A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about my childhood experience living in a diverse, primarily Latino community of Caribbean origins (i.e., Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) in New York City. The beauty of living in this community was two-fold: I was completely immersed in the Spanish language 24/7 and I was surrounded by people of all shades.
The tale of two neighbors
When people think of “Latinos” or the Latinx community, they often have quite a narrow view of what that means, especially when it comes to their phenotypes (i.e., appearances). But one thing I learned growing up was that Latinos or Hispanics can literally look like anything. I had one neighbor who lived downstairs. Let’s call him José. He spit Spanish faster than he could cobble together a sentence in English. A robust and, from what I remember, a jovial man who enjoyed peering out the window, making jokes in Spanish, and cackling with a hearty laugh. He also was at the time the “whitest” man I had ever seen, with piercing blue eyes and fair hair. Contrast that with my other neighbor, let’s call her Luisa. Her dark skin glimmered in the sun. She often walked the streets, socializing with friends or playing dominoes at the local bodega. I remember talking to her one day. She spoke absolutely no English. Spanish was her first and only language.
To an outsider, José phenotypically would have presented as “White American” and Luisa as “African American”. But the beauty that the community taught me at a young age was that you can literally look like anything and fall under the umbrella of Hispanic/Latino. It’s a thread that binds a community together.
The rise of the “Afro-Latino”
I didn’t know it then, but this racial utopia on George St. (the street I lived on) was abnormal. Everyone was just, presumed to be Latino. And many would be considered Afro-Latino. In the aforementioned blog post I cited, I stated “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 left George St., time and trends moved on. “Afro-Latino” became a thing. The intersection of race and ethnicity, Afro-Latino, is where the two worlds collide.
I never learned about Afro-Latinidad in school. Nor did I learn about the contributions of Africans in Latin America & the Caribbean–to everything from building the beautiful buildings that adorn major tourist spots to turning over crops that brought in money for the New World and Spain. The slave trade was a mystery to me, and the fact that the vast majority of African slaves (approximately 96%) were forcibly sent to Latin America and the Caribbean–even more of a mystery. I mean heck, let’s take it back a few centuries, I didn’t even learn about the Moors! Middle-school. High-school. No talk of diversity and inclusion. The irony is that during part of that time, I lived in the most diverse and inclusive neighborhoods possible.
It wasn’t until I was in college, and really in my Master’s program, that I learned about the magnitude of the contribution of Afro-Latinos and their erasure from the past. My Master’s program–perhaps two decades after formally starting my studies in Spanish!
How can we do our part? And why?
A solid Spanish language curriculum should be one that incorporates culture. And if you bring in culture, you have to give acknowledgment to the many voices that have contributed to the Latino construct. This includes the many indigenous peoples as well as immigration patterns. For example, how silly would it be to talk about Argentina without mentioning the effects of the waves of Italian immigration to the country? Or to talk about Paraguay without discussing mass bilingualism with Guaraní, a native language, and how unusual that is? In the same vein, how could you talk about Latin America without mentioning the Afro-Latinos who helped to create “Latinidad.”
Introduce your students to Afro-Latinos early & educate with these resources:
Videos and resources in the YouTube playlist:
- 🎶 Some of my favorite songs by Afro-Latinos!
- A collection of videos, stories, and perspectives of Afro-Latinos and how this subject played a central role in my life; Example of one video from this series is below:
Resources for the classroom:
- Tons of resources for the Spanish classroom that explore the intersectionality of the African diaspora and Latinx cultures! Click below! More resources coming out during the month of February!!!! 🛒
Highlighted Resource: The Afro-Latino Heritage Research Project!
- Looking for a creative way to celebrate Afro-Latinos? Interested in inclusivity and diversity in the Spanish classroom? Curious about representing African culture in the Spanish classroom during Black History Month (and beyond)? Look no further than this engaging research project!
Teachable Course on Incorporating Black History Month in the Spanish Classroom:
- Check out this #BHM + Spanish Class course on Teachable that walks you through ways that you can include #BHM in your Spanish class! Comes with over $30 of bonus material that you can use immediately in class! Payment plans are available!
Questions? Comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org