One dark and stormy night, @Latinegro founded the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. He scheduled it to coincide with Latino/a and Latin American Heritage Month (I hate the word Hispanic) which began today and ends October 15th. And, hospitable fellow that he is, he’s invited any Latino blogger to join in.
Since I can count on one hand the number of fellow Afrolatina bloggers I know, I think I’ll take the plunge. After all, I haven’t written a post specific to Latina or Afrolatina issues for awhile now.
For 30 days and nights, I owe the interwebs at least two paragraphs on the topic o’ the day. Todays topic: What I Love Most About Being Latina.
This is easy and it is what brought me to academia in the first place: I love our complicated relationship with race.
When I go home and look in the mirror, I see the face my father (Alabama by way of Chicago, son of Deep South slaves) and my mother (Chicago by way of New York, daughter of Taino and African peasant farmers who were probably also slaves). My father’s African ancestry is obvious, but my mother’s is much less clear. Puerto Ricans still grapple with accepting and internalizing the fact that slavery ended on the island in 1886, years after it did in the United States (1865). And as opposed to a civil war, it was a gradual process, not a civil war, began with the Moret Law of 1870 (freedom for slaves born after 1868, slaves who served in the military, slaves over 60 years old) and ended with abolition of the island’s remaining slaves in 1886. The growing numbers of freedmen and freedomwomen added a complicated dynamic of class and status to a brown-black population already divided by ethnicity (Spanish-descent versus Haitian/French or British transplants from nearby islands), gradations of color (which the Spanish recognized, literally according special privileges lighter skinned people of color), religion, African origin, type of labor and residence (urban versus rural) and chastity (this last for the women, of course. the men were supposed to be philanderers–how far we’ve come).
My grandfather’s surname was Nuñez, a Portuguese name in theory but given the influx of slaveowners to the island as a result of a series of revolutions beginning with the 1791 slave revolt in Saint-Domingue/Haiti, and the gradual emancipation enacted in first the British then Dutch sugar islands in the 1830s and 1840s, it is possible that some Portuguese mainlander or creole-descended slaveowner found his way to the island. It is possible he brought with him his slaves–or purchased some. It is also possible that “Nuñez” drifted into the mix through the Portuguese slave trade which lasted into 1840s…which might mean some of my people are Nigerian or Congo-Angolan….
The result? Though my mother looks, for all intents and purposes, like stereotypical Taina (the island’s original inhabitants were the Tainos, the Caribs and the Arawaks, though the naming process creates artificial boundaries between the groups that may or may not have existed), her sister looks as brown as I am. Because their father, Nuñez Abuelo, looked like…well…my father.
And yet my grandmother does not describe either of her daughters as black.
Acceptance and denial at the same time.
But I respect how complicated the situation is for my family and for our people, the Boricua diaspora sprawled across the United States. Our inability to see race in stark terms of black and white, one drop or none, is part of what I love about our heritage. Unfortunately, our inability to grapple with our own racism is also what I hate most about our heritage. It’s a hard legacy to fight, teach, learn and grow up a black girl in. #reasonfortheseason