Monday, June 18, 2007

Miami Herald on Afro-Latinos + More

The blog is rapidly approaching 100,000 page views. The first 50 or so page views resulted mostly from my posting, checking and revising my posts, but StatCounter confirms that visitors are now dropping in from across the US, as well as Europe, the Caribbean, South America, Australia and New Zealand, and less frequently, Asia and Africa. The top five source countries so far today are the US, the UK, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. To all who're visiting and reading, thanks!


Yesterday I posted about Afro-Brazilians speaking out about the persistence of racism in their country. The article turns out to be one of the ones Anthony's Monaga Blog pointed to last Thursday, when he highlighted a current Miami Herald series, "A Rising Voice: Afro-Latin Americans," which focuses on the largest populace of African descent in our hemisphere. As of today, the Herald has posted three reports, focusing on Blacks living on the north coast of Nicaragua, the ever fraught question of race in the Dominican Republic (above, at right, Capellan Domínquez, center, and Anthony Rosario, right, join others as they warm up for Carnival in February in the Cristo Rey area of Santo Domingo, Candace Barbot/Miami Herald), and Afro-Brazilians' attempts at redress for the racism there. I've read all three articles, and while the latter two cover familiar ground, but are definitely worth exploring.

The article on the Dominican Republic in particular caught my eye; it contains a quote by Purdue professor Dawn Stinchcomb about her negative personal experiences in the DR, and it immediately reminded me of this article by Kinii Ibura Salaam, which I initially saw on the DR1 message boards and which Anthony resent. Thinking about Stinchcomb's and Salaam's comments, I considered once again how different my experiences in DR were to theirs, and how different my travels in France were compared to what a close Black female friend of mine and her Latina girlfriend at the time encountered. They caught hell. It made me consider once again power dynamics vary depending upon differing factors like gender, race and national background, but also how differently Black people writing about travel experiences treat issues of racism and sexism, which Stinchcomb alludes to, Salaam details, and the article on the DR circles around.

Anthony also highlights the website of Ruth Ocumarez (who, in the photo he posted, strongly favors Gabrielle Union), the first woman of predominantly African ancestry to win the Miss Dominican Republic title. I've previously posted my impressions after a previous the DR, including issues of race and ethnicity. (Short version: popular notions and performances of race and heritage differ from the official version, and are considerably more complex than what I'd previously read and seen.) Reading Anthony's note on Ocumarez made me think of that previous entry, as well as about how every Sunday when I'm back in New Jersey, C and I try not to miss one of my favorite TV shows, Santo Domingo Invita, which each week features tours of the high-end Dominican coastal resorts (think Casa de Campo, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, etc.), interviews with noteworthy Dominicans and Dominican-Americans, highlights of a given region (recently they've visited La Romana, San Cristobál, Samaná, and San José de Ocoa, all of which, as evident from the show, have significant African-influenced cultural traditions), and a live Dominican musical group. The local highlight segments often offer a gentle counternarrative to the "official" version of Dominican history and culture, sometimes even directly spelling out directly the African historical trajectory in each region. In addition, the musical groups range from standard merengueros to people performing reggaetón and hiphop, much like what you see when you go to DR and turn on the TV.

Melton and Cisneros-CortesJust the other day, Reggie H. recently sent a link to an informative website on Afro-Mexicans, a number of whom are now living in the US. I'd been very curious to learn the whereabouts of Afro-Mexicans in the US, especially since they were, according the 2000 US Census, the second-largest group, and several people, including NCCU professor Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas, Herbert Rogers, and Reggie himself have answered my questions. Among other gerat sites, they pointed me to the following series, in the Winston-Salem Journal, "Mexican Ways, African Roots." (The photo at right shows Shatia Melton and Gerardo Cisneros-Cortes, both in kindergarten at Kimberly Park Elementary, as they wait their turn to perform in the school's multicultural festival, Journal Photo by Ted Richardson.) The page includes photos of the Afro-Mexican community in North Carolina and Mexico, as well as a link to scholar Bobby Vaughan's Afro-Mexican page, which I've written about before.

Reggie had previously sent the History of Mexican-Black Solidarity link, which details a long history of cross-cultural connections that have for the most part been consigned, at least in the popular discourse, to oblivion.

On my bookshelf (or rather, in the boxes I shipped back from Chicago) right now are several books on race, ethnicity and contemporary societies in the Black Diaspora, with strong foci on Latin America, so as I make my way through them, I'll try post some thoughts.


Can someone clarify what Edward Rothstein is muddling on about in this New York Times Connections piece on Richard Rorty and Claude Lévi-Strauss? I mean, I thought I'd grasped it, but then I realized that I hadn't. Clarification, please?

(Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler has a similar take, but expands the discussion to the general disconnect between some of the most illuminating scholarship and theorizing taking place in academe, and the generally dismal, often anti-intellectual public discourse. I know, from my readings of Richard Hofstadter, that this is much of the non-changing same, but I do think it's important to ask the question periodically. The return of open mockery of Al Gore for being a smarty-pants among the mainstream press corps is part of this enduring trend.

I also want to note that Mark Twain pretty much captured the general tenor of the extreme anti-intellectual style in Huck Finn's redneck father's incoherent rant against the "guvment," the courts, the intellect and the life of the mind, education, the middle class, and free Black people. Sadly enough, his mentality is that of the people running the country right now.)


A final note: as of today, I'm one year older. To quote my mother, "I can't believe time has gone by so quickly." That's about right: I'm convinced that after 30, the years continuously accelerate. Happy Birthday also to fellow Geminis Shari and Jim F. (and Kim, whom I haven't seen in years), and to everyone born in June (someone else I know's birthday is right around the corner...).


  1. !Very happy birthday, mi hermano!

    Interestingly enough, I was thinking about Afro-Mexicans and Afro-Central Americans the other day: I was in the laundromat Sunday morning and there were a couple of darker-skinned latin brothers there as well. Afro - Indio - Latino I suspect, particularly one (shorter with straight black hair), but it was striking to me. Most of the recent immigrants here are from Mexico and Central America and "look Mexican" where as these guys were notably 'different' (There was also a family of Dominicans not far from us as well, but I've not seen them in a while) More Latinos are moving into the (neighbor)hood here -- One wonders how these afro-latins will fit into the black/brown/gentrifying white mix around here.


    And many, many more. My father told me, when you hit 21 the years will fly by. A truer statement has never been spoken by him.

    Anyway, enjoy, and give my best to C.


  3. Reggie and Anthony, thanks for the birthday greetings.

    Reggie, you pose an important question about integration. It's definitely something to think--and write--about.

  4. Strange obit piece reads like a mangled undergraduate paper... whiffs of homophobia and exoticism (non-procreating savages)... and a flurry of non-sequiters that perhaps are an attempt to "perform" the perceived style of the late philosopher.

    All in all, it is not what I took from Tristes Tropiques.

  5. Anon, I'm with you. I think he was
    BSing and didn't even realize it. Rothstein, that is, not Rorty.

  6. Hello and thank you Brother J,

    Just to note your quote "informative website on Afro Mexicans" is not the case. That one gallery panel of the site is dedicated to that topic - and ultimately it will flow to a part 2.

    But, the site is a vast place, and didn't want your audience to pop in to that one gallery panel and think of it as the entire website.

    Best Wishes,