AFRO-LATINO: A DEEPLY ROOTED IDENTITY AMONG U.S. HISPANICS

BY GUSTAVO LÓPEZ AND ANA GONZALEZ-BARRERA

Identity for U.S. Hispanics is multidimensional and multifaceted. For example, many Hispanics tie their identity to their ancestral countries of origin – Mexico, Cuba, Peru or the Dominican Republic. They may also look to their indigenous roots. Among the many ways Hispanics see their identity is their racial background.

Afro-Latinos are one of these Latino identity groups. They are characterized by their diverse views of racial identity, reflecting the complex and varied nature of race and identity among Latinos. A Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America. This is the first time a nationally representative survey in the U.S. has asked the Latino population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latino.

In the U.S., Latinos with Caribbean roots are more likely to identify as Afro-Latino or Afro-Caribbean than those with roots elsewhere (34% versus 22%, respectively). Those who identify as Afro-Latino are more concentrated on the East Coast and in the South than other Latinos (65% of Afro-Latinos live in these regions vs. 48% of other Latinos). They are also more likely than other Latinos to be foreign born (70% vs. 52%), less likely to have some college education (24% vs. 37%), and more likely to have lower family incomes. About six-in-ten Afro-Latinos reported family incomes below $30,000 in 2013, compared with about half of those who did not identify as Afro-Latino (62% vs. 47%)

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Afro-Latinos’ views of race are also unique. When asked directly about their race, only 18% of Afro-Latinos identified their race or one of their races as black. In fact, higher shares of Afro-Latinos identified as white alone or white in combination with another race (39%) or volunteered that their race or one of their races was Hispanic (24%). Only 9% identified as mixed race.

These findings reflect the complexity of identity and race among Latinos. For example, two-thirds of Latinos (67%) say their Hispanic background is a part of their racial background. This is in contrast to the U.S. Census Bureau’s own classification of Hispanic identity – census survey forms have described “Hispanic” as an ethnic origin, not a race.

The multiple dimensions of Hispanic identity also reflect the long colonial history of Latin America, during which mixing occurred among indigenous Americans, white Europeans, slaves from Africa and Asians. In Latin America’s colonial period, about 15 times as manyAfrican slaves were taken to Spanish and Portuguese colonies than to the U.S. Today, about 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America, making up roughly a quarter of the total population, according to estimates from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) at Princeton University.

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