Yesterday, an interesting thing happened to me.
I was told I am not Black. The kicker for me was when my friend stated that the island of Puerto Rico was not a part of the African Diaspora. I wanted to go back to the old school playground days and yell: “You said what about my momma?!” But after speaking to several friends, I found out that many Black Americans and Latinos agree with him. The miseducation of the Negro is still in effect! I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am Black, that my peoples are from the Motherland, that Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic, are part of the African Diaspora.
Did we forget that the slave ships dropped off our people all over the world, hence the word Diaspora? The Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to Puerto Rico in the early 1500s. Some of the first slave rebellions took place on the island of Puerto Rico. Until 1846, Africanos on the island had to carry a libreta to move around the island, like the passbook system in apartheid South Africa. In Puerto Rico, you will find large communities of descendants of the Yoruba, Bambara, Wolof and Mandingo people. Puerto Rican culture is inherently African culture. There are hundreds of books that will inform you, but I do not need to read book after book to legitimize this thesis. All I need to do is go to Puerto Rico and look all around me. Damn, all I really have to do is look in the mirror every day.
I am often asked what I am—usually by Blacks who are lighter than me and by Latinos/as who are darker than me. To answer the $100,000,000 question, I am a Black Boricua, Black Rican, Puertorriqueña! Almost always I am questioned about why I choose to call myself Black over Latina, Spanish, Hispanic.
Let me break it down. I am not Spanish. Spanish is just another language I speak. I am not a Hispanic. My ancestors are not descendants of Spain, but descendants of Africa. I define my existence by race and land. (Borinken is the indigenous name of the island of Puerto Rico.) Being Latino is not a cultural identity but rather a political one. Being Puerto Rican is not a racial identity, but rather a cultural and national one. Being Black is my racial identity.