It is widely acknowledged that Latinos are quickly becoming the largest minority group in the United States. Still, the term Latino encompasses a wide range of diverse experiences related to nationality, language, religion, history, immigration status, and, of course, race. The term Afro-Latino aims to call attention to the unique experiences and challenges of Latinos of African descent in the United States. Although scholarship about Afro-Latinos has flourished in recent years, Afro-Latinos have long written about their experiences and histories in the United States. Many of these autobiographical writings as well as subsequent academic analyses placed much emphasis on the “invisibility” of Afro-Latinos in the United States, where blackness is often assumed to be aligned with the US African American experience and Latinidad (or Latino identity) is assumed to be racially mixed. As research on Afro-Latino identity has developed, many scholars have critically examined racism within Latino communities, as well as the ways that assumptions about a whitened Latino identity have foreclosed conversations about blackness and Afro-Latinos. To that end, some scholars intervene by filling in historical gaps through highlighting the contributions of Afro-Latinos to American life and culture. Other scholars underscore the importance of literature and music not only as important Afro-Latino cultural practices, but also as sites where many Afro-Latino artists have theorized their experiences. In the realm of politics, researchers have explored historical and contemporary political alliances between African American, Afro-Latino, and other African diasporic populations in the United States. One central theme in Afro-Latino studies is transnational flows of information and ideas about blackness between the United States and Latin America via immigration and the advent of new technologies that foster cultural exchange. Generally, scholarship on Afro-Latinos thus presents the complex realities of race and ethnicity, realities that have broader implications for scholars interested in Latino studies, Latin American studies, African American studies, and race relations more generally.
The following texts provide general overviews of many of the key themes important to Afro-Latino studies. An edited volume, Dzidzienyo and Oboler 2005 emphasizes a transnational approach to understanding how the flows of ideas about race and blackness have impacted Afro-Latinos and Afro-Latin Americans throughout the region. Dzidzienyo and Oboler 2005 includes articles about both the United States and Latin American countries. Jiménez Román and Flores 2010, a groundbreaking reader that incorporates both original and previously published works detailing the Afro-Latino experience in the United States, tackles a wide range of topics, including the arts, gender and sexuality, lived experience, literature, and historical analyses.
Dzidzienyo, Anani, and Suzanne Oboler, eds. Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
An edited volume that incorporates chapters about blackness in both the United States and Latin America, and makes a case for a transnational approach to studying Afro-Latinos. One section focuses on race in Latin American countries, including Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. The final section considers experiences of Afro-Latino populations in the United States and African American–Latino relations.
Jiménez Román, Miriam, and Juan Flores, eds. The Afro-Latino Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.
A useful and thorough overview of research about Afro-Latinos, including original and previously published works. Presents a variety of topics, including historical analyses, lived experiences and reflections, literature and poetry, gender and sexuality, media and the arts, political organizing, and the immigrant experience. Appropriate for undergraduate courses.
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