Multiracial LatinX Narrative

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Daniel Prieto

January 4, 2019

Growing up as a multiracial Latino has been interesting.  I grew up feeling as if I wasn’t dark enough to be with my Afro-Latinx family members; yet, not light enough to be around my phenotypically  European-looking family members even though we are all related.  Being called “gringo” growing up due to my light complexion was also common and because of such statements family members proclaimed that I was adopted.  Rude, I know.  I remember trying to figure out where I fit it within this dichotomy of black and white and being absolutely confused.  Folks in school would say that I am Latino and that’s that, but I didn’t personally identify with that at that time.  What made me a Latino even though my family looked like African-Americans around me and the larger Portuguese population around me in New England community?  Was it because I come from a Latin American island?  Because I speak Spanish?  But really, is that it?  How was I to be grouped in a huge umbrella of individuals who speak a Latin-based language that make up a part of the Western Hemisphere, and yet, my identity and experiences are completely different from theirs?  These are questions that I was asking myself at a very early age.  

 With that, my roots are Caribbean.  A mix of African and Taíno ancestry with a lineage directly from the Canary Islands.  All of this confirmed through oral history with my grandmothers.  Nevertheless, because I was of mixed race family members viewed me and my immediate family as “other.”  I remember being marginalized by my lighter skinned family from my father’s side as my brother and I are mixed.  My father, with Spanish ancestry, married my mother, an Afro-Puerto Rican woman with both African and mestizo roots.  And while every one might’ve had their own prejudices and biases, whether it were conscious or unconscious, I was always connected with my mother’s Afro-Puerto Rican family, particularly with my Black abuela who helped raise me.  While this may be the narrative of many who identify as Latino/Latina/Latinx, my upbringing assisted me in recognizing my privilege as a much lighter Latino and how I show up in spaces.  Additionally, what my upbringing taught me is that I am different from many other Latinx folks.  While many Latinx individuals are multiracial, not all are.  There are white-Latinx folks, Afro-LatinX folks, Indigenous LatinX folks, Arab-LatinX folks, Asian-LatinX folks, among others.  Thus, the LatinX community is not a monolith.  As someone with Caribbean roots, I cannot speak on behalf of someone who is Peruvian as that is not my experience even though we both might identify as LatinX due to coming from a geographic region that is Latin America as well as a similar history of both colonialism and settler colonialism.  Nevertheless, that same Peruvian cannot speak on behalf of someone who is from Paraguay or Brazil or Haiti, due to the differing histories of each of those nations respectively.  Brazil and Haiti often being left out of LatinX spaces altogether.  I cannot tell someone how many times I have walked into spaces for LatinX students and/or professionals and have been greeted with an “Hola Mi Gente!” or a “Buenos Días.” And while this may be cordial and familial for many not everyone who identifies as LatinX speaks Spanish.  I for example, grew up speaking English, Spanish, and Portuguese, later learning French and Haitian Creole in college.  And yet while individuals who identify as Haitian or Brazilian might’ve been recognized as a part of the community they did not always feel welcomed because of the hegemony of Spanish-speaking LatinX individuals in these spaces.  There also wasn’t a space for those who spoke indigenous languages such as Nahuatl languages, Q’anjobalan languages, Guaraní, Tupian languages, Igneri, Ngöbe, Garifuna, Aimara, Runasimi, among others. All of this to say, as a multiracial Latino, I didn’t feel comfortable in spaces that were still colonized and were still colonizing.  While I still identify as Latino due to my people’s history of being colonized by those that spoke a language of Latin origins, I also identify as multiracial because that is who I truly am. 

Moreover, I do believe that there is power in numbers.  Yes, I do believe that many folks prefer to identify as LatinX because of the region/country they come from and their shared history.  Yet, I also believe that in these times of uncertainty, racism, and prejudice that the importance of recognizing the large presence of LatinX-identifying individuals within the United States is imperative.  These numbers pertaining to the LatinX vote, the history of LatinX-identifying individuals who have helped to build the US, those who are US citizens and call the US home, and those who hold positions within US politics, among other fields.  This comes to show that yes, we are here, we’ve been here, that we are a huge demographic that makes up the American population, and that our voice has always been a part of US history.

Yet, I truly believe that LatinX-identifying individuals also need to start taking up space(s) made for multiracial folks.  One needs to remember that Latino/Latina/Latinx is not a race.  Thus, as mentioned previously, one can be a white-LatinX, Afro-LatinX, Indigenous-Latinx, among others.  Due to my own experiences within the larger LatinX community, I proudly share that I am multiracial and that I also identify as Latino, because it is okay to do that.  It’s important to share that colorism exists within the LatinX community.  It is okay to share that many of the literature that is out there on the LatinX community is very rich on ChicanX, Central American, and South American experiences; yet, not much makes mention of Caribbean experiences and/or non-Spanish speaking Latin American nations such as  Brazil and Haiti.  It is okay to call out colonialism still at play within LatinX spaces with the use of the Spanish language as the standard for folks, and spaces that are not made for Afro-LatinX individuals, indigenous-LatinX individuals, among others.  It is okay to criticize the term Latino/Latina/LatinX as it recognizes the European colonizer as the origin, and does not touch upon the people that were in the region for thousands of years.  

All of this to say that my hope is that these conversations continue and that the LatinX narrative continues to evolve and starts to really hone in on the racial differences more than it already has done within this population.  I do hope that such discourse makes room linguistically for individuals who identify as LatinX but who neither speak Spanish nor come from a Spanish-speaking Latin American country.  Thus, dialogue around the multiracial experience even within a LatinX context needs to occur more often as Latino/Latina/LatinX is not a race.  It is okay to deconstruct this term to help folks identify with their mixed race (if they indeed are of mixed race) and for them to find a sense of belonging and familiarity within this demographic.  This would lead to fruitful conversations around the multiracial experience of individuals who do not need to pick and choose who they are, but who have accepted their intersecting identities instead which enables them to show up as their true authentic selves in all spaces. 

Daniel (Danny) Prieto, currently serves as a Residence Hall Assistant Director for the Office of Residential Life and Housing Services at New York University.  Danny's higher education experience consists of working with both undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of residential life, enrollment management, and academic advising.  

Danny obtained a double Bachelors degree in Spanish Language & Literature and French Language & Literature from St. John's University as well as his first Master of Arts degree in Spanish Language & Literature from St. John's University respectively. Danny also holds a Master of Arts degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. 

He is a proud polyglot, being able to speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Haitian Kreyol. His research interests include Religio-spirituality development, representation of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands in the Hispanophone community, and representation of non-Spanish speaking populations within Latin America.  When he's not engulfed in the interpersonal relationships with his students and paraprofessional staff, Danny likes to spend time with his family in his hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut.     

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