For the last week of Black History Month and for the LatiNegr@s Project, I've decided to send out some questions to LatiNegr@s in my life who I've learned from, been mentored by, and have built community with and share them with you all. I thank each of them for agreeing to share their lives with us and to share them publicly. The first interviewee is: Anthony Otero aka latinegro.
Q. What identities do you embrace/have/claim? (race, class, ethnicity, ability, national origin, documentation status, primary language, sexual orientation, gender, etc.)
I consider myself Latino. I am second generation with my grand parents coming from Puerto Rico and Ecuador. Since I am black as well I will often say I am Afro-Latino as well. To me it is implied but i emphasize it for those who do not know any better. I speak mostly English. I understand Spanish better than I speak it. I often joke that I know survival Spanish. I can find food, a place to stay and a hospital..
Q. Do you have a preference regarding the terms LatiNegr@, Afr@-Latin@, etc? If so, which one and why?
A. I can switch either name considering that my screen name is Latinegro.
Q. What images/texts/narratives were available to you growing up about LatiNegr@s?
A. No images I can remember. I was often confused about my identity because I never saw people like me on TV. I mean there were baseball players but at the time Latino were not as big in the 80's as they are now. The only person I knew to be dark and Latino was Celia Cruz. My parents had all her albums.
Q. Is there a specific or pivotal time in your life that stands out as being imperative to your consciousness as a LatiNegr@?
A. Definitely my college years. I was too dark to hang out with other Latinos and too Latino to really hang out with black students. I made it work of course. At that time I had more in common with African Americans but as I grew older I began to miss the culture that my my family instilled in me. I always had a longing to know more about people like me. Years past after I graduated from Syracuse University when I was asked to come back and work in Student Affairs. It was when I started working with students and taking classes again that i embraced the Latinego name and persona.
Q. What are your thoughts about the lived experiences of LatiNegr@s all over the world having similar experiences with those living in the US (i.e. HIV rates).
A. Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that I am still learning about the plight of the Afro-Latino. I think that conditions across Latin America are very bad for our people. Discrimination is all over the place and it is perpetuated by those lighter skinned Latinos that refuse to realize the African influence in out collective culture. We are invisible people.
Q. What symbols/rituals/etc. are important to you for maintaining community (locally, internationally, virtually) with other LatiNegr@s?
A. The most important thing to me is recognition. I think we need to recognize we are indeed in the same boat just based on history.
Q. Is there a book/image/quote/artifact/etc. that is important to you to symbolize your identity? If so, will you share one with us?
A. I will tell you about where I got "latinegro" from. A few years ago I wrote a research paper called "The Fluid Identity of the Latino Negro". In the process of writing this I had to find articles about the Latino culture as it relates to cultural racism. I found this article by Marta I. Cruz-Janzen called "¿Y Tu Abuela A'onde Está? She went so deep into the cultural racism of Latinos and this is where I first saw the term "Latinegro". I fell in love with the name and took it as my own mantle. I emailed her awhile back and she helped me with my research. From her research there is a book that I have been dying to get, but just have not been able to get my hands on called: "No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today". It came out in 1995.
Q. What else would you like to share with readers?
A. I want to say that this project is something that I take huge pride in. I think that together. Bianca, the Professor, and I, are a great tandem. We are only at the tip of the ice berg with our blogs and I would like to think this is only the beginning of numerous collaborations. This is a volunteer effort. What we do is not for money or for fame. We asked many people to join us in our efforts and many have declined. I think that is indicative of the Afro-Latino struggle.
Q. Is there a way readers can reach you through social media?
A. I am on twitter as latinegro. I also have a fan page on Facebook as well. Of course, you can find me under my real name. I am a very humble person. I am very grateful for everyone's efforts and time to come out and read my blog: Inside My Head. I have recently created a tumbler page for just poetry. I welcome all comments. Let me also thank Bianca for highlighting me...she is awesome!
Many thanks to Anthony for sharing! Please go find him on the web and visit his virtual homes. Don't forget to visit the LatiNegr@s Tumblr Page and consider submitting something. The page will be available year-round as people are welcome to submit as often as they like.