Apparently I’m Afro Latino?
Henry Louis Gates Jr. said:
There were 11.2 million Africans that we can count who survived the Middle Passage and landed in the New World, and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States. That’s amazing. All the rest went south of Miami as it were.
I wondered what this meant for Haitian citizens and so I posed the question to FB.
So apparently, Haitians are considered Afro-Latinx, in a technical sense. Which is weird because I would consider myself to be
‘a nigga from Florida’
or my favorite ‘Geo-Politically Latino’
So the technical definition of Afro-Latino is: person(s) with significant African ancestry, with roots in a Latinized country, who speaks and Latin based language. Typically one would associate this with every country that speaks Spanish, but Latin European colonizers spoke all kinds of Latin languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. (Sidenote: all colonialist sympathizers can go ahead and mail me my reparations check, interest included.)
Haitian Creole is derived from West African, Portuguese, Spanish, Taino and French languages. (Sidenote: Its a language my family speaks (and I do to a certain extent) that is vastly different from French. Jacques Bonenfant, an FIU scholar, believes that it’s also important to know that French and Haitian Creole are two distinct languages, where the latter is
“a full-fledged language capable of conveying and serving the intellectual, psychological and social needs of its speakers”.
It’s NOT a simplified version of French. If it was, many more people would be able to switch back and forth between the languages which is often times not the case. Haitian Creole’s grammar structure is derived from West African words and more specifically, the syntax is derived from the Ewe language spoken by Ghana, Togo and Benin.)
So the impact of the Latin-Language-speaking European countries on Haiti is obvious.
For this reason, I think one could make the case that Haitians are Latinx AF. For the sake of this piece, I assuming that Haitians have the ‘Afro’ part in ‘Afro Latinx’ covered; Haiti obviously has a significant black population (aprox. 8.6 million) second only to Brazil (aprox. 14.6 million) in Latin America.
But is that what the media represents as Afro Latino? Most Latino people are represented as brown or fair-skinned people with dark features and rarely do you see them with dark skin and kinky hair. So, I think that’s why many Haitians don’t see themselves as Latino, aside from not speaking Spanish. Also, Latinx people, including Haitians, primarily identify by their national origin which is a source of pride to many.
The good new is that there is a growing movement to bring visibility to Afro-Latinx people like the #AfroLatinxUnited hashtag on Twitter and Afro-Mexicans embracing their roots through interpretive dance, or blogs like www.losafrolatinos.com. But representation is rare.
That’s what you get when you force people into boxes. Identity is tricky and it’s very difficult navigating through it without stepping on some toes. I often find myself connecting with the experiences and upbringing of my Latin American peers. When they (or we, I guess) describe their parent’s dramatic habits, their love of plantains, rice and beans and the heightened expectations of success from their parents I feel a real deep connection.
So the question is: What will I check yes if an application says:
Are you Hispanic or Latino?:Check yes or no
Probably not. I’m probably not the person the Wypipo™ had in mind when coming up with these labels. The concept of African ancestry is a source of pride for some or an identity of convenience or shame for others (then we get into the question what is ‘black enough’ or what makes an authentic Afro-Latinx person). But we all must firmly and vocally recognize the contributions of Afro-Latinx people to culture, music, food and customs. We gotta stop oversimplifying what it means to be one thing or another and intersect the fuck out of everything.
Shout out to Celia Cruz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gina Torres, Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas from the Harry Potter movies) Rosa Clemente, Carmelo and Lala Anthony, Rosario Dawson, Kid Cudi an yours truly (I guess) for being SOME of the talented BLACK Latin American examples of greatness.