A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Afro-Latinx Week introduces students to an unknown culture mix

Throughout the month of February, Parkdale boasted the accomplishments of black Americans for Black History Month, through performances, assemblies, competitions and dress-up days.  

During the week of February 12, Parkdale’s black history celebrations focused primarily on the contributions of the Afro-Latinx community, a community that many did not now existed.

An Afro-Latinx is someone who is mixed of both African and Latino descent. In Brazil, over 14 million people identify as Afro-Latinxs whereas in Puerto Rico, only around 400,000.

There are even some famous celebrities who are Afro-Latinx, such as Miguel and Taio Cruz (Boom goes the DYNAMITE).

Miguel is descended from a Mexican-American father and and African-American mother, while Taio Cruz is part-Brazilian and part-Nigerian but born in London.

Although a common “mix” that leads to the Afro-Latinx identification is having one black and one Latinx parent, there are other people who identify with this racial label, as well.  For example, one can be Garifuna and still be Afro-Latino. Garifunas are the African-descendent inhabitants of Honduras. These people are descended from mainland African ancestry but call Honduras their home.

Being Afro-Latinx can be both a challenge and an adventure.

In a conversation, Victor Carias, counselor at Herndon High in Fairfax, VA, said “Being someone who is mixed can be interesting because it’s the result of two cultures coming together.” Carias also said “It’s rare to see people with this kind of mix, especially down here in Fairfax. “

Many aspects of African and Latino culture are merged so closely together that many are unaware of the influences they have on one another.  The common forms of Caribbean and Latino music, like merengue, Haitian Kompa, punta and zouk were all influenced by early Africans modifying the music that originally existed into what it is now.

“Si algun dia la vez” by Sergio Vargas is a merengue song that opens with a brief African drum section then brings the horns and bass into the mix. This song shows how merengue, one of the most popular forms of Latino music (especially in the Dominican Republic), is heavily influenced by pre-existing Afro-Caribbean people.

While it may be possible to name some Afro-Latinx songwriters, well-known Afro-Latinx actors are a bit more difficult to come by.  

Zoe Saldana, who is best known for Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, has made differing comments on how she identifies, ultimately landing on a “black woman”.  Saldana is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent.

Carias also stated his view on the influence of Afro-Latinos on the rest of the world. Carias said “A small group like Afro-Latinos can have a great impact on the world. Look at the type of music. Merengue, Punta, and Capoeira wouldn’t be in existence without Afro-Latino influence.”

Afro-Latinos are out doing great things for the world and will soon get the recognition they deserve.