Latinos and their Escape Hatches
By William Javier Nelson
(Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)
A short time ago, I told Nathan Douglas and A.D. Powell that I would have some more to say about Latinos.
I will leave it up to others to explain WHY Latinos can and do deny their African ancestry. What I am interested in is letting the secret out (which is what A.D. Powell has been doing for quite some time). Before I go any further, let me add that informing the general public that Latinos have African ancestry is N O T the same thing as saying that they are “black”. It simply means that African ancestry is part of the mix. Period. I may get no further than this point for many North Americans, because there may be a “gene” in many North Americans which prohibits them from conceptualizing a human who possesses partial African ancestry, but who is not “black”. I once delivered an academic paper on this very topic, with extensive documentation.However, the award-winning host, as well as numerous other scholars, started asking me questions about “blacks”, as though what they had heard did not penetrate their heads. Ironically, they all agreed with my premise and conclusions — unfortunately, they just could not imagine a world in which a person of partial African ancestry is not “black”. One woman went so far as to query me about “blacks” who sailed the seas before Columbus, etc. etc.
The following are some figures which represent percentages of population for “New Spain” (the colony that eventually became Mexico) during various times of the Colonial Period:
|These figures are compiled by the historian
Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran
In kindness to the Mexicans, let us assume that they did not initiate a draconian program to root out and slaughter persons of African descent. Yet, if one looks at the population figures of Mexico in the present day, persons of African origin will be conspicuously absent. The answer to the riddle is simple: Africans were absorbed into the population. Moreover, miscegenation never assumed the negative connotations it does in the United States. In addition, Latin Americans have always developed a variety of elastic and non-binding (not to mention subjective) nomenclatures for an assortment of mixed ancestries. Thus a modern Mexican possessing “non-black” features of straight or non-kinky hair and/or olive skin is likely to have an African ancestor going back generations before. The emphasis here is that this ancestry is part of a larger whole. Caribbean Latinos have even more direct experiences with African ancestry. It is not uncommon for a Dominican family, for example, to have members which range over a variety of phenotypes, which could include the “black” one which sets off the red flag to North American eyes — and which would also include the “Ricky Ricardo” phenotype associated with Latinos.
Most Latino immigrants, be they U.S.-affiliated Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican or South American, quickly learn about One Drop — especially if they learn English.
If any Latino has straight or non-kinky hair, he has a pretty good shot at basing his or her brown-skinned complexion on “Indian” ancestry (since he knows that neither the “white” racists nor the “black” inclusionists can rigidly put him in a “box”). Although Indians have certainly been oppressed in the New World, their ancestry has not been as rigidly treated as African ancestry.
The above will not, of course, galvanize legions of Latinos to “step forward” and admit to African ancestry. Most entrants to the U.S. have already doped out that African ancestry is something which precludes being part of the “American Dream”.
North Americans will eventually have to get to the point where they can conceptualize African ancestry as simply a representative of a point of origin (Just like European, Asian, Indian or any other ancestry) — nothing more and nothing less.
African Ancestry in Latinos: DocumentationNo one can say that people in the United States pay any attention to the use of logic and corroboration in the use of “racial” terms. After all, most everyone knows that a good proportion of “American blacks” are really mulattoes — yet most North Americans live in dread of uttering that word. Most North Americans are aware that at least as many “white” people have African ancestry as Indian ancestry [a gentleman by the name of Stuckert wrote an article about African ancestry in the “white” population in which he put the figure in the tens of millions…
Stuckert, R.P.“African Ancestry of the White Population.” OHIO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE 58, no. 3 (1958):155-160.]
yet some people would be sorely put out if that ancestry were to be focused upon.
So it really becomes who has the loudest and most powerful megaphone: and the mainstream media, as well as conventional education and culture, is committed to “black”/”white”/One Drop (regardless of any alternative documentation).
Yet, this is the Interracial Voice — and I am assuming that the readers here pay more attention to “racial” facts than the mainstream media. In that spirit, I am passing along some documentation of:
“African ancestry in Latinos”:
Selected (non-alphabetical) Bibliography:
MESTIZAJE IN IBERO-AMERICA
translated by John Wheat.
Tucsun: University of Arizona Press, 1995.
RACE MIXTURE IN THE HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA.
Boston: Little-Brown, 1967.
Conniff, Michael & Davis, Thomas J.
AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS.
New York: St. Martins Press, 1994.
Palmer, Colin A.
SLAVES OF THE WHITE GOD: BLACKS IN MEXICO,
1570-1650. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Klein, Herbert S.
AFRICAN SLAVERY IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Curtin, Philip D.
THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE: A CENSUS.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
Rout, Leslie B.
THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE IN SPANISH AMERICA 1502 TO THE PRESENT DAY.
London: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
van den Berghe, Pierre.
RACE AND RACISM.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1967
This VERY SHORT list is taken from my article:
Nelson, William Javier. “Africans in Mexico: the Colonial Period.”
SOUTH EASTERN LATIN AMERICANIST 39, no.. 2(Fall 1995):35-44.
The one difference between me and the people who put together documentation listed above, is that the above scholars have usually confined their activities to the restricted environs of classrooms filled with comparative sociology and history students (a very limited audience) and I, on the other hand, am not above disclosing these “secrets” to the general public.
As I indicated before, North Americans associate non-kinky hair with an absence of African ancestry (thus, by inference, “Indian” ancestral presence) in Latinos. It does not matter if the point of origin for the Latino is a “mulatto” country like Cuba or the Dominican Republic (where the African presence is more immediate and numerous) or a “mestizo” country like Mexico (where the Africans have generally been absorbed generations before). I have seen the absolute hypocrisy of Cubans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans explaining to North Americans the African-based richness of salsa and merengue music (with their polyrhythms and call-response) while simultaneously asserting that they are of “Indian” blood.
I would suppose that readers of my messages who present Latinos with this information will be met by the disclaimer that “maybe there is a little African in there somewhere, but MY family is all Spanish and Indian.” As I have said before, there is a way to assert satisfaction and acknowledgement of African ancestry without falling into “black'”/”white”/One Drop — but that is a path of discussion not traveled very much in the United States.