Grassroots Project: LatiNegr@s

February is upon us and most people are taking the time to celebrate Black History Month. This month is so important to explore the contributions that black people have made in this country and perhaps across the world. In taking time to really look at this month, we normally focus on African Americans as they should. However, I would like to see that we expand the realm of this exploration to encompass Afro Latinos.

I have said so many times before that most Latinos don’t consider themselves black in anyway shape or form. They seem to refuse to believe the evidence that is out there that indeed a part of our history can be traced to Africa. So the connection is there. Then there is the one drop rules that has existed during the times of slavery that if anyone had one drop of black blood in there system…then they were black.

So, in the spirit of exploration, I have been working on a project with fellow bloggers, La Bianca and Prof. Susurro on something that we are passionate about. It is called LatiNegr@s. This is a collaborative effort that allows a bit of community blogging from anyone interested in adding to this effort of our exploration. We are encouraging people to submit blogs, pictures, videos, poems…really anything in this effort to really celebrate Black History Month in the way it should always be celebrated: together.

The link below is to the submission page in which all of this will be post on via Tumblr. I will post this link on the side bar and have it there for the entire month. It is my hope that you will try to contribute to the cause. The fact of the matter is that Afro Latinos are not well recognized in their place in society. I am personally working on a few surprises that I hope come together for this project.

Consider this to be a call of action that is being made not only on this blog, but on twitter and on facebook. The submission page is:

Black Puerto Ricans

In my quest to educate the masses, I must remember to not get to repetitive with my posts. However, I will always be adamant in talking about Afro Latinos because clearly I am one and I feel that people need to understand what it means to be a Black Latino.

Of course, I have gone on record saying that all Latinos are Black and I will stick to that. African influences are very evident in culture and in history, so there really is no sense in denying this fact. So, when I find a little tidbit of what I have been talking about, I like to share.

During my late night Flan consuming, a good friend, shows me this site called EL BORICUA . This is a monthly online newsletter that promotes the history and culture of Puerto Ricans. What I like about this site is that is seems to be pretty simple. You have your basic website with information on food, culture, and history. Even has Latino related ads (wish I had some…I need to contact Google). So I am looking at the pictures in general and I don’t see anyone that looks dark. That was until I clicked on the AfroBorinquen Culture (Black Puerto Ricans).

This link provides good lesson on the history of African Slaves in Puerto Rico. While, it does not go into the Taino Indians and what was done to them, I was very excited about what I read. For far too long, the African influence in Puerto Rico goes unsaid. When, I visited the Island a few years back, I felt like I was home.

Not to say there there is no racism in Puerto Rico, because that is not the case either. Awhile back, I came a across an article written by Reggaeton Artist Tego Calderon who writes a very good article about skin color being a serious issue in Puerto Rico. I didn’t mention it before because I wanted to wait for the right time. Which ends up being perfect to wrap up the last day of Black History Month.

Latinos need to be mad aware the roots of their culture. So I will make sure that will do my part in make sure that everyone is aware of the influence that Africans have had on us. Here is an expert from the AfroBorinquen Culture link:

“Part of the undisputed African legacy on the Puerto Rican culture includes a peculiar speech pattern. The West Africans brought to the island spoke “bozal” Spanish, a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and Congo – much like the poem excerpt on this page. Many Puerto Ricans have the habit of swallowing the “s,” and often pronounce the “r” as an “l”. This is because in the African tongue there is no “s” or “r” sound.”

March is finally here…

Latinos Are Black!

I have had something on my mind for the last few days and it feels like it falls in line with somethings that I have written about over the last several weeks. I know that I have talked about Black Latinos and how we fit into the world and one of the things that really bothers me is the ignorance of other Latinos to the fact that we are indeed Black. Not exactly of another way to put it. But it is true we are. Not just Afro-Latinos, all Latinos.

Where was this sparked off? Well, I was told by one of my students that in a meeting, of an Student Organization that I advise, one of our members made comment about why should we help an African American Organization since we are not Black. I wasn’t there. So I would only assume that she would not have made that comment if I had been there. But, then again, maybe she would have. This girl is a typical looking Latina. Long strait black hair and, is of course light skinned. I don’t consider that light, but she would fail the Brown Bag Test.

So here, again, is my issue…why the denial? The last time that I spoke about this issues, I used history as an example. This time I will use Musica Latina. Salsa & Merengue both heavily use drums to supplement any song. Some of the best song are have heavy drum beats. I would suggest that you listen to Hector Lavoe’s “Aguanile“. The introduction to this song alone is African based. The beat is very African and I could imagine any African Dance Troupe getting down to this song. I believe this song, as well as Hector Lavoe, was ahead of the times.

Again, as I mentioned before, my father has a substantial music collection when it comes to Salsa. Every time I go and visit him in Florida, I make sure that I swipe some music. On my last visit, I copied the CD collection that I am still rocking, Salsa: Fania All Stars. What impressed me the most about this album is the informative interludes which talk about the history of Salsa. On interlude entitled Slave Ship this is what the narrator says:

“The first roots of Salsa were African; across the ocean on slave ships filled with misery and human degradation, the hard driving tribal sound of African music had somehow survived. But shortly after it reached here, in the Caribbean, it started to evolve into something different. It was still African in flavor but the music had become unique.”

I was floored when I heard this. Not because I didn’t know, only because it was said on a this CD. Many old school Latinos don’t want to admit they have some African blood. I would assume they thought that they were either strictly indigenous or Spanish. However, the music is a dead giveaway.

Music is a link to our past, all you have to do is listen.