As Hispanic Heritage Month begins, it’s important to recognize the diversity within the Latinx community – VCU News



When Lin-Manuel Miranda released his latest movie “In The Heights,” he hadn’t anticipated the setback it would get from the darker-skinned Latinx residents of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, which is highlighted. in the movie. The controversy over the diversity of skin tones has brought to light the subject of racial inequalities within the Latinx community.

Anita Nadal, who teaches a course at Virginia Commonwealth University on Afro-Latinx culture, is not surprised at the comments Miranda received.

“Some of my friends who are American Dominicans and grew up in Washington Heights agreed and thought there should have been more darker skinned Dominicans. They mentioned that the actors in the movie didn’t represent what you see in Washington Heights, ”said Nadal, an assistant professor in the School of World Studies at the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Nadal wants to raise awareness of what it means to be Black and Latinx. In a 2014 national survey of Latinos conducted by the Pew Research Center, a quarter of Hispanic Americans identified as Afro-Latinos.

“We think the slave trade is primarily about the United States, but the black experience is not just about North America,” she said. “Of the approximately 10.7 million Africans brought to the Americas, only 388,000, a tiny percentage, were brought to North America. The rest went to Latin America.

Nadal will speak about “Afro-Latinx in Richmond” at a virtual event of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at VCU on September 22 at noon, as part of VCU’s observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Salsa Guys and Anita Nadal at a Puerto Rican Afro-Latinx celebration at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (Courtesy of Anita Nadal)

Nadal often speaks in his lectures about African influences in Latin America as expressed through culture, religion, art and music.

“Africans and African descendants were victims of slavery and racism, but also builders of its history and contributors to the development of Latin America,” she said.

Many of her students are unaware of Africa’s connection to Latin America, she said.

“They are surprised that the Underground Railroad went to Mexico or that Mexico has a black president and a black revolutionary leader who waged the war of independence in Mexico. They never learned these facts and by the time they get to college they are stunned, ”she said. “For me, being from Puerto Rico, it was important that my students learn this and know that the black experience is not limited to the United States.”

Students are also surprised that many celebrities today, like basketball star Carmelo Anthony, identify as Afro-Latino, she said.

Hispanics are not a race or a single global community, Nadal stressed.

“Students confuse ethnicity with race. Hispanics or Latinos can be white, black, Asian – any race – but more and more are starting to identify as Afro-Latinos, ”she said.

The term “Hispanic” was defined by the US Office of Management and Budget in 1977 and used in the 1980 census. It grouped together a large number of people from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America or the United States. Southern and other Spanish-speaking cultures, regardless of race.

“The problem with the term is that some people in the United States tend to think that we are all the same,” Nadal said. “When I came to the United States, people said to me, ‘you must like tacos,’ but that’s not Puerto Rican cuisine. There are a lot of misunderstandings. The word “Hispanic” is problematic. It does not take into consideration all the nuances of Latin America.

Photo of the original document showing the name of a slave brought from Puerto Rico to South Carolina.
Photo of the original document showing the name of a slave brought from Puerto Rico to South Carolina. (Courtesy of Anita Nadal)

There isn’t one term that encompasses everyone or every race, she said.

“It’s the concept of being put in a box (for statistical purposes). Other countries are not used to this. It’s centered on the United States. Some people in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean countries are very mixed. When you mix and mix and then come to the United States, you are prompted to choose one. I tick more than one box, ”she said.

Last year, following all security protocols related to COVID-19, Nadal visited the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, part of the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, to conduct research for his course. During his research, Nadal found an original document showing the name of a slave brought from Puerto Rico to South Carolina.

“I wanted my students to see that there were black Puerto Ricans brought to South Carolina to be sold as slaves,” she said. “Seeing their astonishment at looking at the documents was a magical moment. “


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