Being inclusive of the full-lineage in Latino Culture
LATINOS honoring Our African Roots
-- let's acknowledge our story fully
(by Antonia Marta Borrero)
Every time I hear the cry, Que Viva la Madre España,
I translate it in my mind to Que Viva la Madre Africa.
Because as an Afro Latina, I know that the African
heritage has made Latinos what they are today.
People of African descent have helped to mold
the history, culture, religion, language ...
literature, and psyche of every Latin nation.
Yet too often we are invisible to our fellow Latinos
and unacknowledged as being an essential
element within our common culture and history.
Ask most Latinos whether there's discrimination
against black Latinos, and they will deny it.
And yet, in most Latin societies, dark-skinned
people are at the bottom of the ladder. ...
The dichotomy is everywhere, especially in the media,
where our printed and televised images portray Latinos
as white Spanish Europeans, when in fact our
culture, history, and people are more complex.
Whether White or of Mixed race, Latinos should not
leave the African part of their psyche and culture behind.
As Venezuelan patriot Simón Bolívar, a mulatto often held
in contempt by "pure blooded" Spaniards, once said:
"We are no longer European, just as Spain
is no longer (just) European, because of its
African blood, character, and institutions."
It was the Africans in Spain-through eight centuries
of Moorish rule from 710 A.D. to 1492 A.D.-
who brought that country out of barbarism.
Eurocentric scholars may claim that Moors
were not Black or Mulatto, but Caucasian,
but the truth is that the word Moor was
synonymous with "black" in medieval times.
There is a large body of evidence from tradition,
history, art, and literature pointing to that reality.
Much of what we consider to be the height of Spanish
culture was built, influenced, or introduced by
Moors-from cante hondo and Spanish
architecture to flamenco and medicine.
They advanced our knowledge of astronomy,
chemistry, medicine, physics, mathematics,
geography, and economic theory.
Moors built irrigation systems and
introduced the manufacture of gunpowder.
Perhaps most tellingly, Spanish Moors built more
than 70 public libraries and seventeen great
universities, when all of Europe had only two
centers of learning and 99 percent of the
European population could neither read nor write.
In the new world, Latinos of African descent have played
an important role in every phase of Hispanic history,
from Pedro Alonso Niño, the great African navigator
who piloted one of the Christopher Columbus' ships,
to Vicente Guerrero, known as the Black Warrior,
who fought in Mexico's war of independence
and later became Mexico's second president.
Guerrero abolished slavery in 1829.
History does not substantiate the invisible
second-class role Latinos of color often
occupy in the rhythm of Hispanic life.
This problem is deep, complex, and hypocritical,
but like all family problems, only when we
acknowledge it can we get on the road to recovery.
Hispanic Americans have entered the new
millennium as the fastest-growing minority
group in the nation, and it's time to leave the
stereotypes behind and acknowledge our story fully.
It's time to honor the African current that has
given so much substance to our collective identity
and that, along with our Spanish and Indian
roots, is one of our great binding legacies.
Once the subject of whispered conversations,
Latinos' African heritage needs to be recognized as a
legitimate and important part of Hispanic history and life.
Every element of our population
--- contributes to the whole:
We're Indian, African, Spanish, and now American.
The mix is powerful:
It is us.
It is Hispanic culture. H
Borrero dedicates this article to the memory
of "my first black Spanish history teacher:
my father, Heriberto Borrero."