Afro-Latin@? What’s an Afro-Latin@? Who is an Afro-Latin@? The term be-
fuddles us because we are accustomed to thinking of “Afro” and “Latin@”
as distinct from each other and mutually exclusive: one is either Black or
The short answer is that Afro-Latin@s belong to both groups. They are
people of African descent in Mexico, Central and South America, and the
Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and by extension those of African descent in
the United States whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
As straightforward as this definition would seem, the reality is that
the term is not universally accepted and there is no consensus about what
it means. The difficulties surrounding what we call ourselves reflect the
complex histories of Africans and their descendants in the Americas.
And this brings us to the long answer. Broadly speaking, the word
“Afro-Latin@” can be viewed as an expression of long-term transnational
relations and of the world events that generated and were in turn affected
by particular global social movements. Going back to the late nineteenth
century and the early twentieth, Pan-Africanism signaled for the first time
an explicit, organized identification with Africa and African descendants
and more expansively of non-White peoples at a global level. Attendant
to this process, concepts of Negritude and cultural movements like the
Harlem Renaissance and Afrocubanismo gained increasing ground during
the 1920s and 1930s.
The period from around mid-century and through the 1980s saw the
growth of African liberation movements as part of a global decolonization
process, as well as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the
United States. In Latin America the beginnings of anti-racist organiza-
tions and the Congresos of the late 1970s introduced the first continental
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