Afro-Dominican children in class

Growing up in “Little Puerto Rico”

While growing up in the 90s, in an almost completely hispanic neighborhood in Brooklyn–predominately Puerto Rican and Dominican–I had never heard of the terms “Afro-Latino” or “Afro-Latinidad”. However, when I looked around me, it was obvious that “Africa” was present. It was in our features, in our linguistics, in our food, in our music: it was in our culture. “Africa” was present; yet oddly, no one talked about it.

When I formally began to take Spanish class in early middle school, one thing stood out to me–the students in the textbook looked nothing like the people around me who spoke Spanish. I remember one day looking around at the black and brown skin tones that surrounded me, and then comparing them with the blonde children in the textbook. That was was my first brush with representation and the lack of Afro-Latino heritage in the Spanish classroom.

This lack of representation continued well through middle school and high school. I learned nothing of the Moors conquering Spain neither did I formally learn about the slave trade and the role it played in Latin America until I got to college. Some points, such as linguistic influences, I didn’t learn until I earned my Masters degree. During a student teaching gig, I was discouraged from teaching about blackness in Hispanic culture because it didn’t fit in with the school’s “Judeo-Christian values” (whatever that meant).

What we can do as teachers

We, as Spanish teachers, must do better. Approximately 95% of all slaves in the slave trade went to the Caribbean and Latin America. It is out duty to teach our students about Afrodescendientes and the huge role they played (& continue to play) in forming the cultural foundation of Latin American societies. Salsa without African influence wouldn’t be salsa. The grandeur of many locales wouldn’t be possible without the slave labor that was contracted. Latinidad wouldn’t be the same without Africa.

You can help to increase the presence of Afro-latinos in your classroom!

  • Find projects that encourage students to do research on Afro-Latinos, which makes their presence known! One example is this project linked here.
  • Research multimedia that shows a diversity of voices and show it in class. For example, I love this video on “cumbia” (see below)

I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to increase the presence of Afro-Latinos in the Spanish classroom! Please reach out if you have any questions.

Interested in related content? Check out my Youtube channel, where I’ll be posting videos about Afro-Latinos and the Afro-Latino experience! Check out the video below where I talk about the Afro-Latino project that sparked my journey as an entrepreneur!

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