Puerto Ricans on the island, by contrast, didn’t have full consciousness of being a minority because they’d never had to live as one.” (P.159, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor)
You can say that some people have a “something something”, like in the context of “claiming someone”. But more than often, you see the opposite, where some try to distance themselves from their afro-roots.
Reading Junot Díaz novels, watching Black Dynamite, and my book The Afro-Latin@ Reader have made me think more carefully about what it means to be dark skinned and Latino in the US. This is nothing new to me, as I always fluctuate my conversations around topics of race, gender, etc… Which has made people associate my presence as the “race person”- and I don’t mean like good friends, asking another friend about a particular hairy/racist situation and trying to get some insight- in a microagressive matter, in which they turn to me if they want to learn something “multicultural”. Sometimes this is ok…sometimes it’s not, mainly because it’s not my purpose in life is to educate them; there’s resources out there, so learn them.
I do been thinking about how this actually affects my daily life, and I’ve come to realize that I actually walk a line between several identities… One of which, it seems I was in a weird denial phase, which sounds awfully familiar to one of my other identities – queer. I’ve become racialized in the US, and as such I’ve come to experience certain things different than my home in Puerto Rico. As much as I can empathize with my fellow Latin Americans, I have privileged that they’ve not because of my colonial heritage (i.e. citizenship by the 1898 invasion). I can relate to other Hispano parlantes, because I grew up in an idealized pan-Latin@ identity. Immortalized in songs by Rubén Blades, Juan Luis Guerra, Violeta Parra; marked by spilled blood by Bolívar, Ché Guevara, and Ramón Emeterio Betances; declamado in poetry by José Martí, Julia de Burgos; and so on…
And we learned about the Taínos, and the Spaniards that came over… And yet, our African foreparents were dedicated a page in our history books (see Godreau and Llórens, 2010 for more info). And lately, I have paid more attention to that. My dark skin has made more aware of what I am, and what I am not. But mostly, what I have found, and haven’t found in my ancestry (thanks for nothing Ancestry.com).
Yet, while we heard so much about amazing people like Celia Cruz, Rafael Hernández, among others that have been recognized as Latinos some people seem to gloss over the fact that they were afro-descendants; that they were dark skinned… the ever elusive black word.
So, while as a Puerto Rican I have in fact a lot of ‘races’ in my ancestry, I always dragged my feet regarding my afro heritage. It was always there and never hidden. Yet, in Puerto Rico racism is more subtle, so I never thought of actually having to come out regarding my blackness; even though society (my friends, neighbors, ex boyfriend, etc…) never let me forgot that I was indeed black because of my skin color, my wide bridge-less nose that wasn’t made for “regular people” glasses, and my butt… *le sigh*.
So here it is, I’m afro descendant everybody. I’m an Afro-Latino. I am the byproduct of colonialism. I am dealing with it. I am proud of where I come from.