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Illustration by Anna Lee/Nubian Message
The Afro-Latinx story is one still not told enough during Black History Month. Illustration: Anna Lee/Nubian Message

Three facts to celebrate Afro-Latinos during Black History Month

February is Black History Month, but Afro-Latinos have often been omitted as part of this history. Here are three facts not be overlooked.

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For nearly 100 years, it has been a tradition to celebrate Black History Month to recognize the contributions of the African diaspora in the construction of the history of the United States and as a way to pay tribute to the people who fought for racial and social equality in the country.

However, as is common, history is told incompletely, and many do not know that the presence of Spanish-speaking Africans in North America dates back to the mid-16th century. In other words, Afro-Latinos have been part of U.S. history for centuries, but they have not been recognized and are often not part of Black History Month celebrations.

That's why we leave you with three essential facts you may not have known to place them at the center of the month of recognition:

1. Afro-Latinos were around even before the founding of the United States.

Yes, throughout South America and the Caribbean there were already Africans, and they were the first to settle in lands such as California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. There are records of Spanish-speaking Black Latinos from before the arrival of the English settlers.

Dania Santana explains that even after being enslaved, removed from their roots, and learning the Spanish language, Afro-Latinos in the United States faced great challenges. They endured cruelty and terrible conditions with the arrival of the English settlers.

2. Arturo Schomburg was the Puerto Rican who made the history of Afro-descendants known.

Much of the history of Afro-Latinos came to be known through oral traditions and also through research.

In the early 20th century, Schomburg, an Afro-Latino historian, was a very important figure in the cultural and artistic revolution that took place in Harlem during the 1920s and who took it upon himself to compile Afro-Latino history. He joined the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee and co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research, which brought together African, Caribbean, and African-American scholars.

He later served as president of the American Negro Academy, which focuses on Black history and literature.

3. The cultural legacy of Afro-Latinos

The African and Afro-Latino diaspora has contributed much culturally to American society. The mark carries not only the clear African ancestry, but also the heritage of the Spanish, their customs, and language.

We can find contributions in music such as salsa and reggaeton — in fact, almost all popular Latin American genres have an Afro-based rhythm (even tango); in literature, sports, politics, and food. It was Afro-Latinos who brought and blended crops from the African diaspora in the United States, using the wisdom of tropical agriculture that they knew in South America and the Caribbean.

If we were to list all the Afro-Latinx contributions or characters who have contributed from their trenches to what we know today as the United States, we would need a book in several volumes. But we invite you to do some research on the Afro-Latinx presence in the country.

Let's celebrate them by looking for them in music, literature, film, recognizing and making their work visible. Trying more and more to include them as part of the celebration of Black History Month.

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