BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – David Ortiz, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, Gina Torres, and the “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz, are names that may come to mind when thinking of notable members of the Afro-Latino community.
Yet, California State University, Bakersfield Political Science Professor Ivy Cargile says representation still is lacking for a group that, according to a Pew Research survey, makes up a quarter of all U.S. Latinos.
“You hardly ever see Latinx folks to then highlight the Afro-Latino community it becomes even harder because I think there is such a lack of representation of the larger Latinx community and then never mind the smaller groups within the larger Latinx culture,” said Cargile.
In 2020, there were about 6 million Afro-Latino adults in the U.S., making up about 2% of the U.S. adult population.
Many of those Afro-Latinos are fully bilingual or only speak some Spanish, with families linked to more than a dozen countries. Some have darker skin, and some have lighter skin, which subjects most to colorism.
“There is a Eurocentric vision of what people should look like in terms of the width of their lips, in terms of the shape of their nose, the color of the skin, to the texture of the hair, it’s very Eurocentric and because it’s very Eurocentric it’s very much the case that the lighter skin you are the more preferential treatment you’re going to receive from other people in society as well as even your own family,” said Cargile.
However, that view could be changing. According to the 2020 census, more than 1.3 million people identified as both Black and Hispanic, compared to 1.2 million in 2010. Cargile said she has seen a rise in acceptance of Afro-Latino identity since the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the protests over his death.
“People really started to think about their identity a lot more and people started to own their identity a lot more. I think what we’re seeing a lot more is people are proud of who they are even if within the larger community it may not be something that may be seen as a positive,” said Cargile.
This growing acceptance could change how Afro-Latinos are seen and create changes in the larger community. And could even make the Afro-Latino identity more visible on a larger scale, like making Celia Cruz the first Afro-Latina face on a U.S. quarter in 2024.
“I think what is happening people are realizing that they don’t have to be invisible anymore and they’re owning their identity they’re coming out, and they’re fighting for visibility and they’re fighting for rights,” said Cargile.