As a whole, many people in the Hispanic community have a close connection to their language and identify with other people through a shared native tongue. For some Afro-Latinos, they don’t consider people who don’t share their same native tongue to truly share their roots or rich heritage; causing them to ignore their African roots. This type of logic is also why many people of Haiti identify as Black but people in the Dominican Republic, which is nestled directly beside Haiti, don’t. People of Haiti speak Creole, and people in the Dominican Republic speak Spanish.
Less Emphasis on Historical Ties to Slavery
During a visit to the Dominican Republic, The Root’s editor-in-chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. made a troubling discovery – there weren’t many historical statues, monuments or other works that made note of prominent Black figures throughout the country’s history. According to an excerpt from this book, “Black in Latin America,” he eventually came across a statue “honoring Lemba, a great leader of the Maroon slaves in the 16th century.” Many Latinos are aware of the fact that they have African ancestors, but after growing up in countries that typically make little mention of such African roots, some Afro-Latinos simply follow suit and don’t acknowledge that part of their rich cultural history.
Colonized by European Conquerors
According to data compiled and analyzed by the Population Association of America and reported by Pew Research, more than 1 million Americans who at one point identified as “Hispanic or Latino” later chose to identify themselves as “white” between 2000 and 2010 – even many Afro-Latinos made the identity switch. But why? Many believe it is because of European influence. When European conquerors made their way to South America to colonize the land, they declared the heritage of the land to be “Spanish, Catholic and white,” Gates explained. Despite the fact that less than 1 percent of the current population in countries like the Dominican Republic are European, many people still hold on to that identity.
Identify with Country Rather Than Race or Ethnicity
Many Afro-Latinos don’t acknowledge their African roots because they don’t tend to identify with race so much as they do with their countries of origin. Many people from African countries are referred to as African rather than only Kenyan or Libyan. While they certainly do acknowledge their countries of origin and particular ethnic, there is still a concept of being African. This isn’t necessarily perceived the same way in some Latino communities. In fact, the American Community Survey now includes a line on survey questionnaires under “Hispanic-origin” because most Latinos preferred to write in their actual countries of origin. Today, even the Census Bureau’s code list contains over 30 Hispanic or Latino subgroups, including Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican.
Believe it or not, some people of Afro-Latino descent don’t acknowledge their African roots because they are not of a darker skin complexion. Afro-Latinos have skin complexions that can vary greatly, and those who have lighter complexions tend to identify more closely with “white” than they do Black or African. This is believed to be another cause for the massive number of Hispanics who are now choosing to classify themselves as white on documents and surveys.