Afro+Latino’s: The hindered side

As an afro-Latina woman I find that there are minimal representations that satisfy unanswered questions about my culture. The undersized representation of Afro- Latinos in our culture and society creates confusion, misconceptions and a standardized image of what a Latino is “supposed” to look like. To help those unfamiliar with Afro-Latino culture I am sharing with you my story.

The absent representation of Afro- Latino’s and the ideal image of what a Latino is supposed to look like generates conflict when a Latino is of darker skin, has pronounced black features, and is of a kinkier or curlier hair texture. The media and society depicts the ideal Latina as a woman of fairer to olive skin, with long black hair and features that resemble those of a European individual. In correlation to media and societal depictions of ideal images, Afro and Taino roots are rendered invisible.

The acquisition of Christopher Columbus and European conquistadores is highly approved and praised throughout the culture, creating a solitary story of Latino culture: the white story. There are few representations of Afro culture in Latino history. This leads to constructs that dictate how Latinos are supposed to act, look and represent Latinism. The sparse portrayals and understandings of Latino identity is compounded by how Afro-Latinos are practically erased from history. This is similar to how American Indians are rendered with little or no nuance in American history.

Additionally, dark skin reminds Latinos of a dark age in history, a time of rape, slavery and abuse. One possible explanation Afro-Latinos are belittled in Latino Culture and in our history is because they struggle with their appearance and fitting in. Within the Afro- Latino community, women may feel pressure to constantly change their hair texture through chemicals and bleach their skin to satisfy the ideal image and also to compete with women of lighter skin. I assimilate to Dominican culture because of my origin and often within Afro- Latinos there is a rivalry in who has the ‘best’ hair, or the more ‘white like’ features. Unfortunately, the desire to disavow black people within the Afro- Latino culture remains, as some individuals refuse to procreate with someone of their color or darker because they want to ‘mejorar la raza’ or better the race.

I want to bring light the ways in which Afro- Latino’s are marginalized and the questions of freedom and equality this marginalization produces. My identity becomes unimportant and becomes too difficult to understand because of a lack of representation and acknowledgement. I provide a solution to destructive discourse as a way to deepen and enrich our understanding of Afro-Latino identity in particular and Latino identity in general.

Not only does my project correct existing discourses of black people not existing within Latin America but it also suggests that we should culture our future generations, teach and welcome educate them that there is more to the Latino community than tan skin and silky black hair.

Montclair State | Millennial Identities

Nathaly Soriano