latino experience


So I just completed a documentary title “Dancing in the Dark” which tells a story of the black and latino american gay experience and how it goes hand and hand with night culture and it would be super dope if you people were able to check out this film as it relate to current issues of today.

By @adomakoaman
The Afro-Latino Experience: Where Information and Acceptance Come Together
When Dania Peguero, a 41-year-old Afro-Dominican raised in Providence, RI speaks in Spanish, some people are puzzled. Her dark skin and…
By Adriana Falero

When Dania Peguero, a 41-year-old Afro-Dominican raised in Providence, RI speaks in Spanish, some people are puzzled. Her dark skin and coarse hair are associated by some with being African-American, while her fluent Spanish and Dominican surname point that she is Latina.

After physically meeting someone she talked to on the phone for years, Peguero was told: “I thought you were Hispanic because of your name.” She skipped the history lesson she usually gives to the people surprised to find out she is Latina and simply responded: “I am.”

“People can’t just go by what mainstream media is telling them about what a Latino looks like.” Peguero said. “That’s not a good representation of who we really are. The richness of our diversity as Latinos is what makes us great. We all have something to offer.”

She and her sister Vilma Peguero founded Black Latina Negra Bella (BLNB) to empower Afro-Latinas. The company aims to educate the public on the meaning of Afro-Latindad and celebrate the diversity of all Latinos.

Discord chat for black discussions

I wanna start or join a discord group meant specifically for black people to discus black issues in a more personal manner. It’s a great app to use because you can create however many chat’s and voice rooms as you want. Each Call can have a limited amount of people. And text channels can be named for specific prepossess and muted so you’re not bombarded with notifications. Roles can also be set to minimize trolling and toxic behavior. The app has a lot of cool features and I think it could be a wonderful way to share ideas and reading in a safe and moderated place. It could also be a place to organize and keep up with protests as they happen. If anyone is interested in getting it started please let me know.
To the Latinos Who Can't Speak Spanish
By John Paul Brammer

“No hablo español.”

I never learned how to say it without feeling embarrassed.

Maybe I was just being sensitive, but I swear people would look at me differently when I told them, as if they had just offended me.

“Oops,” the look said. “Sorry. I thought you were Latino.”

And I was. And I am. But I didn’t have the words to tell them.

I couldn’t speak Spanish — and it was a wall that separated me from my culture for most of my life.

Much has been written about what it means to be Latino. I haven’t read it all, but I’ve read a lot, and I still haven’t found a consensus on the definitive “Latino experience.” Or, at least, I haven’t found one that I feel comfortable enough to claim.

What I do know is that, for me, words like Chicano, Hispanic and Mexican-American are often thrown around. I know that we are every race and color. And I know that, for many of us, “diaspora” is an important part of our identities.

- Dear America !

America was built by the labor of slaves, blacks. And is still being supported by the hard work of immigrants and other nationalities. The United States of America isn’t at the least united at all, it’s even more divided than ever. It is us the blacks, Africans/ African Americans, Latinos and other beautiful nationalities that make up this country. We are the back bone. The hard working. We do the jobs that others don’t dare to do. Yet we are the minorities. We get looked down upon. We do all the work and never get the credit we solely deserve. We work our asses off and make it to the top of our professions and still if that company has an ideal image in mind they will pick that white man over the black man or Latino who has experience, several degrees.. the Bachelors, MBA or Phd because he still isn’t what that company wants to project unto white America. I was born NOT in this country I came here at age 4. I’ve always been a hard worker and I still am, do you know how frustrating it is when some challenges your intelligence because they hear a little of your accent after every other two words. Of thinks less of you because your skin is darker. Do you really understand how it feels when people think just because you came from a country that America portrays as a 3rd world country, that you was one of the lucky ones that survived and came to a country to better yourself? No of course some of you don’t because you were born here and everything is handed to you, yet some of you still amount to nothing with all the privileges in front of you, you still end up no where. Yet hate on the little black boy or Latino girl who grew up and made something of themselves.

@jimenezadriana I remember when her stardom started, Mexico and the whole hispanic media was talking about her as one of their own so I’m guessing this whole controversy started recently ? She’s not Latina though. She was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and moved back to Kenya when she was one. She was raised in Kenya to Kenyan parents and culture. She knows Spanish ( not at a full proficiency level) because she went to Mexico for 7 months to learn the language. She doesn’t represent Latino identity or culture. She cannot relate to the Latino experience in America or in Mexico. There are so many powerful black Latina artists that go unnoticed and underrepresented and we’re here trying to argue about Lupita’s heritage ? 😡

it wouldn’t let me reply to you flat out so i’m making it work my own way

She’s not Latina though” is a fickle ass game the latinx community has been committed to for centuries and that shit is DEAD. you read her wikipedia page and got the little two sentences about her moving back to Kenya at one and the lil seven months blurb as if that’s the end all-be all of her connecting with her birthplace

Lupita Nyong’o is fluent in Spanish, first and foremost, she went to school and immersed and continued to study and did all the proper things that any non-native Spanish speaking latina would do to learn the language

she represents “the latino identity” as her literal birthright because no matter what you feel or believe or don’t feel or believe, she is Mexican by birth and is entitled to every right that comes with that

the latinx identity doesn’t come with levels. it’s not a game of who is “more or less latino”. from that nonsense, she’d be more latino than Mexican-Americans born in the US because she was actually born in Mexico. that’s such an isolating ideology to cling to. because there are second, third, fourth gen Mexican/Cuban/Dominican/etc-Americans right here, fighting to be taken seriously in this “latino identity” based on things they couldn’t control, ie their birthplace, not being taught Spanish, not “looking latino” enough, etc. and other bullshit 

afrolatinos fighting for visibility in their respective countries are all deserving of a platform of being represented, including the ones not born in a latin nation, including the ones who didn’t grow up Spanish speaking, including the ones who are latinos by third generation, including the ones who born in a latin country who left it at any point in

and the “latino experience” is different across all cultures, across generations, across specific families even, and everyone knows that. but the one thing that seems to remain the same is that everyone tries to play the “latino enough” game with the black ones. there are vocal afrolatina women who are in the spotlight and are highlighted and held up for being “authentic” and they STILL have to fight to be taken seriously in this antiblack ass society

so please, miss me with that “she’s not latina though” mess

Rethinking African Religions: African Americans, Afro-Latinos, Latinos, and Afro-Cuban Religions in Chicago By Jadele McPherson


Spring 2007, Vol. 26, Issue 1, pp. 121-141 

Copyright © College Vanderbilt University. Department of Spanish and portuguese Spring 2007.

One day, after studying abroad in Havana, Cuba, I saw a familiar yet seemingly out-of-place object on my mother’s windowsill. I was confused as to why my mother would have a statue of Santa Barbara in her room. One would more likely find this figure on a Catholic altar or maybe on an elaborate altar of a practicing santero or santera, both of which my mother is not. “May I take that Santa Barbara for my boveda?” I asked her. Eyes and the corners of her lips dancing, my mother did not crack a smile. “Santa Barbara does not leave the house,” she announced. It had been there since before I was born, at times accompanied by perfume, rum, and cigars.

Like many practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions, my parents silenced my mother’s history with Regla de Ocha and Espiritismo (Spiritism) during my childhood and teenage years. As an African American with Caribbean ancestry (from my mother), growing up in African American, Latino, and Caribbean communities in New York City and New Jersey has led me to probe family silences around our religious practices and connections between our genealogy in the Deep South and throughout the Caribbean. These silences are informed by popular ideas about culture and race, and are also related to the silencing of intersections between African American, Afro-Latino, and Latino histories and cultures in academic migration histories and ethnographies. Investigating religious practices within these communities in the United States provides new perspectives on contemporary urban race relations, urban communities, and African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Latino identity constructions. This article attempts to break some of these silences by exploring African American and Latino relations and comparative race relations in Chicago’s Afro-Cuban religious practitioner community.

Rethinking African American Appropriation of Orisha Practices in the United States

Among the plethora of scholarship about Afro-Cuban religious practices, as well as their origins and development, there is a silence concerning how African Americans and Latinos have formed multi-ethnic religious communities through Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism in the urban United States (Trouillot 53). Frequently, Afro-Cuban religious studies do not take into account interrelations of Ocha to Spiritism and Palo practices, which are also linked to the ethnically and racially diverse body of practitioners. Afro-Latino and African American relations have reshaped their communities due to significantly increasing migrations within and immigration to the United States, especially in the past two decades. These silences are exemplified in the lack of scholarship about Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices in African American and Latino communities in Chicago.

Chicago variations on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices incorporate common narratives that link local African American and Latino experiences to the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora. Yet Chicago Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices also show that Afro-Cuban religions cannot be indicators of whether a cultural group (practitioners) is more authentically African than another. Local cultural identity, race relations, and migrations primarily inform how African American and Latino practitioners connect ideas of blackness, Africanity, authenticity, and ancestry in Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism to popular and academic African American and Latin American historical narratives.

Critics often characterize United States African American Ocha practice as an attempt to reclaim lost African identity. This loss of African roots is tied to a particular anthropological narrative about the cruel and inhumane Atlantic Slave Trade and North America. Slavery becomes an ambiguous trope within typical historical narratives: slavery, abolition, nation-state independence, and subsequent emergence of a new nation-state that defines its multi-racial population through national identity. Marronage, or the formation of free runaway slave communities, as in the case of the Saramaka of Suriname, also challenges the traditional slavery to nation-state narrative. This trope is often connected to ideas about “preservation” of African culture and “tradition.”

Herskovitzs’ scale of “Africanisms” created after his return from Suriname in 1929 first established the trope of the Saramaka as “the most African” in the Western hemisphere (Scott 277-78). Richard Price’s First Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People (1983) about the Saramaka fifty years later would become a hallmark in American anthropology, also asserting that the Saramaka were the most “African” of African Americans. Socio-historical processes of African enslavement that developed along distinctive trajectories throughout the Afro-Atlantic world cannot account for differences between African American cultures alone. The narrative that protestant Anglo-American colonial societies did not permit as much transmission of African cultural identity as did Caribbean and Latin American slave societies commonly treats U.S. African Americans as the least “African” of African Americans (277-78). It downplays structural racism in Latin America and the Caribbean; defining African American cultures according to what European colonial societies “permitted,” rather than recognizing that African Americans consciously developed cultural identities and historical narratives through varied processes in all slave societies. In this way, nationalist historical narratives and identities can be problematic for interrogating African American cultures. Too often they superficially insert African history and culture, negating African Americans’ roles in development of the nation-state through political and other spheres, and fail to account for the violent histories of oppression and marginalization of African Americans throughout the hemisphere. These narratives create separate cultural imaginaries for U. S. African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans (Dulitzsky, qtd. in Dzidzienyo and Anani 48-50).

Additionally, ethnographies celebrate Afro-Haitian Vodoun, Afro-Brazilian Candomble, and Afro-Cuban Ocha religious practices as the ultimate signs of African cultural authenticity in the hemisphere. Practitioners have popularized Afro-Atlantic religions by connecting them to broader historical discourses in the Diaspora, exemplified in the focus on ancestry in Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American religious practices. Rather than examining Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism as African “survivals,” ethnography illustrates how practitioners from Cuba to Chicago continually develop systems of belief hinged on differing racial ideology and cosmology from dominant society.

Walter King of Detroit, founder of Oyotunji Village in South Carolina, is often described as the “first” African American to become initiated as a priest into Afro-Cuban Regla de Ocha, which he did in Matanzas, Cuba in 1959. Focus on the unique Oyotunji African American community has allowed him to discuss African Americans in Afro-Cuban Lucumi practice (Palmie 77).

It still remains unclear exactly how long African Americans have collaborated with Cubans and Puerto Ricans in shared rituals, as African American and Latino practitioners have disagreed on aesthetics and ideologies in Orisha practice. Presently, in Chicago, some factions of African American practitioners apart from Oyotunji priest(esses) reject Cuba and Puerto Rico as authentic centers of Orisha practice and refer “directly” to Nigeria. This theology legitimizes Nigerian Yoruba practices, challenging the Caribbean as an authentic center of Yoruba religion. It is a root of tension among African Americans and Afro-Latinos in overlapping Yoruba religious practitioner communities (Nigerian Ifa vs. Afro-Cuban Lucumi). Yet many African Americans (as well as some Afro Anglophone Caribbean) houses in Chicago consistently work with Afro-Cubans in Lucumi rituals. However, whether practicing Ifa or Lucumi, African Americans have a point of entry into Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism that challenges the characterization of appropriation of Afro-Latino religious practices in historiography. As Zora Neale Hurston addressed in her ethnography on African American folk religion in Florida, known as Hoodoo, the silencing of cultural connections between African Americans and Afro-Latinos contributes to a skewed narrative about African American appropriation of Afro-Latino religions. Though Oyotunjians were interested in Orisha worship as a means to acquire “lost culture,” many African American practitioners embrace Orisha worship as a genuine recuperation of cultural heritage because it mirrors common beliefs and practices in African American culture rooted in the Deep South. Generally, African Americans in the United States do not view Hoodoo as a “religion.” They prefer to identify with Black churches, which condemn some aspects of Hoodoo practice, while incorporating others like “catching the spirit” as Christian and labeling cleaning a house with sage, incense or talking out loud to deceased family members as “cultural” (which African Americans do not always connect to being African) rather than religious practices.

In Chicago, African American Ocha practitioners are most certainly aware of Hoodoo, and many have strong kinship and cultural ties to the American South. Thus, local and cultural ideas about blackness and African cultural identity also inform authentic Ocha and Spiritist ritual practice, even in non-black Latino communities. As far as scholarship on the majority non-black Latino practitioners in Chicago and other cities, what motivates appropriation of Afro-Cuban religions has hardly been interrogated as it has been in the case of African Americans.

Eggun: Afro-Cuban Origins and Problematizing Authenticity

In The Altar of My Soul (2000), Afro-Puerto Rican author, scholar, and Ocha priestess Marta Moreno Vega narrates her story of initiation into Ocha in Cuba. During this process, she becomes part of a long family line of active and committed women santeras and espiritistas. Vega’s story recognizes that enslaved Yoruba Africans were not just brought to Cuba, but also to Puerto Rico (and other Caribbean islands), contributing to a conversation about legacies, tradition, and authenticity in the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora.

In Afro-Cuban religions, ancestry is a pivotal concept that privileges the Yoruba and Congo as African ethnic legacies. These ethnicities have become associated with African cultural “survivals” in specific Latin American and Caribbean regions. Despite the large populations of present-day Yoruba and Congo enslaved Africans brought to Cuba and Puerto Rico, these ethnic identities developed during what Stephan Palmie calls “ethnogenesis,” which describes the process of acculturation enslaved Africans negotiated to develop a common culture and identity in order to communicate with one another and to survive. Yoruba and Congo derived religious practices are not specific to Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, or Puerto Rico (they also exist in Colombia, Trinidad, Venezuela). As J. Lorand Matory demonstrates in the case of Brazil, Afro-Brazilians strategically formed Yoruba identity through transnational relations throughout the Afro-Atlantic world.

Within Brazilian and Cuban societies, there are local regional contestations around Orisha and Spiritist practices. In Cuba, Havana and Matanzas-style practices or heavily Haitian-influenced from the Province of Oriente represent main regional variations on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism. Regional differences in the Caribbean influence Ocha communities in the United States, in part because Cuba, like Brazil, remains a cultural symbol of “pure” and authentic African survivals of religious rituals. Cuban migrations that increased post-1959 have also resulted in a Cuba-centric Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practice throughout the United States.

Undoubtedly, Afro-Cuban ritual performance and music have also significantly impacted U. S. Orisha communal ceremonies. In Chicago, ritual performance ceremonies reify certain notions of Afro-Cuban authenticity while practitioners locally negotiate religious boundaries between Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism. While this article cannot explore extensively the influences of Cuban music on popular U. S. cultures, the commercialization of Afro-Cuban music has also led to the popularity of Afro-Cuban religious aesthetics in the United States and abroad. Examining dynamic contemporary race relations between African Americans and Latinos contextualizes contemporary relations in Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, when there are growing U. S. born generations of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Afro-Latinos after the 1970s.

Afro-Latinos: Shifting Communities and Cultures

In cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, and Milwaukee, especially after the Mariel Boatlift (1980), Afro-Cuban religious practices have thrived among non-traditional memberships. Outside of New York and Miami, African Americans, and more recently Mexicans, represent the majority of practitioners (McPherson 6, 9). Afro-Cuban religious communities challenge our notions of U. S. Latino and African American communities. This is also the case when considering the silencing of the Afro-Latino experience within Latino migration histories and Afro-Latino’s influence on African American and Latino communities.

While Cuban centrism exists throughout Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, in Chicago non-Cuban or Puerto Rican initiates contribute to a unique local practice while also legitimately practicing Afro-Cuban religion (McPherson 7). For example, Chicago Latino practitioners often place the statue (or candle) of San Martin de Porres, an Afro-Peruvian Catholic saint, on Ocha and Spiritist altars. Since San Martin de Porres is not part of the Afro-Cuban Catholic Orisha pantheon, practitioners use this saint aesthetically in altar spaces because he is a black familiar to the many Chicago practitioners who have emigrated from Latin America. While ethnography could reveal how Afro-Peruvians and indigenous Peruvians may use the saint in local religious practices today, the use of San Martin de Porres is also important for Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and other Latin Americans in the United States, whose national identities silence African heritage and culture (35). Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism practices allow Latinos from these regions to positively acknowledge a legitimate African heritage and past, which may have become important to them after experiencing racism and socio-economic hardships as immigrants in the United States.

Latinos who identify as black or African have long linked the African American and Latino histories and communities in the United States. The scholarship on Puerto Rican and African American relations in New York City, and emerging scholarship on African American and Afro-Cuban relations before the Cuban Revolution are exceptions to this historiographic silence in migration histories. Afro-Latinos and African Americans have experienced racial discrimination and oppression in the United States, but historically Afro-Latinos could occasionally leverage national “foreign” identity to access social privileges usually off-limits to people of African descent.

Assata Shakur, activist and writer, now lives as an African American exile in Cuba. In Assata: An Autobiography (1987), she recalls a time when her mother, not wanting to disappoint her daughter’s expectations of leisure, resorted to pretending to speak Spanish at the entrance of a “Whites only” amusement park in the South (during the 1960s). The stunt worked, and Assata and her family were admitted into the park on the grounds of being foreigners. “Foreign” nationality can trump black racial identity in the United States, where black is often synonymous with being U.S. African American. These nuances characterize both Latino and African American migration histories and community identity formations; Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities are also no exception to these nuances.

Ocha and Spiritism-Palo: Reshaping Race and Community in Chicago

While racial segregation separates residential communities of practitioners within the active Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist community in Chicago, prominent iles (“houses”), or centers of Ocha practice, have become multi-ethnic and multi-cultural spaces, especially over the past fifteen years. Another well-known and respected house of Ocha and Spiritist practice on the Southside has predominately African American elder priests and priestesses, yet includes African American, Anglo-American and Latino godchildren. An emerging practitioner house, located on Chicago’s Northside, is predominately Latino and Filipino and growing steadily. The elders in this house are a Puerto Rican priest of Chango and his Filipina wife, a priestess; there are also African American and Afro-Latino priests in their leadership. As these examples illustrate, it is difficult to find a large active house in Chicago that does not include both African American and Latino practitioners.

In all the aforementioned cases, and amidst a racially and ethnically diverse body of practitioners, a head godparent or priest/ess of the house is Cuban. Most of the multi-ethnic membership houses are recognized as legitimate Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist centers outside of the local Chicago (and Midwest) practitioner communities. A prominent priest, Reinaldo, neither Cuban nor Puerto Rican, was found slain with his remains stuffed into a suitcase in an ally two years ago. He was a well-known and respected Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist priest and continues to be important because of his status among Latinos in a Cuban-centric practitioner community; he also initiated many godchildren, mostly Spanish-speaking non-Caribbean Latinos.

Reinaldo was infamous for his elaborate tambores (Orisha drum ceremonies) that provided a rare ritual communal space, including African American, Afro-Latino, and Latino practitioners annually. Reinaldo’s large feast ceremonies always included new initiates called Iyalochas (bride of the Orisha) being presented to consecrated drums, demonstrating the growing number of initiates in Reinaldo’s large house. The ceremonies also showed the wealth in his house, required to hire prominent musicians, rent the space, and provide food for such an elaborate event. Prominent Afro-Cuban musicians (many born and raised in Cuba) from Miami were hired, and some Chicago priests were connected to Miami through ritual kinships.

An interesting example of such ritual kinship links lies outside of the traditional godparent-godchild relationships. Omo Ana (Sons of Ana) is a fraternal group of ritually initiated drummers who are the only authorized community members that can play consecrated drums at ritual performance ceremonies. As Omo Ana is a selective group, Chicago Omo Ana have a privileged link to important ritual networks of priest/esses in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Miami, and New York. The existence of Omo Ana in Chicago also demonstrates that Cuban centrism is perpetuated through ritual links to New York and Miami Ocha and Spiritist communities. Chicago priest/esses will only hire Omo Ana drummers to play consecrated drums for local ceremonies as in Cuban practice, while practitioners knowingly diverge from “traditional” Afro-Cuban ritual performance in other ways.

Chicago houses honor varying ideologies that bind initiated godchildren as well as different houses of practice. To address racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity among godchildren, Latino and African American priests/esses emphasize that anyone can be initiated into Afro-Cuban religions regardless of race and culture. For Chicago practitioners there is a tension between the acknowledgment of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican origins of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism and the romanticized notion of “raceless” Latin American societies. Common views about race among Latino priests/esses (many born abroad) influence practitioners, usually marking the United States as the originator of black-white racial conflict and negating racism, racial inequality and ideas of blackness in Latin America. Many Chicago practitioners then embrace the idea that Afro-Cuban religious practice is “raceless” (or a practice that is not influenced by race) based on the potent misconception that Cuba (and Latin America) is more racially equitable than the United States. These ideas about race can foster relations among godchildren who would not otherwise interact due to racial and cultural segregation in Chicago. Yet race, as in Cuba and throughout Latin America, marks practitioner relations and what are considered “authentic” Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist religious practices.

I spoke with Briana, a well-known Puerto Rican owner of a botanica on the Southside, about the racial and ethnic diversity in her house of Ocha, Spiritists, and Palo initiates (McPherson 26). She revealed approaches to Ocha and Palo that mirror Afro-Cuban history among a majority of Mexican practitioners. She is the daughter of a long line of Spiritists and descendant of a great-grandfather who was born in the Congo, and she feels that all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality have spiritual sensibilities to become Spiritist mediums. While she is a “lighter-skinned” Puerto Rican, she and her children genuinely acknowledge their African heritage through religious practices and beliefs. Her children are Puerto Rican and Mexican, a mixture common in Chicago, and all are initiated priests/esses into Ocha. Her eldest children are also initiated in Palo, and are Spiritists, married to fellow practitioners.

In Briana’s house anyone of any racial or ethnic background is welcome. Briana’s family history legitimizes her as the head godmother of the house and links her house’s religious practice to an authentic Afro-Puerto Rican past. For many of her godchildren, a similar Latin American family history and racial identity also legitimizes them as practitioners; they are mostly Mexican and Salvadorian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and African American. Yet especially her Mexican godchildren cannot afford to become initiated into Ocha, and so practice Palo, diligently, as it has cheaper initiations and rituals.

According to Afro-Cuban ideology, Ocha is a “higher” spiritual practice than Palo, since it deals with royal deities, the Orishas, who differ in temperament from nfumbe or dead spirits in Palo (McPherson 14). These religious distinctions stem from privileging certain African ethnicities over others during slavery and colonialism. Spaniards and white creoles in Cuba privileged the Yoruba as a more “regal” and “civilized” ethnic group over the so-called “Congolese.” Because Congos were often runaway slaves, they were thought to be more “wild” and “untamed” like the wilderness, they sought refuge from sugar mills, coffee, and tobacco plantations.

Many Ocha houses in Chicago do not practice Palo and do view the practice as one that is often used to harm people. It seems that many more non-Cuban and Puerto-Rican practitioners in the United States may have had intensive experiences with Catholicism or Protestant Christianity. Relating the Judeo-Christian “good” and “evil” to Ocha (good) and Palo (evil) may explain why United States practitioners are more likely to perceive Palo as a “dark” religious practice, and reject its ritual connections to Ocha and its validity as a religious practice. I have spoken to some Chicago Ocha practitioners who feel this way about Palo, while others still participate in communal cajon pa’ muerto ceremonies with fellow practitioners that are initiated into Ocha and Palo.

Despite the historical tensions between the Yoruba and Congo legacies, the tendency to equate Palo with tendencies to do wrong seems to be balanced with a view that Palo is a religion that “works faster” and is very spiritually “strong” in Cuba. And in this way, Palo and Ocha are understood as complementary systems of belief, and do not seem to correlate to ethnic or racial discrimination in Cuba (Palmie). Currently in places like Marianao, Cuba, the fact that ritual musicians often specialize in a single practice shows Cuban practitioners recognize the depth of each Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist ritual knowledge which takes years to acquire. Unlike ritual singers in the United States who often sing at Ocha, Spiritism, and Palo ceremonies, Cuban ritual singers specialize in one musical genre of Abakua, Arara, Ocha, Palo or Spiritism.

Nevertheless, in Chicago, African American and Latino houses alike tend to practice just Ocha and Spiritism. Spiritist and Palo, as well as ritual music and communal ceremonies are combined into ritual performance ceremonies known as the cajon pa’ muerto (ceremony for ancestors). In Chicago, this common ceremony also illustrates how practitioners condense Spiritism and Palo into one coherent practice (Spiritism-Palo) in ritual performance, since Palo ritual performance ceremonies are rare (McPherson 10-12). During all ritual performance ceremonies, spirit possession is an important focus.

Race in Chicago Ritual Performances

For example, certain priests, the majority of whom are black males, have earned legitimacy through consistent spirit possessions that Chicago practitioners consider genuine. Reinaldo’s large tambores were also racial performances, where skin color factored into the legitimacy of Orisha spirit possession displays led by Afro-Cuban musicians. In all of Reinaldo’s ceremonies, an Afro-Cuban male dancer (not always the same person) is hired to dance the ceremony, understood to be a spirit possession specialist among priest/esses. In Chicago, a dancer is often not hired for local ceremonies; while as in Cuba, certain dancers are known as spirit possession specialists in the community. Ritual kinships, reputation, race, body movements/gestures, dance, and extensive knowledge of ritual languages are the determining factors in the legitimacy of Chicago spirit possessions. Black practitioners of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism, regardless of ethnicity, are typically viewed as the most legitimate practitioners to embody spirit possession during ritual performance ceremonies.

As Spiritist and Palo ceremonies focus on African and Native American legacies and ancestry, there are typical archetypes that practitioners have as “spirit guides” that are manifested during ritual performance ceremonies: Congos, (enslaved Africans), gitanos (Spanish gypsies), indios (Native Americans), and arabes (Moors). These spirits are manifested during ritual possession in Spiritist “masses” (misas espirituales) when several prayers are read, practitioners smoke cigars, and Spiritist mediums give individual and communal advice, after identifying their race/ethnicity, giving their name and purpose for “arriving” at the ceremony (McPherson 17-19, 25). In some instances, the period before or after a ceremony reveals racial dynamics that inform sacred ritual spaces.

At the end of a Spiritist-Palo cajon ceremony, musicians begin to play Afro-Cuban rumba; the majority of practitioners are Cubans, a rarity in Chicago ceremonies. During an energetic part of the rumba, a black Cuban priest begins to dance. After he dances, people become excited, and another man (considered mulatto in Cuba and “black” in the United States) also dances a solo. After this, all the black people (mostly Cubans) in the room are encouraged to dance one-by-one by the host group of white Cuban santeras (McPherson 32-33). Instead of everyone joining in to dance, the dancing becomes an obvious performance, while the majority of attendees watch intently.

The rumbita is neither social nor purely removed from the preceding ritual context, occurring in a liminal space between the ending of the ceremony and the beginning of the social time when practitioners eat and enjoy each other’s company. The encouragement of black practitioners to demonstrate Afro-Cuban dances, which are difficult to learn, is in part a valorization of the Afro-Cuban origin of the ceremonial music and ritual context. The rumbita is an acknowledgment of the black practitioners as authentic representations of cubanidad (Cubanness) and Afro-Cuban religious ritual performance knowledge within a community of Latinos that identify as white (McPherson 32).

During ritual performance ceremonies in Cuba, specific songs and sequences are used in all contexts to “induce” a “genuine” spirit possession. In Chicago, while some practitioners are aware of this type of orthodoxy, it does not exist in the majority of active Latino houses. While musicians attempt to abide to these sequences, practitioners are generally unfamiliar with Afro-Cuban ritual songs. As a result, spirit possession is not so much induced when a specific spirit is “called” by musicians as in Afro-Cuban practice, but rather when a priestess begins “feeling” the music until they are unable to control being “overcome” by their guardian Orisha/spirit at any time during the ceremony. The timing of spirit possession is not observed in Afro-Cuban practice, beginning when the singer starts the Ilamada al santo, or calling the Orisha or spirit, through specific song sequences. Chicago spirit possession may happen during an oro cantado, sung at the beginning of an Ocha ceremony, while in Cuba, practitioners generally recognize that the oro cantado is the time to salute their guardian Orisha and the drums.

Spirit possession is intimately tied to knowledge of ritual language and dance movements, yet in Chicago it remains difficult for the majority non-Cuban and Puerto Rican initiates to learn lyrics to ritual songs sung in ritual performance ceremonies. This is often frustrating to local and visiting musicians. Ritual songs are usually sung either in Spanish with specific Caribbean vocabulary (“Manda humo pa’ la loma cachimba”) or in the Lucumi (Cuban Yoruba) or Congo (from Kikongo language) ritual languages (Warden 106). Afro-Cubans grow up exposed to Lucumi and Congo ritual songs and languages, while both Cubans and Puerto Ricans have strong knowledge of Spanish Spiritist songs. Many Chicago practitioners, especially those who did not grow up in Cuba, Puerto Rico, or with family or Cuban or Puerto Rican godparents learn ritual language as adults. As Briana says of her own godchildren, “In time, they always learn,” recognizing that it takes effort and dedication on their part to learn songs and the Puerto Rican “white-table” (mesa blanca) Spiritism practiced in her house.

On one occasion Maira, an Ecuadorian priestess of Yemaya who has initiated mostly Mexican godchildren, hosted a tambor in the Chicago suburbs. She is married to a Cuban Ocha and Palo priest, and before becoming initiated into Ocha and Palo by black Cubans, she was racist. Now Maira teaches racial equity and tolerance to her godchildren through her experiences. Maira became spiritually possessed with her guardian Orisha Yemaya during the tambor and she silently gestured her advice and demands to her godchildren. Priests present interpreted her gestures into advice and ritual objects she desired for her counseling (rum, molasses).

Although it is common to make requests for ritual objects and give advice during spirit possessions, Orishas normally speak through priest mediums in ritual language to communicate in Afro-Cuban practice. The speech of the Orisha is a ritual language that symbolizes a particular racial archetype, usually Spanish infused with “African words” and an accent known as bozal. In Chicago, Latino priests/esses that racially identify as “non-black” rarely attempt this racialized speech, and mostly Spanish is spoken during Latino ritual performance ceremonies (McPherson 11). Maira is recognized as a legitimate priestess in the community, but some priests present said while “silent” Orishas are typical in Chicago, the minimal dancing and lack of gestures associated with possession made them dunk her spirit possession was questionable.

Certain gestures characterize a “legitimate” spirit possession in Chicago: priests scratch their heads, their eyes roll backwards into the head, breathing becomes pronounced and heavy, and their bodies tremble fiercely. Additionally, in Afro-Cuban practices, certain dances identify the spirit or Orisha that is “coming down” or being embodied by the priest/ess. Many Chicago Latino initiated priests/esses only perform select dance movements that identify an Orisha or spirit, exposing a different form of spirit possession. While African American practitioners also often learn ritual songs and dances as adults, in Chicago many of these practitioners have learned ritual songs, gestures, and movements associated with “legitimate” Afro-Cuban possession. African Americans are often viewed as embodying legitimate spirit possession in Latino ritual spaces. This past February, during a guiro ceremony thrown by a recent initiate of Obatala (Briana’s godchild), an African American priest partially performed a legitimate spirit possession. Many attendees knew basic dance moves and ritual songs at the guiro. Despite this, no one was moved to spirit possession, except for an African American priest (Warden 141). He began to move and sway as is typical in ritual possession, yet right before his Orisha completely “arrived” he ran out of the room. This is typical in Cuban and Puerto Rican spirit possession but usually practitioners will not allow the person to leave the space, as the person is thought to be in an important transitional state. An elder Cuban priestess of Obatala chastised those present “!Despues de todo el trabajo que hicieron los muchachos, los dejan irse!”

Perhaps, as the practitioner was visiting another house, he did not know who would tend to him in a “possessed” state, or the second singer could not “call” his Orisha to induce spirit possession. Convincing dancing and gestures and the priest’s reputation from a well-known African American Ocha and Spiritist practitioner house still meant that Latino practitioners viewed the act as genuine spirit possession. They created an open space for the priest to dance energetically in front of the musicians, and began moving and clapping more enthusiastically with the priest while watching him intently.

In Chicago, spirit possession remains important to Spiritism-Palo and Ocha ritual performance ceremonies as it allows practitioners to interact with spirits they revere. Practitioners are aware of the ways spirit possession may differ in Chicago from other cities, yet both African Americans and Latinos have linked blackness, ritual language, and dance to a legitimate possession as is common in New York, Miami, and Cuba. However, blackness in Chicago is defined by local identities, and thus is usually only associated with the most dark-skinned Afro-Cubans, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Outside of Chicago, where there is more knowledge of ritual song and dance, blackness may be defined very differently in ritual spaces.


There has yet to be an extensive published study of Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist practices in Chicago. In these multi-racial and multi-ethnic communities, practitioners embrace theology that does not restrict membership to African Americans and Latinos, who are the majority of all Chicago practitioners. Within these communities, race does play a role in the legitimacy and authenticity of practices, yet more ethnography would also be required to discuss racial tensions and problems within the community. Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism are innovative as well as varied. They are part of a socio-cultural system that African Americans and Latinos utilize to create their own narratives of their cultural and historical legacies in the United States and abroad. Ocha, Palo, and Spiritism are also defined by local migrations, immigration, and histories. Practitioners of all backgrounds relate to the importance of ancestry as emphasized in Native American and African narratives of oppression and marginalization. Uncovering silences in popular culture and academic historiography about Afro-Latino, African American, and Latino social networks reveal complicated relations and identity constructions. Further ethnographies in cities like Chicago on Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities will advance Afro-Atlantic Studies, scholarship on Afro-Cuban religious practices, Latino migration histories, comparative race relations, black and Latino identity construction, and U. S. urban communities. In Ocha, Palo, and Spiritist communities, African Americans and Latinos relate in private, closed, and intimate spaces wherein sacred practitioners negotiate and reconcile the practical with the magical.

Thoughts about store-bought pupusas in no particular order
  • I @#$%ing love getting these from the store now because I realized I can reheat them with a frying pan, a fork and a serving plate. With half the brands you don’t even really need oil to slick the pan.
  • (Although no oils means dedicated hovering as I non-stop push them around the pan so the undersides won’t stick.)
  • (I still love it because it’s 5 minutes and I can mentally AFK for almost all of it.)
  • Goya brand is not best. ): Not entirely surprised, but theirs come frozen, are hard to separate (I use a knife as a tiny crowbar) and are just lackluster when ready. The filing is usually pretty lumped up on the inside. The one advantage Goya has is its a ubiquitous major brand so better odds they might actually be in a given store instead of not carried at all.
  • The best ones I’ve had so far were… something about “made with love,” shit I forget. Found them in the ethnic market, got three packs. Had to toss one because it was rancid when I opened it, the other two were phenomenal. (Because I’m me, I remember the packaging being predominantly reddish & something about everything being hand-made in El Salvador. A name? Psht, why would my brain have retained THAT information? ಠ_ಠ)
  • Rio Grande is intermediate: it’s a pretty big brand (they had an entire cabinet in one store and had a bunch of foods including queso and tamales) but not Goya-tier so the quality is a little nicer. Popped open a pack of beans&cheese for dinner tonight and they were better than Goya but I wasn’t super impressed. Cheese too runny!
  • Given my current location even mediocre pupusas are great because my alternative is NONE. Stupid local food distribution… for whatever reason there’s no Latino restaurants around here and nothing good in the major grocery stores. The nearest ethnic market is very good but most of an hour round-trip which is inconvenient for my “2 pupusas for breakfast” habit.
  • Too bad these are also a food firmly in the “HAHAHA mortals do not make these themselves” category. So tasty… but I need experts to make them for me…!
The Feds Almost Used A Pesticide That's Harmful To Pregnant Women To Combat Zika In Puerto Rico

Why has nobody been talking about the fact that Puerto Rico was going to be fumigated by the United States government using an unregistered pesticide called Naled which is extremely toxic insecticide, particularly to pregnant women, in order to “combat the zika virus”? If it weren’t for the protests in front of the island’s Capitol building and the governor agreeing to deny the use of it, the chemical would’ve been spread all over Puerto Rico.

Why should we let the U.S. Government continue using us as guinea pigs for their science experiments? We’ve been abused for way too long, and all Puerto Ricans should stay woke 👀 they’re still after us


Immigrant || I’ve lived in the USA 18 years & I’ve grew into a intelligent, caring and hardworking young man. To deprive others of the chance to come here and make this their home too, to make something of themselves as well is a gross act. #icondemnthemuslimban : America was built by the labor of slaves, blacks. And is still being supported by the hard work of immigrants and other nationalities. The United States of America isn’t at the least united at all, it’s even more divided than ever. It is us the blacks, Africans/ African Americans, Latinos and other beautiful nationalities that make up this country. We are the back bone. The hard working. We do the jobs that others don’t dare to do. Yet we are the minorities. We get looked down upon. We do all the work and never get the credit we solely deserve. We work our asses off and make it to the top of our professions and still if that company has an ideal image in mind they will pick that white man over the black man or Latino who has experience, several degrees.. the Bachelors, MBA or Phd because he still isn’t what that company wants to project unto white America. I was NOT born in this country I came here at age 4. I’ve always been a hard worker and I still am, do you know how frustrating it is when someone challenges your intelligence because they hear a little of your accent after every other two words. Of thinks less of you because your skin is darker. Do you really understand how it feels when people think just because you came from a country that America portrays as a 3rd world country, that you was one of the lucky ones that survived and came to a country to better yourself? No of course some of you don’t because you were born here and everything is handed to you, yet some of you still amount to nothing with all the privileges in front of you, you still end up no where. Yet hate on the little black boy or Latino girl who grew up and made something of themselves.

A well-intentioned producer once said to me, “John, you’re so talented, but too bad you’re Latin — otherwise you’d be so much further along.” When I pitched a movie about Latinos, another producer said: “Latin? People don’t want to see Latin people.” This is not just my experience but a typical Latino person’s experience in America.

John Leguizamo, ‘Too Bad You’re Latin’

Please check out my pal’s op-ed. 


When I started going on auditions they asked me to change my name. I’m sure if my name was John Smith they wouldn’t have asked me to change my name. It’s one more hurdle that you have to climb if you are ethnic. And part of it is because of the stories, movies are stories and there are not that many stories being written from the Latino experience. When I was in acting school, I had a Latino teacher who said, if you’re going to do this, you have to work twice as hard as John Smith. So I’ve always worked really hard, and it’s got me places. 

*sips #LEMONADE*

I absolutely hate to be putting words down this soon describing the masterpiece that was LEMONADE, and how I felt watching it. I know there’s a litany of op-eds that have been fighting themselves out of the minds fans and naysayers alike since the visual album premiered Saturday. The basis for their assertions may range from elitist musical preferences, to a solid foundation in Black Feminist theory; while there is so much to be gleaned from a writer’s gut reaction to a piece of art, I am a major proponent of taking the time to process events of such magnitude. So let’s just take the tie right now for a collective moment of collection. On my count…



Now, even with the short amount of time that’s passed, there are quite a few statements we can make about this album that hold true.

The most important one is that this album is For Black Women, by Black Women.

 In no way am I dismissing art created by so many Black women artists that centers us, but the visibility of Beyoncé’s art is second to none. The biggest and most iconic superstar of our time just put her middle finger up to the misogynoir that suppresses Black women’s image in media. This album is OUR story in all of its beauty, pain, and complexity. It addresses the intersectional oppression that Black women specifically face. To otherwise misconstrue it is to be doing the ABSOLUTE most. So if you aren’t a Black woman, it’s not for you. Have all the seats in NRG Stadium.

 I am also not without my critiques of the album (I’m a Bey stan too, so just hear me out!) Of course there’s ALWAYS room for improvement in everything, including this piece I’m writing right now. Since Beyoncé is showing a clear progression in her analytical, Black feminist thought, I think she’d appreciate the points:

 1.      I wish there had been representation of Black women with less accepted body types.

2.      While the queer imagery was potent, I wish there had been more queer and gender-nonconforming Black folk shown.

3.      I wish the visible album credits (as they appear on Tidal) recognized Black women.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

can a hispanic/latino(a) experience racism? if so what are some examples of racism towards them?

Of course hispanic/Latino(a) people can experience racism. It is built off of a system of oppression in which one race become dominate and “normalized” also leading to other races becoming “different” and “not-normal”. As it is right now being white is the dominant race and if you are not white you experience racism. I think some examples of racism against hispanic/latino(a) people would be jokes/accusations of illegal immigrant status, saying that they are here to take jobs, jokes about them being gardeners and maids. These are all things that are on TV or said commonly as stereotypes and they are racist. Thanks for the question!

<3 The Daily Feminist 


I finally have a teaser for the Documentary Project I’ve have been working on for the last Two years.

“Dancing in the Dark” is a story that documents the Black & Latino American gay experience as well the New York City nightlife and how both go hand and hand.


Latinos Cannot be Silent to Alton Sterling

American policy is broken in more ways than one. Refusal of American politicians to compromise represents further damaged systems. Moreover, police officers are the enforcers of law that isn’t always just. Ask yourself: what entry level position carries more power than a police officer? When you factor in the granted rights of discretion and all of the stress of the streets, any police officer is potentially a ticking time-bomb, at any moment. And just like immigration policy is broken, a system that allows police to kill citizens with impunity must be changed.

Already I’ve lost or tuned out a population of people who don’t want to hear their precious police culture, brotherhood, and honor dismantled.

One of the worst aspects of this whole thing is that there’s a population of people in this country who aren’t even listening. They don’t want to listen nor accept that there’s a systemic problem. There’s a population of people in this country that are angry that #BlackLivesMatter even exists. Worse yet, for those who aren’t willing to open their minds—those same individuals are developing a scorn and annoyance with those that are woke; and the ignorant are turning to the other side. Our continued cries for justice are creating stronger police supporters, Trump voters, and further divisions in an already polarized country. They’re the first ones to question what Alton Sterling was doing in the first place; they’ll state how the video doesn’t show the entire story or that Sterling was threatening with a weapon. How can anyone justify this sort of execution? Already being labeled a legal lynching.  

2016 has been a violent year. Police brutality. Mass shootings. Perpetual hate portrayed by Donald Trump; the same Donald Trump that unequivocally put his support behind police officers. (Watch him throw his support behind these officers who viciously ended Alton Sterling’s life.)

No doubt that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job, no one is denying that. And I’m sure there are ignorant detractors to this argument who will immediately ask what “Black on Black” crime? The answers to this are simple: when Black people kill Black people, they go to prison. We have a nation full of the incarcerated. When police officers—officers who are sworn to protect & uphold the law—kill Black people, they get off. We’ve seen it time and time again. And we wonder why our children are filled with so much rage. Distrust in the system. How can any nation, a nation that touts that it’s governed by law, allow this practice to occur?

The pressure needs to continue to be applied to the system that lets these cops walk free.

Already, I know, there are policies and procedures in place to make officers think twice about using their guns. However, how can these officers who shot Alton Sterling use their piece so indiscriminately? The officers knew they were wearing body cameras, which were put into place to hold officers accountable to these sorts of issues. And still, as Alton Sterling becomes a hashtag, how long will it be before another Black man receives the same fate?

This is all of the more reason that Latinos/Latinxs need to also join the efforts against police brutality. We’re dictated and live under the same system. We’re painted as a monolithic block consumed by immigration policy, but we in fact are so much more. What about civil rights? Police brutality is a personal issue to African-Americans, with ties to the days of slavery, just as immigration and stolen land is personal to Mexicans and the Indigenous. Mexicans have been lynched by Texas Rangers just as Blacks were attacked by slave owners and white supremacists. Blacks picked cotton and we pick fruits; what’s so different? I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the difference between Blacks and Latinos is a boat stop. The same detention officers that put their hands on us are guided by the same law that allows municipal officers to do the same. The history, fate, and experience of Latinos/Latinxs and Blacks in this country will forever be intertwined. Our issues are more alike than dissimilar and we need to stand in solidarity with each other. Our issues are one because we’re both seen as second-class in this country. With the world increasingly changing, different than it was say 20 years ago, and facing new challenges; how can one offer the blunt tool of law enforcement as the solution? What will give? What will it require to stop the bloodshed? Have we as a nation peaked with answers and will this violence become a moot point?

You live by giving. We need to give and stand in solidarity with our Black brothers & sisters who’ve also been taken advantage of by a brutal system of injustice. For if we don’t, how can we expect any change to occur? We can accomplish more together.

I look forward to hearing support from the Latino/Latinx community for Alton Sterling, his family, and the Black community.

Because something’s got to change. And we will not remain silent.

Yours in unity.

Maximo Anguiano is a progressive, creative, and agent of change. Follow him on Twitter @blurbsmithblots.