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By Led Black

Dr_race Kudos to the Miami Herald for putting together such an expansive and interactive look at Afro-Latinos, who are 80 to 115 million strong and a presence, in varying degrees, in almost every country in the region.  The informative 5-part series is designed as a journey through Latin America which begins in Nicaragua and ends in Colombia.  So far, so good – the problem really begins or should I say the controversy starts on part 2 with an article on the Dominican Republic entitled Black denial.  The piece tackles the thorny topic of Dominican’s perceptions of race, beauty, Africa and ultimately themselves.  My only issue with the expose is that it did not delve deeply enough into the matter but at least it started the much needed conversation.  As a Dominican, I know first hand how conflicted we are as a people on the subject of Blackness.  Even intelligent people tend to say the most ignorant things when the topic is broached.  Case in point, Ramona Hernández, Director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College in New York, who gave her interesting take on Black Dominican woman in the article by saying the following; "You should see how they come in here with their big asses!” she said, shuffling across her office with her arms extended behind her back, simulating an enormous rear-end.  "They come in here thinking they are all that, and I think, ‘doesn’t she know she’s not really pretty?’ "   Wow. 

It is not incorrect to say that Dominicans have huge color and race issues.  Self-hatred is a very real thing for a good portion of Dominicans.  I think one of the main reasons for this uniquely Dominican variation of self-hatred is the presence of Haiti, which equates to real blackness for most Dominicans, on the other side of the island.  Other places with large amounts of people of African descent such as Brazil or Cuba don’t have the same racial hang ups as Dominicans do.  Granted, they may have a colonial mentality where white equals right and beautiful but they have more of an appreciation of their African descent than we as Dominicans do.  Dominicans in general would rather believe that they are descended from Indians, who in reality were slaughtered and made extinct by the Spaniards within 100 years of arriving in Hispaniola, than to say that they are descendants of Africans.  The cruel and racially confused Trujillo (1930 – 1961) also brutally suppressed any affirmations of African heritage.  All in all, Dominicans can deny their African heritage but to outsiders and conscious Dominicans alike (yes – we do exist), Africa is written all over the bodies, faces and souls of Dominicans. 

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  1. Reply

    Once again you guys put me on to some interesting stuff. Keep it up.

  2. Reply

    I’m sorry Led Black but while I am Dominican I damn sure ain’t no African. I don’t have no bone in my nose.

  3. Reply
    Led Black

    Tipico – Your comments actually prove the point my piece and the original article were trying to make. Thanks. The story of the Dominican Republic cannot be told without factoring in Africa and Blackness.

  4. Reply
    A Savage Just Like You

    Wow!…what a great article…the pics were awesome… the best thing about this piece is the content.. a subject matter that seems taboo to most but something we all must face and embrace…our African culture… and to those that think they don’t have an African blood in them, take a look at your family tree…and take a look at those broad noses, thick lips and kinky hair… and if you still deny that blood.. then you’re acting like Bush during Katrina.

  5. Reply

    You should speak for yourself. My facial features and hair are not that of an african! I’ve seen your picture before and you don’t look african yourself. I am a proud Dominican woman!

  6. Reply

    All I have to say is; Johhny Ventura, Cuco Valoy, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, George Bell, Fausto Rey, Felipe Lopez, Los Hermanos Rosario…..

  7. Reply

    I’m reading some this comments and I am perplexed. If you are Dominican, and you trace back your roots…there’s African in you. Unless you are bred from the Chinese crew in Bonao or the Italian Cánepas from San Pedro De Macorís who are the only ones who haven’t mixed as per the study ran in the early 90’s.


  8. Reply

    I am a Black American, but i don’t have African features. When i lived in Washington Heights, everyone thought i was Dominican and spoke to me in Spanish. When I went to PR, everyone thought I was either PR or Dominican and spoke to me in Spanish. I have “European features” I am not light skinned, rather i am deep caramel brown. My hair is curly but also straightened sometimes. So Dominican people if people believe me to be Dominican due to my looks, doesn’t that mean there are alot of Dominicans who don’t have African features but are still descendants of Africans. And not all Africans look the same, Somalians and Nigerians, Ethiopians, and South Africans, etc, don’t look the same.

  9. Reply

    All people of African descent don’t have broad noses and the same type of hair.

  10. Reply
    Led Black

    Daniella – You are absolutely correct. To state that skin color or hair texture can negate African ancestry is utter nonsense. Dominicans, African-American, Cubans, Jamaicans, Haitians etc … are all a part of the African Diaspora. In fact, more enslaved Africans were sent to Latin America than to the United States. There are more people of African descent in Brazil than any country in Africa except for Nigeria.

  11. Reply

    I believe you are totally incorrect when you stated and I quote, “Other places with large amounts of people of African descent such as Brazil or Cuba don’t have the same racial hang ups as Dominicans do.” Cubans are totally racist against their own people of color. They feel they are superior to their fellow Cuban if they are not white, blonde and blue-eyed, so for you to point fingers at Dominicans regarding this issue then we should continue looking at other nations regarding this topic.

  12. Reply
    Led Black

    Fatima – I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough but what I meant was that Cubans and Brazilians of color don’t have the same racial hang ups as Dominicans. To quote Dominican historian Celsa Albert, “The Cuban black was told he was black. The Dominican black was told he was Indian.” Also, I am not pointing fingers but just trying to start a conversation on what it means to be Dominican.

    Led Black

  13. Reply

    African is Beautiful! We should be honored to have the blood of such strong people flowing through our veins!

  14. Reply

    Yo Soy Afro-Dominicana y Afro-Americana! No shame here! While there are Dominicans who are not black, anyone with eyes can see that the majority of the people on our island are people that are predominantley of African descent, Black people! Stop Fronting! So Tipco, YOU SOUND SOOOOO IGNORANT.
    Your comment about African having a “bone in my nose” proves that you are either a racist or a sell out! No one said that all Dominicans are black, but after this type of comment, I would be willing to bet that you are. Self-hatred can be the most obvious in people who make such ridiculous comments! Open up a book and educate yourself!

  15. Reply

    Oh, does this bring back bad memories! I went to the DR three times and I’ve never witnessed such self-hatred and denial in my life! You can walk down the street in Santo Domingo and see nothing but black and mulatto people and if you were to ask every one of them, I bet 99% would say they are “hispano” or “indio/a”. I asked a Dominican in NY if Sammy Sosa was black (he’s as dark as Denzel Washington), and he said, “no”. My wife is a medium brown skinned Haitian and I am mostly white, with some African-American blood. We were in the DR once and two maids at the hotel, who were much darker than my wife started speaking to her in Spanish and then to me. One of them asked me where I was from in PR. I said I was American and my wife was Haitian. They started arguing with me, saying it was not possible my wife was Haitian, because “she wasn’t black” right in front of her no less! I told them, angrily, they were “mas negra que ella” and they were horrified. They were just convinced that she had to be one of them and that I was so light I had to be PR. I also talked once to a very Spanish looking Dominican woman once with a very dark, completely African looking husband. When I told her I was part black, she said, “why would you claim such a thing??” I said, “your husband is black”. She said, “ay no, es prieto”. Huh??? He made Denzel look white! Dominicanos, you need to get real and face the fact that the slave ships were dropping off Africans on the WHOLE island of hispanola, not just the Haiti side. And, most Tainos were gone before that. You are as Indian as Asians are white. And, why do you even care? You can’t change your brown skin and kinky or curly hair (outside of chemical treatment) and you sure enough can’t change your DNA or genetics. Be proud of who you are…African and SOMEWHAT Spanish mixed people who speak Spanish. You have a Latin culture and African genes. Get over yourselves and move on!

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