Monday, August 22, 2005

My Class(es) of People Part Uno

There is a misconception about the Latino community: that racism doesn't exist. If you still think this is true, tune into any novela or watch el Principe Azul on Telemundo. I will write more about racism on Spanish language TV in another post.
What people do say, is that Latinos are extremely classists. I don't know if we are more class conscious than other people, I do know that we are not shy about it though, perhaps adding to the sense that Latinos are more aware of the differences access to money and other resources bring.

Earlier today I overheard my mother on a phone conversation with my grandmother. "He is there because he has money to be there but he still doesn't belong to that group of people."

The "he" in question is my great uncle, who was married to my mother's aunt (this is how may parents met). The "there" is the gated community in Puerto Rico where my tio moved after my great aunt passed from this world.

My mother went on to say that my tio chose to isolate himself in a community filled with people he couldn't speak to because his neighbors wanted to talk about museums and my uncle wanted to talk about farting and sex.

The statement my mother made was loaded with judgments about my tio and his family, which happens to be my family.

What is interesting is how in one family, the same family, separating lines are drawn along class lines

What determines class? The family we are born into? The family we make for ourselves? The education we receive? How much we know about topics given arbitrary high cultural ranking?

My father, always struggled against the circumstances he was born into. Born in la Trocha, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, the family was poor. Eventually my grandfather became an accountant. In his small, religious family, getting an education was stressed and my father became an attorney in New York City. From then on everything Puerto Rican, right down to his parents, became distasteful to him. He threw himself (taking my mother along with him) into the high cultural realm of city life which included the Metropolitan Opera, parties at the Plaza, and many a cocktail hour with local city politicians in the living room of my Brooklyn Heights early childhood home.

My mother wasn't a born society lady herself. She was born in the Columbus Landing caserio (housing project) in Mayaguez. Neither of her parents, my maternal grandparents, became professionals. My mother, however did go to college and pursued a career in fashion before getting married.

My great uncle, my father's biological uncle, who helped raise my mother, doesn't have a college degree. He fought in the Korean War and spent the rest of his life working his ass off to provide for his wife, my mother's biological aunt (who didn't go to college either. She had a degree in interior design from a correspondence school)

My dear tia (may she rest in peace) never seemed to be comfortable among her own family (much like my father). She was for years the only family of color in her Suffolk County neighborhood (until her sister moved down the street). When I was growing up, especially after my parents separated, leaving me wanting sometimes for basics like socks, I swore that my Titi and Tio and Long Island were rich. They had a big house with many bedrooms and a big yard. The house was furnished with French style furniture. For awhile I told all my friends in elementary school that I wasn't Rican but French based solely on this fact. It didn't help that my mother's side of the family created a myth about a connection to Corsica which is still unclear to me (it seems that perhaps my maternal grandmother as a child lived on a plantation where her father worked in the fields and that the owner was originally from Corsica- I have to do more research on this). In that big Long Island house, my Titi reinforced a sense of nostalgia for Europe by pulling out books pointing to mentions of my last name that belonged to Spanish conquistadors.

It was here that class, race, and nationalism began to fight in my head.


Blogger maaarco said...

Uhm, Latinos are the most racist of them all. So there is no misconception there at all. I mean, geez, look at what we call black people? Negro, Sambo, Prieto, Quemado, and a whole bunch of others that escape me.

The most interesting piece of exposition here is your aunt telling you how your name meant bling back in the days.

Your capable of better writing than this. Try writing from a more limited-omniscient POV. Think of yourself as viewed from the third-person.

"My Class(es) of People Part Uno"

Your use of the word "uno" is still exoticizing the Spanish language. I wish you saw how doing so is just as bad as writing about swinging from banana trees while eating a mango and in between chews, chirping like a coqui... It's not fresh or new.


Here's some info about afro-latino identities. Since some Latinos have afros--a great many Puerto Ricans especially. (You see, and you say there is a misconception about Latinos being racist? It's just an accepted norm. The white make fun of all. The cholos take it to the blacks. The blacks take it to the cholos. It's the same as it is here and anywhere else--it'd be nice to be white and not have to deal with this drama. And the white Latino is the shit--light skinned and still kicking the Latino flavor? hollar.) Of course he'd be worse than any fucking redneck.

The Africana Studies Group Presents

"Any enemy of the Black man is the enemy of me": Departures and Definitions of Afro-Latino Identity in the New Millennium

All Day Conference, Friday, 17 March 2006

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York , 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

In the wake of the 2000 U.S. Census, the media was filled with headlines declaring that Latinos "outnumbered" African Americans, 35.3 and 34.7 million respectively, replacing them as the largest "minority" in the United States. According to these same census figures, "17.6 million Hispanics described themselves as white, 939,471 Hispanics described themselves as black, and 16.7 million checked off neither white nor black but "other." These census figures represent the manner in which some Latinos, when asked to specify their racial identity, privilege their European and indigenous ancestry over their African heritage. As historian George Reid Andrews notes in Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000, "during the period of slavery, ten times as many Africans came to Spanish and Portuguese America (5.7 million) as to the United States (560,000). By the end of the 1900s, Afro-Latin Americans outnumbered Afro-North Americans by three to one (110 million and 35 million, respectively) and formed, on average, almost twice as large a proportion of their respective populations" (22 percent in Latin America, 12 percent in the United States) (1). It is understood here that Spanish and Portuguese America also includes the Hispanophone Caribbean, as Andrews' maps of Afro-Latin America indicate. Implicit in our use of the 2000 census statistics is the awareness that a significant percentage of those 35.3 million Latina/o(s) are the descendants and immigrants of the Afro-Latin American diaspora.

The 19th century Cuban poet, critic, and revolutionary José Martí declared that "any enemy of the Black man is the enemy of me" in recognition of the centrality of Africa to TransAmerican culture and identity; following Martí, our conference seeks to identify, interrogate, and ignite discourse and dialogue on African, Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin American, and Afro-American cultural and political histories that may, in turn, acknowledge the formidable potential of such linkages in the face of our shared histories of oppression and resistance.

Continuing our work from the 2004 Black Feminisms and 2005 Black Masculinities Conference, the African Studies Group (ASG) and the Institute for Research in the African Diaspora and the Caribbean (IRADAC), both of the City University of New York's Graduate School and University Center, seek papers that will contribute to the identification and articulation of the socio-cultural and geo-political correlations inherent to these multifarious diasporas. Activists, artists, and undergraduates are encouraged to submit papers. We also invite papers in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

The Ancient African presence in the Americas

Borderlands and Border Studies

Cosmologies, Magical Realism, Origin Narratives

Caribbean Epic Poetry

Dub Poetry

Nation Language

Nuyorican Aesthetics

Afro-Latin Music

Afro-Latino Film

Afro-Latin American Film

Afro-Latin American Resistance

The West Indian presence in Central and South America

Afro-Latino and Afro-Latin American Genders

Afro-Latino and Afro-Latin American Sexualities

Afro-Latino/a and Afro-Latin American Drama

Race and Class in Brazil

Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Afro-Latino/a and Afro-Latin American Fiction

Puerto Rican Liberation Movement

Afro-Puerto Rican Identity

Latino and African American Collaborations


Cultural Translation

Politics of Language

Dominicans in the United States



Queer Afro-Latino and Afro-Latin American identities



Intersections of Race and Class

The Triple Struggle and/or the Quadruple Struggle




8/25/2005 09:34:00 AM  

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