‘negro’: exploring identity and the color complex among latinos

December 4, 2013

‘NEGRO’ is a docu-series exploring identity, colonization, racism and the African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean and the color complex among Latinos. Through candid interviews from Latinos, the social manifestations and consequences of the deep-seated color complex is deconstructed.
There are over 150 million AfroLatinos in the Americas, but invisibility remains a major issue not only in their respective countries but also in the U.S. I created NEGRO: A docu-series about Latino Identity because as a Panamanian-American I was raised with a deep sense of the African Diaspora, awareness, pride and admiration for the African influences and legacies in the Americas. My skin tone, hair texture and phenotype were celebrated within my family but at the same time, I noticed these were the very things denigrated and scorned in mainstream Latino media and within the Latino community at-large.

By Dash Harris, AFROPUNK Contributor
Director of the ‘Negro’ docu-series

For every modern social ill, there is a historical cause and NEGRO aims to shed light on the connections and amplify voices that discuss these issues. Race, color, class, gender politics are deconstructed and people tell their own lived experiences of colorism, discrimination, isolation and tales of identity policing.

There are 30 video shorts, some streaming online and some for rental in addition to the 2-hour DVD, on these vast and various topics informed by the deeply ingrained color-obsessed colonial heritage and white supremacy. The FINDING IDENTITY series of videos focuses on how individual Latinos found their identity through hardships, isolation from other Latinos, colorism, pain, love and connection. Interviews were done in the U.S., Colombia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru, Panama and Costa Rica. Colonization was {and is] a perfect system used to justify our enslavement, our submission, the eradication of our varied languages, culture, religions and beliefs but NEGRO aims to reclaim these stories of our diasporic resiliency. [www.negrodocumentary.com] [fundraising page: www.gofundme.com/negrodocu]

14-minute preview of two hour documentary:


The prevailing narrative is that Latin Americans as a whole does not associate with their African ancestry. The generalization undoubtedly rings true on many levels, macro, micro and media, with no question there is tremendous work to be done, but it doesn’t take into account the complicated local climate of the many regions, people and organizations that do uphold Africa as one of our motherlands and fight for human rights denied because of that fact. I urge you to travel and see for yourself. A major factor that people from the U.S. need to consider is contextualized history, divorced from U.S. bias. Every Latin American is different as is the history of their country and their historical processes. Latin America did not and does not work in the way the U.S. does. Historically, during enslavement, up until right now, Afrodescendants have acted against injustices, no matter how small or large the awareness was. Changes are slowly being addressed and it is at the self-determination of AfroLatinos faced with the monumental task of opposing centuries of un-challenged European-aggrandizing societal norms.

The Spanish caste system, drawings depicting the racial mixing occurring in the Americas for Spain to view, were the foundations of the color complex that informs social norms and attitudes: African and indigenous blood was undesirable and inferior, whiteness was deemed so valuable, it could even be bought and proven with certificates of this “blood purity.” After this hierarchy was normalized and permeated within every aspect of society, the white supremacists politicians and dictators charged with running the government and molding the minds of the people as they carved out their euro-centric national identity on the world-stage codified this white worship. Those running the country were naturally descendants of the “elite” and “superior” European colonizers, or were performing and mimicking them, agents of the same power structure. Those opposed were brutally silenced. Power doesn’t like to be shared and these descendants were loyal to Spain and its beliefs and made sure this was carried into the contemporary. From governmental “whitening” policies to Afrodescendants being unrecognized in the country’s population or relegated to live in low-resource areas, it is difficult to express your anguish when at the same time you are being neglected, you are told you are part of “mestizaje” and a mixed part of the Latin American identity. Discrimination deemed as imaginary and not as easily named and contended with as it was in the U.S. The systematic racial animus seen to this day, just observe the political and physical violence in the Dominican Republic in its recent citizen-stripping ruling on Haitians and Dominico-Haitians.

There is little difference in the mentality from those who thought European blood supreme enough to rank it, from those in power in Latin America today. Those controlling the media, crafting “education”, and making policy and laws, many of which specifically marginalize and endanger Afrodescendants in their countries, do not represent the majority of Latin America so they do not cater to or consider them. The constant brain[white]washing took centuries to perfect and the same tactics used to keep the masses subservient and hopeless is perpetuated by them in beliefs of bettering the race through marriage with a light or white partner, preferring straight hair over “pelo malo” and praising European ancestry over others. Sound familiar?