It's officially February! Spring and warmer weather is soon approaching... hopefully! But besides that, one of the greatest things this month brings to us is the time to celebrate the beautiful black human beings from past and present. In school we were always taught about Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. Ironically in my adult life, I ended up living in the same city where MLK Jr.'s life was so brutally taken away. A man who fought so hard for equality in a country that wanted the absolute opposite. I don't know if it's being in a historic city with so much culture, being a small percentage of Puerto Ricans in the south, working in a nonprofit that deals heavily with Latinx's that deal with daily abuse by the government and United State citizens, being a gay feminine male or just being myself that has brought me to the realization that I am much more than just a "minority" and that my life has value. These values have awakened an "urge" in me to want to dig deeper into who I am to learn more about myself and my ancestors. Also, questioning why we weren't taught in school about Afro-Latino/a people who themselves were considered to be black. Was it this very issue and not relaying this information to me growing up that lead me to not know that I too came from African descent?
Why is your hair so curly? Why is your skin that tone? What are you mixed with? What are Puerto Ricans made of? Where do you come from? Are just some of the many questions I am asked by curious people. Another question that has come up in my life recently is if I consider myself to be afro-latinx? When I google the definition of an afro-Latino the answer is clear: Afro-Latin Americans or Black Latin Americans refers to Latin American people of significant African ancestry. So, why is that I questioned my blackness? Why had I never thought to put a checkmark next to that box before? Where did this shame in our community of being called Afro-Latino or being of black/African bloodlines come from? These questions made me do some deeper soul searching.
Not once did I ever stop to think that I myself may be considered to be an Afro-Latino. Afterall, every time I murmered the words to those closest to me, they looked at me and said: "but you aren't black". Historically speaking, yes, the term Afro-Latino has been used to describe or box in the darker skinned Latinos. Some may ask as to why is that that I have chosen to start considering myself Afro-Latino all of sudden? OR say that it'd be easier to pass up the description of being black and stick to my Indian roots because I look maybe more tan and have long dark hair. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts Puerto Ricans are a mixture of European-Spanish, African, and Taino Indian. I've always known this and said this. This isn't some new revelation that I've picked up to be "trendy". I honestly believe colorism and the way the community thinks is what has kept me from thinking outside of the box. It's what has lead me to not embrace my blackness in the past. Time and time again has proven that racism exists in my community and shows that the darker skinned latinos weren't the favored ones. This mentality has limited our community and not allowed for us to embrace our African roots. Which is why I've started to claim my "afro-latinoness". This term doesn't need to define only darker skinned Latinos, it defines me too. I too can say I come from African descent and ancestors, and I'm damn proud of it.
One person that has always stuck out to me is my grandfather's grandmother (my great, great-grandmother). She was a beautiful black Puerto Rican. I've come to realize lately, I shouldn't have been using her to defend our "blackness", I should've been using her to define myself. She has been instrumental in helping me define who I am. She is apart of my history and culture, she is apart of me. Many can say why I choose to label myself, but I don't consider this to be labeling, to me this is more than just checking a box to describe myself or my culture. I now embrace and represent all sides of my identity. This is another piece of who Jeremie is. I can proudly say that I am AfroLatino and proud of it. I encourage all of us to look into our history and experience what makes us, well us.
"Although I'm Afro-Latina, agents said I had to pick one... When Obama won, it was a defining moment in pop culture. We're (people of mixed heritages and cultures) a part of a much broader experience now." — Lauren Velez, actress
On that note, I'm wishing you all a happy super bowl Sunday with lots of vegan snacks and hoping you all look deeper into yourselves — and love all that you are.
peace and love,