The story of Afro-Latinos springs from the larger narrative of the African diaspora, the dispersion of African peoples and their cultures to other parts of the world. Blacks have inhabited all of the Americas for centuries now. Some scholars argue that archaeological evidence in Central and South America indicates that Africans set foot in the “New World” well before Christopher Columbus ever did. “In They Came Before Columbus” and other writings, Ivan van Sertima points to Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s observation that the Africans that already inhabited the land the Europeans had “discovered” were found to be living at the terminal points of ocean currents that flowed from Africa to the Americas. Of course, the greatest influx of Afro-descendents took place in the post-Colombian era when Africans arrived with the European conquistadores, in some cases as companions in exploration and then, increasingly, as human chattel. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are now over 150 million Afro-Latinos in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of the West.
The book image to the left, is called The Afro-Latin@ Reader and it focuses attention on a large, vibrant, yet oddly invisible community in the United States: people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. The presence of Afro-Latin@s in the United States (and throughout the Americas) belies the notion that Blacks and Latin@s are two distinct categories or cultures. Afro-Latin@s are uniquely situated to bridge the widening social divide between Latin@s and African Americans; at the same time, their experiences reveal pervasive racism among Latin@s and ethnocentrism among African Americans. Offering insight into Afro-Latin@ life and new ways to understand culture, ethnicity, nation, identity, and antiracist politics, The Afro-Latin@ Reader presents a kaleidoscopic view of Black Latin@s in the United States. It addresses history, music, gender, class, and media representations in more than sixty selections, including scholarly essays, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, poetry, short stories, and interviews.