A RISING VOICE | MIAMI HERALD TACKLES THE TOPIC OF AFRO-LATINOS
By Led Black
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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