culture. From cuisine to music, many aspects of the culture carry roots that can be traced to Black Latinos. I believe that we must all stand up to bigotry and hatred to defend each other as one, and educate people on the importance of the Black Latino culture and the impact it has had throughout centuries of development. We also need to remember that at the end of the day, skin color should not be a determining factor of what makes you Latino, Latina, or Latinx – from Black Latinos to white Latinos, mestizo Latinos, Amerindian Latinos, we’re all one and the same, and this is what truly matters.