“Only once I moved to New York had I experienced the privilege of knowing another language. I learned that there are so many countries, cultures, and traditions that make up Latin America. I appreciate DUSA staff because they are patient with me.”
I was extremely nervous when I walked up to the Dominicanos USA table at Catholic Charities. I didn’t know anything about the job. But the most important thing was to be employed. I wanted to get a taste of adulthood. I was excited to register people to vote and surprised to learn how easy filling out the form was. But the hardest thing was to get clients. I never realized how difficult it is to make people care about an integral part of society. Sometimes they just don’t know certain information. Citizens who have lived in America for decades don’t know what state primaries are. I don’t remember many clients only how hard I worked to get them.
One of my biggest challenges is being monolingual. I moved from Georgia to New York the summer before freshman year. Most of the kids in my old school were black or white. There were about 10 Latinos that I knew. I knew learning Spanish would be a good skill to have but didn’t think it would be necessary. One summer I read a book about a girl whose parents were undocumented. The book opened my eyes to the fact that not all Latinos are Mexican. I was ignorant because we only learned about America, the Middle East, and Europe in Social Studies. Only once I moved to New York had I experienced the privilege of knowing another language. I learned that there are so many countries, cultures, and traditions that make up Latin America. I appreciate DUSA staff because they are patient with me. Especially Darleny, Rocio, and Austine. Everyday I come home from work, I’m very exhausted but I still love my job. I love contributing to social change, helping people, and earning money.
***This is a guest post by one of Summer 2018’s Young Voices, Joyce Allen Marks. Interested in donating to Dominicanos USA? Click here!
We typically associate Black History Month with African-Americans. Since this is commonly the case, what does Black History have to do with the Latinx community? There is a tendency to view “black” and “Latinx” as separate entities, as if they have nothing to do with each other. However, there are significant populations of Latinxs throughout the countries of Latin America who are of African descent. These African- descended Latinxs are commonly referred to or self-identify, primarily in the U.S., as “Afro-Latinxs”. With that said, what do African-Americans and Afro-Latinxs have in common? We are black! Yet there is not nearly enough mention of the Afro-Latinx experience in the U.S. during this commemorative month. Looking back into our history, African-Americans and Afro-Latinxs share a common lineage. The conversation about the
Seen at the 54th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade along Fifth Avenue Sunday, June 12, 2011 in Manhattan, New York.
history of the transatlantic slave trade and the experience of enslaved people is typically focused on those who came to the U.S., especially in the South. However, only approximately 400,000 out of the 10.7 million of the enslaved Africans who survived the Middle Passage came to the U.S. over the course of the transatlantic slave trade. Thus, the majority of the Africans who survived the voyage to the Americas arrived in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The Africans who arrived in the U.S. and Latin America left a significant impact on the African-American, Afro-Latinx, and broader communities. Their descendants continue to preserve, shape, and maintain the influence left behind by their ancestors. From the music to the food, from literature and the arts to religion, there is a notable African presence that exists in both cultures. Now, what does this all mean?
“Essentially, what differs us from each other is where our African ancestors landed during the transatlantic slave trade.”
So, why should Latinxs be included in the celebration of Black History Month? Firstly, we should honor the achievements and sacrifices of the African-American community and acknowledge the horrors they endured to fight for the rights that not only African- Americans have the freedom to exercise today, but rights that continue to benefit all groups, including the Latinx community.
Secondly, Black History Month should be a celebration of all African descendants and the contributions they have made to the U.S.; there are also notable Afro-Latinx figures that made their mark in American history who deserve recognition as well. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, a Puerto Rican of African and German descent, was a historian, writer, and activist during the Harlem Renaissance who raised awareness pertinent to the contributions African-Americans and Afro-Latinxs made in society.
Schomburg’s collection of African artifacts, art, literature, and narratives of enslaved people became the basis for the construction of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, housed in the New York Public library. Roberto Clemente, who was a Puerto Rican of African descent, became the first Latino player inducted into the Hall of Fame. Afro-Dominican Junot Diaz, writer and professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and MacArthur Fellow. Celia Cruz, who was Afro-Cuban, is recognized as the one of the most popular and renowned Latin artists of all time. She is known internationally as “The Queen of Salsa.”
These influences are a few of the many examples of Afro-Latinxs making history in the United States of America. Let us proudly celebrate Black History Month. Let us celebrate our African roots. We need to stop differentiating ourselves from the African-American community, because we are all part of the black community. It does not matter if we speak a different language. That just shows how truly diverse we—the people of the African Diaspora— are. As we move forward, let us work on sharing our narrative as Afro-Latinxs during this month, because Black History Month is OUR month too; because black history is also OUR history. And we deserve a seat at the table.
As part of the Dominican Heritage Month celebration, DUSA has been pleased to present the work of Persio Minier, an active and respected member of the Latin American artistic community whose current exhibition, Ancestral Exploration, celebrates Dominican-American culture through abstract and figurative paintings.
An important and (albeit controversial) theme in the Dominican-American community is bi-nationalism and transnationalism in which Dominican-Americans continue to show great pride in their homeland as you can see with the flags hanging from their fire escapes, or the habichuela con dulce lady on Burnside. And maintain strong ties to the Dominican Republic, and at the same time embrace and engage the United States. This is well known anecdotally when having a conversation or interacting with Dominican Americans, but the survey that we commissioned was able to quantify it. It looked at the extent to which these transnational ties remain as well as to assess how a sense of transnational connection may serve as a bridge to further engagement in politics in America. Dominicans are beating the stereotype and proving to the general public that the Kardashians are not the only public figures they follow- they also follow political figures. We can observe a pattern of higher levels of interest and engagement in politics in the U.S. among those with the higher levels of engagement with homeland issues.
To start, those with higher levels of transnational engagement have higher levels of following politics in the U.S. Among those with higher DR-engagement, 45% say they read/watch 4 or more news stories about issues and politics in the U.S. compared to just 26% who read/watch 4 or more in the lower DR- engagement category. This means that those with high transnationalism are also much more likely to reject the cynical view that “voting is just not for me” or “yo voto basura,” with 79% of those with high DR-ties rejecting that view compared to 57% among those with low DR-ties. Respondents with higher DR‐engagement are more likely to be persuaded by a chance to elect more Dominican Americans to office.
Not surprisingly, they are very likely to be motivated by Dominican advocacy groups and events that stress both Dominican Republic and Dominican American issues. Fully 91% of those with high DR-ties said they would be interested in participating in such transnational events in their city. However, we should note that even among those with lower DR-ties, the survey still finds that 71% are interested in participating in such transnational events, suggesting that even for those who may not be as actively engaged with homeland issues, there remains a powerful draw for transnational and homeland politics, especially if it is coupled with a focus on Dominican American issues.