The Missing Latinx: African Slaves, Taino Genocide, and White Privilege
Here is where my whole life is spent navigating in between color lines. Being Brown has allowed me a certain privilege, a glimpse into a world where sometimes things appear light and easy. Then again being brown also made me a target for color bias. When I spoke with my light skinned Hispanic friends, it sounded as if this new horizon without racism was very clear and apparent. Racism was a thing of the past, of course, they had faced discrimination before. Their accents, though very hidden, snuck out in conversation. Still their appearance alone allowed them full access to a different experience.
Being white, or a light-skinned Latinx allows you to benefit from the system of White Supremacy. If you are from the Spanish speaking Caribbean and you have European ancestry, such as family from Spain, the Netherlands, or France, you or someone in your family came out blanca. Although these countries are a part of our collective history it is not the whole picture. Two other groups had major impacts on our genetic makeup, Indigenous groups, such as the Tainos, and the African slaves. Their long-lasting legacy on our culture and appearance is at times overlooked by the Latinx community. As I’ve witnessed some even go as far as denying their darker roots and only being prideful about the European ancestry.
Let me be clear, if it weren’t for European rule and their hostile takeover of our indigenous worlds, it might all be a different story today. Our history would not be as checkered and ominous. They were slaughtered by the thousands, cruelly enslaved on their own lands, viciously raped and beaten, and then the remaining few were ravaged by disease. They knew how to survive their original landscape, being intimately acquainted with nature, therefore their culture thrived before European arrival.
The Taino genocide alone claimed the lives of 3 million of the indigenous population on many islands including Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba. This is why dividing us, even so far as us dividing ourselves, is pointless. WE were all slaughtered in the cruelest of fashions; grilled, hunted and attacked by dogs, and even cut up into tiny pieces. Tainos had no other weapons with which to defend themselves that equalled to the powerful guns that the Conquistadors carried with them. Our first ancestors had the unfortunate fate of meeting with powerful and evil enemies. The conquerors were successful at first in staking their claim on these islands and devouring whatever they could. However, soon nature and disease betrayed them and plagued them.
As flooding from the hurricanes and dysentery ravaged their crops and their bodies, whatever was left of them ran back to Europe leaving behind their enslaved. We are a mix, a little bit of everything culminating to make one but we all have a shoddy and unfortunate history that has been twisted and hidden from us. There is much pride, even when we don’t understand what we are proud of, we have been misinformed. We are the remaining survivors of a lost city, remnants from a forgotten time.
As much as we have been taught to deny it, we are African too! Black by every meaning of the word. A part of people forced to come to an unusual and scary place, forced to work and live in conditions they have never been accustomed too, and whipped alongside the Taino people. They were obligated to raise their children, who were consequences of rape by the Conquistadors themselves, as their light brothers and sisters lived comfortably in the main house. The Spaniards, once declaring that there was no gold as they had hoped on these islands returned home and had to free the slaves. Encouraging them to stay in the Caribbean if they were able to buy back their freedom. Obviously this was problematic as it was impossible to do. A lot of these slaves married Taino woman and created a mixed population.
Despite our shared but blended history, we have come to hate what we don’t know or become ashamed of what we don’t understand. Many of our privileged and lighter skinned counterparts would rather avoid the uncomfortable discourse of our origin and “slip through the cracks” and miss being associated with us altogether than gain a better understanding of what exactly connects us. They would rather focus and point out what divides us. The darker we are, the worse it may be. Dark-skinned or Black, Moreno or Negro, there is a feeling of otherness. Indigenous, native, or brown is not as accepted as the accepted ideal of beauty has been met by European standards. It’s as though many white Hispanics are still living in the main house. Choosing to ignore that we are all products of the same stories.