The Afro-Latin@ Reader

History and Culture in the United States

The Afro-Latin@ Reader

a John Hope Franklin Center Book

More about this series

Book Pages: 584 Illustrations: 36 illustrations Published: July 2010

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Chicanx and Latinx Studies

The Afro-Latin@ Reader focuses attention on a large, vibrant, yet oddly invisible community in the United States: people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. The presence of Afro-Latin@s in the United States (and throughout the Americas) belies the notion that Blacks and Latin@s are two distinct categories or cultures. Afro-Latin@s are uniquely situated to bridge the widening social divide between Latin@s and African Americans; at the same time, their experiences reveal pervasive racism among Latin@s and ethnocentrism among African Americans. Offering insight into Afro-Latin@ life and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and antiracist politics, The Afro-Latin@ Reader presents a kaleidoscopic view of Black Latin@s in the United States. It addresses history, music, gender, class, and media representations in more than sixty selections, including scholarly essays, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, poetry, short stories, and interviews.

While the selections cover centuries of Afro-Latin@ history, since the arrival of Spanish-speaking Africans in North America in the mid-sixteenth-century, most of them focus on the past fifty years. The central question of how Afro-Latin@s relate to and experience U.S. and Latin American racial ideologies is engaged throughout, in first-person accounts of growing up Afro-Latin@, a classic essay by a leader of the Young Lords, and analyses of U.S. census data on race and ethnicity, as well as in pieces on gender and sexuality, major-league baseball, and religion. The contributions that Afro-Latin@s have made to U.S. culture are highlighted in essays on the illustrious Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile Arturo Alfonso Schomburg and music and dance genres from salsa to mambo, and from boogaloo to hip hop. Taken together, these and many more selections help to bring Afro-Latin@s in the United States into critical view.

Contributors: Afro–Puerto Rican Testimonies Project, Josefina Baéz, Ejima Baker, Luis Barrios, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Adrian Burgos Jr., Ginetta E. B. Candelario, Adrián Castro, Jesús Colón, Marta I. Cruz-Janzen, William A. Darity Jr., Milca Esdaille, Sandra María Esteves, María Teresa Fernández (Mariposa), Carlos Flores, Juan Flores, Jack D. Forbes, David F. Garcia, Ruth Glasser, Virginia Meecham Gould, Susan D. Greenbaum, Evelio Grillo, Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Tanya K. Hernández, Victor Hernández Cruz, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Lisa Hoppenjans, Vielka Cecilia Hoy, Alan J. Hughes, María Rosario Jackson, James Jennings, Miriam Jiménez Román, Angela Jorge, David Lamb, Aida Lambert, Ana M. Lara, Evelyne Laurent-Perrault, Tato Laviera, John Logan, Antonio López, Felipe Luciano, Louis Pancho McFarland, Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Wayne Marshall, Marianela Medrano, Nancy Raquel Mirabal, Yvette Modestin, Ed Morales, Jairo Moreno, Marta Moreno Vega, Willie Perdomo, Graciela Pérez Gutiérrez, Sofia Quintero, Ted Richardson, Louis Reyes Rivera, Pedro R. Rivera , Raquel Z. Rivera, Yeidy Rivero, Mark Q. Sawyer, Piri Thomas, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Nilaja Sun, Sherezada “Chiqui” Vicioso, Peter H. Wood


The Afro-Latin@ Reader is impressive in scope and as an edited volume it succeeds because it is able to address varying topics and cover many different Afro groups without sacrificing quality. It is therefore recommended.” — Kwame Dixon, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“The Afro-Latin@ Reader is an impressive collection of accessible primary and secondary texts that moves the struggles and contributions of Afro-Latina/os from the margins of African American, Latina/o, and American studies to the center.” — Erin Hurt and Cherise A. Pollard, MELUS

“The breadth and style of The Afro-Latin@ Reader will appeal most to readers attracted to scholarship. But while its content is dense and deeply analytical, The Afro-Latin@ Reader has something for everyone. Jiménez and Flores make the case that Afro-Latinos as a colectividad provide a link between the African- American and Hispanic communities.” — Amanda Hess, Grassroots Development

“This volume’s greatest strength is that it brings the wealth of scholarship on Afro-Latinos in the United States together in one place; in doing so it provides a unique and thorough survey text for undergraduate use. It provides new insights for scholars as our understanding of the US racial order is contested and redefined.” — Shawn Alfonso Wells, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Uncommonly inclusive and all-encompassing, its scholarly heft and solidity thus sympathetically alert and impressively coupled to the emotionally expressive verve, revelatory force, and persuasive authority of the autobiographical. The Afro-Latin@ Reader is, in sum, an extraordinary and exceptional achievement. A splendid contribution to the field it here so ably moves forward, it admirably also advances, more fully and fruitfully than any single comparable volume on the subject has so far done, its readers' knowledgeably complex, non-reductive understanding of Afro-Latin® America's contemporary emergence and, above all, how regularly—where, when, by whom, and why—Afro-Latin@s have ‘been rendered invisible and silent because they simply do not fit larger historical narratives of immigration, race, gender, culture and location in the United States.’” — Roberto Márquez, CENTRO Journal

“[R]equired reading for all Latinos. . . . This important reader provides critical information from a wide variety of approaches on the evolution and current realities of Black Latinos and Latinas. From poetic to musical to social scientific sources, this is a powerful 360-degree treatment of the subject.” — Angelo Falcón, National Institute for Latino Policy Book Notes

“As a collection of pieces, many of which have been published previously, The Afro-Latin@ Reader ultimately serves as a compact archive of materials from various academic disciplines and creative genres that details the Afro-Latina/o experience in the United States. . . . The Afro-Latin@ Reader makes accessible to students, scholars, and the general public a virtually ignored set of important contributions, not only to the study of Afro-Latina/os, but to the discourse about race in the United States more generally.” — Petra R. Rivera, Transition

“The collected works in The Afro-Latin@ Reader broaden definitions of blackness and latinidad and reveal the multiple ways in which Afro-Latino/as navigate national and cultural histories that have consistently denigrated or dismissed their African heritage and challenge US racial classifications that dismiss their cultural background and linguistic difference. The Afro-Latin@ Reader invites us to move beyond a binary understanding of racial identity and to embrace the allegiances that may be forged and, in many instances, have been forged among Afro-Latino/as, Latinos/as, African Americans, and other underrepresented groups in the US.” — Sobeira Latorre, Anthurium

“This exciting collection is a great resource for anyone interested in Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies, or American Studies.” — Jenell Navarro, Women's Studies

"The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States gives much-needed attention to the experiences and contributions of Afro-Latin@s in the US through a comprehensive presentation of scholarship, personal narratives, poetry, and historical accounts. . . . The Afro-Latin@ Reader is a crucial and much needed text." — Jennifer Gutierrez, National Political Science Review

The Afro-Latin@ Reader assembles in one place an extraordinary range of articles, chapters, and first-person accounts of Afro-Latin@ identity. These pieces show that explorations of Afro-Latin@ identities quickly reveal significant hidden histories of racialization, colonization, exploitation, and social mobilization. They complicate our understanding of the U.S. racial order and its complex systems of inclusion and exclusion. This collection is a much-needed addition to scholarship in ethnic studies.” — George Lipsitz, author of American Studies in a Moment of Danger

The Afro-Latin@ Reader is a superb collection, one that I cannot wait to use in my own courses. For some time now, scholars have engaged the history and anthropology of Black populations in Latin America, but the scholarship on the Afro-Latin@ presence (as configured on this side of the Rio Grande) has been more episodic and, to some extent, under-theorized. The breadth of The Afro-Latin@ Reader, as well as its effort to actually define the entire field, makes it a unique scholarly contribution.” — Ben Vinson III, co-author of African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean


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Price: $34.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Miriam Jiménez Román is a visiting scholar in the Africana Studies Program at New York University and Executive Director of afrolatin@ forum, a research and resource center focusing on Black Latin@s in the United States.

Juan Flores is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. His most recent works include The Diaspora Strikes Back: Caribeño Tales of Learning and Turning, From Bomba To Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity, and the English translation of Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá’s book Cortijo’s Wake, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xiii

Editorial Note xv

Introduction 1

I. Historical Background before 1900

The Earliest Africans in North America / Peter H. Wood 19

Black Pioneers: The Spanish-Speaking Afroamericans of the Southwest / Jack D. Forbes 27

Slave and Free Women of Color in the Spanish Ports of New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola / Virginia Meacham Gould 38

Afro-Cubans in Tampa / Susan D. Greenbaum 51

Excerpt from Pulling the Muse from the Drum / Adrian Castro 62

II. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Excerpt from Racial Integrity: A Plea for the Establishment of a Chair of Negro History in Our Schools and Colleges / Arturo Alfonso Schomburg 67

The World of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg / Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof 70

Invoking Arturo Schomburg's Legacy in Philadelphia / Evelyne Laurent-Perrault 92

III. Afro-Latin@s on the Color Line

Black Cuban, Black American / Evelio Grillo 99

A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches / Jesus Colon 113

Melba Alvarado, El Club Cubano Inter-Americano, and the Creation of Afro-Cubanidades in New York City / Nancy Raquel Mirabel 120

An Uneven Playing Field: Afro-Latinos in Major League Baseball / Adrian Burgos Jr. 127

Changing Identities: An Afro-Latino Family Portrait / Gabriel Haslip-Viera 142

Eso era tremendo!: An Afro-Cuban Musician Remembers / Graciela Perez Gutierrez 150

IV. Roots of Salsa: Afro-Latin@ Popular Music

From "Indianola" to "No Colá": The Strange Career of the Afro-Puerto Rican Musician / Ruth Glasser 157

Excerpt from cu/bop / Louis Reyes Rivera 176

Bauzá–Gillespie–Latin/JAzz: Difference, Modernity, and the Black Caribbean / Jairo Moreno 177

Contesting that Damned Mambo: Arsenio Rodriguez and the People of El Barrio and the Bronx in the 1950s / David F. Garcia 187

Boogaloo and Latin Soul / Juan Flores 199

Excerpt from the salsa of bethesda fountain / Tato Laviera 207

V. Black Latin@ Sixties

Hair Conking: Buy Black / Carlos Cooks 211

Carlos A. Cooks: Dominican Garveyite in Harlem / Pedro R. Rivera 215

Down These Mean Streets / Piri Thomas 219

African Things / Victor Hernandez Cruz 232

Black Notes and "You Do Something to Me" / Sandra Maria Esteves 233

Before People Called Me a Spic, They Called Me a Nigger / Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman 235

Excerpt from Jíbaro, My Pretty Nigger / Felipe Luciano 244

The Yoruba Orisha Tradition Comes to New York City / Marta Moreno Vega 245

Reflections and Lived Experiences of Afro-Latin@ Religiosity / Luis Barrios 252

Discovering Myself / Un Testimonio / Josefina Baez 266

VI. Afro-Latinas

The Black Puerto Rican Woman in Contemporary American Society / Angela Jorge 269

Something Latino Was Up with Us / Spring Redd 276

Excerpt from Poem for My Grifa-Rican Sistah, or Broken Ends Broken Promises / Mariposa (María Teresa Fernandez) 280

Latinegras: Desired Women—Undesirable Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, and Wives / Marta I. Cruz-Janzen 282

Letter to a Friend / Nilaja Sun 296

Uncovering Mirrors: Afro-Latina Lesbian Subjects / Ana M. Lara 298

The Black Bellybutton of a Bongo / Marianela Medrano 314

VII. Public Images and (Mis)Representations

Notes on Eusebia Cosme and Juano Hernandez / Miriam Jimenez Roman 319

Desde el Mero Medio: Race Discrimination within the Latino Community / Carlos Flores 323

Displaying Identity: Dominicans in the Black Mosaic of Washington, D.C. / Ginetta E. B. Candelario 326

Bringing the Soul: Afros, Black Empowerment, and Lucecita Benítez / Yeidy M. Rivero 343

Can BET Make You Black? Remixing and Reshaping Latin@s on Black Entertainment Television / Ejima Baker 358

The Afro-Latino Connection: Can this group be the bridge to a broadbased Black-Hispanic alliance? / Alan Hughes and Milca Esdaille 364

VIII. Afro-Latin@s in the Hip Hop Zone

Ghettocentricity, Blackness, and Pan-Latinidad / Raquel Z. Rivera 373

Chicano Rap Roots: Afro-Mexico and Black-Brown Cultural Exchange / Pancho McFarland 387

The Rise and Fall of Reggaeton: From Daddy Yankee to Tego Calderon and Beyond / Wayne Marshall 396

Do Platanos Go wit' Collard Greens? / David Lamb 404

Divas Don't Yield / Sofia Quintero 411

IX. Living Afro-Latinidads

An Afro-Latina's Quest for Inclusion / Yvette Modestin 417

Retracing Migration: From Samana to New York and Back Again / Ryan Mann-Hamilton 422

Negotiating among Invisibilities: Tales of Afro-Latinidades in the United States / Vielka Cecilia Hoy 426

We Are Black Too: Experiences of a Honduran Garifuna / Aida Lambert 431

Profile of an Afro-Latina: Black, Mexican, Both / Maria Rosario Jackson 434

Enrique Patterson: Black Cuban Intellectual in Cuban Miami / Antonio Lopez 439

Reflections about Race by a Negrito Acomplejao / Eduardo Bonilla-Silva 445

Divisible Blackness: Reflections on Heterogeneity and Racial Identity / Silvio Torres-Saillant 453

Nigger-Reecan Blues / Willie Perdomo 467

X. Afro-Latin@s: Present and Future Tenses

How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans / John R. Logan 471

Bleach in the Rainbow: Latino Ethnicity and Preferences for Whiteness / William A. Darity Jr., Jason Dietrich, and Darrick Hamilton 485

Brown Like Me? / Ed Morales 499

Against the Myth of Racial Harmony in Puerto Rico / Afro-Puerto Rican Testimonies Project 508

Mexican Ways, African Roots / Lisa Hoppenjans and Ted Richardson 512

Afro-Latin@s and the Latino Workplace / Tanya Kateri Hernandez 520

Racial Politics in Multiethnic America: Black and Latina/o Identities and Coalitions 527

Afro-Latinism in United States Society: A Commentary / James Jennings 540

Sources and Permissions 547

Contributors 551

Index 559

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Winner, 2012 American Book Award, presented by the Before Columbus Foundation

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4572-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4558-9
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