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In the United Statesmarker, a Black Hispanic or Afro American Hispanic ( , literally, "Afro Hispanic") is an Americanmarker citizen or resident who is officially classified by the United States Census Bureau, Office of Management and Budget and other U.S. government agencies as a Black American of Hispanic descent. African American/Black American, itself an official U.S. racial category legally refers to people having "origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa residing in the United States". For further discussion on the term African American, please see that article.

Hispanicity, which is independent of race, is the only ethnic category, as opposed to racial category, which is officially collated by the U.S. Census Bureau. The distinction made by government agencies for those within the population of any official race category, including "African American", is between those who report Hispanic backgrounds and all others who do not. In the case of African Americans/Black Americans, these two groups are respectively termed "Black Hispanics/Afro American Hispanics" and "non-Hispanic Black Americans/non-Hispanic Black Americans", the former being those who report Black African ethnicity as well as a Hispanic ancestral background (Spainmarker and Hispanic Latin America), and the latter consisting of an ethnically diverse collection of all others who are classified as Black or African Americans that do not report Hispanic ethnic backgrounds.

For the remainder of this article, the term Black Hispanic will be employed solely and to the neglect of Afro American Hispanic.

Demographic information

Black Hispanics number between 2-3% of the entire U.S. Hispanic population. Most Black Hispanics in the United States come from within the Dominican American population. The next largest concentrations of Black Hispanics are found among, Puerto Rican Americans. Then the two next largest come from Cuban Americans and Panamanian Americans.

However, all nations of Hispanic America, and thus their respective emigrant groups in the United States, have minorities of people of black African descent. Even Spainmarker, to an infinitesimal degree, harbors people of Black African descent as a result of the introduction of slaves into its territory (as opposed to people of recent African origin in Spain, such as immigrants and refugees). (Also from the Moorish (North African) conquest of Spain in 13th century).

The main aspects which distinguish Black Hispanics from African Americans is their Spanish-speaking language (their mother tongue or most recent ancestors native language), their Spanish cultural habits, and in most cases, their Spanish surnames.

Increasing intermarriages and offspring between non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics of other races (such as White Hispanics, Black Hispanics, mestizos, etc.) is resulting in larger numbers of people who identify as Black and Hispanic, that is, as Black Hispanic. This in return would increase both the Black racial demographics and the Hispanic "ethnic" demographic.


Black Hispanics are often overlooked in the U.S. mass media and in general American social perceptions, where being "Hispanic" is often incorrectly given a racial value.

Since the early days of the movie industry in the U.S., when Black Hispanic actors were given roles, they would usually be cast as African Americans (as in, black NON-Hispanic). For those with Spanish-speaking accents that betrayed an otherwise presumed non-Hispanic African American origin, they may seldom have been given roles as Hispanics.

Those who claim that Black Hispanics are not sought to play Hispanic roles in the U.S. allege this unfairly leads the masses of viewers to an ignorance to the existence of Black Hispanics. Further, some Black Hispanics once affirming their Hispanicity may be deprived of their status as Black people, and categorized by society as non-Black in the U.S. historical context. This may in turn lead some to assume in them an innate knowledge of indigenous culture, e.g., in terms of customs, food and music, which is an individual inclination and not necessarily confined to Hispanics in general.

Black Hispanic Culture

Although Black Hispanics are often overlooked or dichotomized as either "black" or "Hispanic", Black Hispanic writers often reflect upon their racialized experience in their works. The most commonly used term in literature to speak of this ambiguity and multilayered hybridity at the heart of Latino/a identity and culture is mestizaje. This "mestizaje" depicts the multi-faceted racial and cultural identity that characterize Black Hispanics and highlights that each individual Black Hispanic has a unique experience within a broader racial and ethnic range . The memoirs, poetry, sociological research, and essays written by the following Afro-Latino writers reflect this concept of mestizaje in addition to revealing the confusion and uncertainty about one’s self-image of being both "Black" and "Hispanic". The psychological and social factors also prove to be central in determining how one ultimately defines him/herself.

"Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas

Thomas's ground-breaking autobiography, first published in 1967, was pivotal in introducing the broad American population to the Latino inner city youth's experiences with poverty, racism, and marginalization. A major theme of Thomas's book is his growing confusion about his racial identity. Though Thomas is of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent, his dark complexion, and facial features which expose his African ancestry and define him as “black” in the U.S. summarily subjects him to the racism imposed upon African-Americans during the 40s: “I was on my way home from school when someone called: “Hey you dirty fuckin’ spic.” I turned around and found my face pushing in the finger of an Italian kid about my age. He had five or six friends with him. “Hey you, what nationality are ya?” I looked at him and wondered which nationality to pick. And one of friends said “Ah, Rocky, he’s black enuff to be a nig*er. Aint that what you is, kid?” My voice was almost shy in its anger. “I’m Puerto Rican. I was born here.” I wanted to shout it, but it came out like a whisper."

Throughout Thomas's youth, he grapples with being defined as "Puerto Rican" by his family and "Black" by the rest of the world. After he reaches an epiphany that leaves him deciding that he is both Black and Puerto Rican, he has a confrontation with his blond-haired, blue-eyed brother that ends in a brawl. Thomas insists that he is ethnically "Negro" and not "Indian", the explanation that his family gives him for his and his father's dark skin. His brother, considered "white" by society, has internalized racism against blacks and refuses to accept his brother's newfound beliefs.
"I don't give a shit what you say, Piri. We're Puerto Ricans and that makes us different from black people...We're Puerto Ricans and we're white."
"Jose, that's what the white man's been telling the Negro all along, that 'cause he's white he's different from the Negro; that he's better'n the Negro or anyone who's not white.

"Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza" by Gloria Anzaldúa

Borderlands, part manifesto/part poetry/part forgotten Latina history, is arguably Anzaldúa's magnum opus. In her book, a central theme is her revised self definition as the "new mestiza". An ethnically Mexican woman, she redefines her race from being a Chicana Latina to a "Chicana, india, latina, black mestiza" who must "work to break down the subject-object duality that keeps her prisoner and show in the flest and through images in her work how duality is transcended". Anzaldúa has a particularly unique experience because her appearance does not reveal her African ancestry, yet she embraces it as a part of the new mestiza consciousness. In one of her final poems, she shows her loyalty to not being defined as just one race, but as multiple, intertwined ethnicities.
To live in the Borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra española

ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed

caught in the crossfire between camps

while carrying all five races on your back

not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

To live in the Borderlands means knowing

that denying the Anglo inside you

is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black

"Black Cuban, Black American" by Evelio Grillo

Grillo's memoir is about his experience as a black Cuban immigrant in the United States who grew up in Tampa, Florida, during the 1930s among other Cuban immigrants. He and all other black Cubans was segregated from the white Cubans and ultimately integrated into the African-American community. Grillo says that the black Cuban parents, who did not speak English, did not allow their children to lose their Spanish, which led to tensions between the U.S. blacks and Cuban blacks. Further, the racial identity did not completely bridge the gulf between the two groups. "Black Americans spoke English and followed Protestant religions. Black Cubans spoke Spanish and practiced Catholicism" . However, the common routines of attending the same schools, places of work, and sharing the same recreational activities overrode these initial differences. Grillo himself eventually completely assimilates to the lifestyle of American blacks, because he dealt with the same social ills of blackness (such as Jim Crow segregation and racism in school). Today, Grillo reconciles both his Black and Hispanic identities by being politically active in both Latino and black communities. .

"Black Behind the Ears" by Ginetta Candelario

Candelario's non-fiction ethnography about U.S. Dominican's racial self-identity as "not black" reveals the historical and social processes that reared this now-popular belief. Through participant observation in a Dominican beauty salon, Candelario discovered exactly how prevalent "anti-black" feelings are. In her introduction, Candelario gives the reader an explanation for the title, and the major theme of her book:
Dominicans will often say 'Tenemos el negro detras de las orejas [We have black behind the ears] when speaking to matters of black and Dominican identity. They are affirming their overwhelming desire to "whiten". For much of Dominican history, the national body has been defined as not-black even as black ancestry has been acknowledged. In place of blackness, officially identity discourses and displays have held that Dominicans are racially Indian and culturally Hispanic.

Candelario interviewed hundreds of U.S. born Dominicans about their self-defined heritage, and their relationship to their perceived blackness. Second-generation Dominican youth in Providence Rhode Island mark themselves as Hispanic, as opposed to black. They show that they can "speak spanish in order to counter others' assumptions that they are "black". They are regularly mistaken for African-American, but they mark themselves as Hispanic as a preferred alternative to blackness. . Dominicans are also very particular about determining group membership: who is "Hispanic" and who is "Black". There are categories in which every Dominican is placed arranged by corresponding skin color and hair type.
Racial Category Racial Types Included
white rubio
blanco jipato

white-mulatto range blanco jojoto
indio lavado
indio claro
trigüeño claro

mulatto pinto
pinto jovero
indio canelo

black-mulatto range trigüeño oscuro
indio quemao
black moreno

Depending on the category, one is determined more/less attractive, more/less intelligent, and more/less marriageable, among other things. Although darker skin tones are rejected as too "black", there is a marked preference for "blackness" to be considered more intelligent. "The prettiest, smartest, and most likely to succeed girls were those perceived to have browner skin; coarser and curlier hair arranged in brains, buns, and twists; and fuller features while the girls perceived to have white skin, straight loose hair, and thin features were considered bland, dull, and superficial"Some of the women whom Candelario interviewed claimed a self-identity as both Black and Hispanic, unlike many other Dominican women. One woman said, "I'm still Dominican, but there is no question in my mind that I'm African. I describe myself as a black Hispanic woman. I'm black, but that's not all I am.".

Further reading

The Afro-Latin@ Project[605579] - The Afro Latin@ Project aims to document, promote, coordinate and support the development of Afro-Latin@ studies and grass roots activities in the United States. This primary focus is informed and enriched by the historical and contemporary experience of African-descendant peoples in the Americas.

Las [605580] - Las is a website filled with links to other websites about the influence of the African Diaspora on the Latin world.

RUSQ Afro-Latino Archives[605581] - An extensive list of books, films, memoirs, databases, and articles which provide more insight into the Afro-Latino experience, in and out of the United States.

See also


  1. "Pinn, Anthony B., and Benjamin Valentin. The Ties That Bind: African American and Hispanic American/Latino/a Theologies in Dialogue. New York: Continuum, 2001. 48.
  2. Pinn, Anthony B., and Benjamin Valentin. The Ties That Bind: African American and Hispanic American/Latino/a Theologies in Dialogue. New York: Continuum, 2001. 49.
  3. Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. 9th ed. Toronto: Alfred a Knopf, 1967. 24.
  4. Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. 9th ed. Toronto: Alfred a Knopf, 1967. 144-145.
  5. Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La New Frontera. 1st ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Book Company, 1987. 80.
  6. Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La New Frontera. 1st ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Book Company, 1987. 194.
  7. Grillo, Evelio. Black Cuban, Black American. Houston: Arte Publicio P, 2000. 11.
  8. Grillo, Evelio. Black Cuban, Black American. Houston: Arte Publicio P, 2000. 134.
  9. Ginetta, Candelario E. Black Behind the Ears. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. 1-2.
  10. Ginetta, Candelario E. Black Behind the Ears. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. 13.
  11. Ginetta, Candelario E. Black Behind the Ears. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. 17.
  12. Ginetta, Candelario E. Black Behind the Ears. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. 32.
  13. Ginetta, Candelario E. Black Behind the Ears. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. 171.

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