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TV Documentary Series – Afro Latinos: The Untaught Story

Afro Latinos

Not coming from America but having a slightly better than rudimentary knowledge of geography (I dropped it after my first year at university), I’ve always considered the word “latino” to be a noun ascribed to all things relating to South and Central America. I’ve since found out that it also includes the Carribean islands of Cuba and the island that is comprised of the nations of Haiti and The Dominican Republic.

So it was with some surprise that I discovered that some people don’t think you can be both Black and Latino, but see it as an either/or situation… I’ve met people who hail from the Dominican Republic who were quite obviously black and describe themselves as such, and I remember one of my favourite TV programmes as a teenager in Nigeria was a Brazilian magazine show featuring people of all hues who all happened to be Brazilians. It therefore stands to reason, to me, anyway, that any country/continent with a history of trans-Atlantic slavery from Africa would have a Black/African population.

My surprise was sparked a few months ago in a post on this site about the rise of  Zoe Saldana, in the comments section of which the issue of whether Saldana was Black or Latino became a talking point. I don’t know much about Ms Saldana or her background – I’d seen her in Pete Chatmon‘s debut feature, Premium, in 2006 and didn’t really know much about her before then, and it’s only thanks to the high profile projects she’s been in since, mainly Star Trek and the upcoming Avatar, that she remains near the forefront of my mind. But Saldana aside, as far as I was aware, you could be both Black and Latino… It would be like someone telling me I couldn’t be both Black and British. Granted, my family doesn’t come from a long line of slaves who were brought to Britain centuries ago, but I was born and mostly raised on British soil. If you can believe there are Afro-Europeans and African-Americans, then what stretch of the imagination does it take to imagine that there are Afro-Latinos?

Seeming to recognise the fact that some would like to, or perhaps unwittingly, negate the presence and influence of African culture and heritage in Latin America, Creador Pictures, a television production company that aims to increase awareness and promote Latin culture through broadcast, print, radio and internet media outlets, has produced Afro-Latinos: The Untaught Story, a documantary series that tells the reality of the African diaspora in Latin America.

According to the English Language version of the Afro-Latinos website:

slaves came to Central and South America to identity issues that still exist in the Hispanic community today. There are an estimated 200 million Afro-descendants in Latin America but the majority of them do not have political or economic power. This documentary takes you on a journey to meet Afrolatinos throughout Spanish and Portuguese speaking nations and an exploration and appreciation of their culture. It will also teach the uninformed and hopefully initiate social change throughout Latin America.

The documentary series will begin with the slave trade in the early 1500’s and touch on the Cimarron (Palenque) communities, as well as cover the controversial theory of the African presence in ancient America. The programs quest is to better understand the religious connections and distinctions between the Catholic Church and religious practices such as Yoruba and Voodoo. We learn about these religious and sacred ceremonies through dance and music. The drum is a very significant instrument used in Latin music today but do many people know its history? The documentary will have a segment on Afro-Latin gastronomy, which will show the many dishes with African influence as seen in Latino every day life.

Today, there still exists communities where African dialects were mixed with Spanish language found in places like San Basilio de Palenque and we’ve discovered a dictionary of Spanish words of African origin. Identity will be a special segment that affects millions of black Latinos worldwide. Of all the issues that are affecting their way of life the main issue is the exclusion of a community of people based on the color of their skin. We interview people from the U.S to Argentina about issues such as image (this idea of good hair, bad hair), interracial marriages, racism, oppression, exploitation and Afrolatinos consciousness plus much more.

One of the most important chapters in the documentary is the social issues segment as it is directly affecting ALL Afrolatinos communities. Our producers not only document the problems but also live and experience it firsthand. Consistent in most of the countries visited was the lack of local government support; from corruption to discrimination Afrolatinos endear many tribulations. We hope this documentary will empower its Afro brothers and sisters and encourage people to help one family at a time, give voice to the invisible, create awareness, start a dialogue and promote change.

Sadly, there are no details as to where or when the series might air, but here’s a trailer.

13 comments to TV Documentary Series – Afro Latinos: The Untaught Story

  • LucyLuz

    Afro latino is a term that is difficult to grasp by many people, including many 2 and 3rd generation enculturated Latinos here in the US. Socioeconomic oppression tied with deeply rooted identity issues foster the “blind eye” environment seen in much of Latin America. It’s good to see the new found focus on this issue. Maybe for once we won’t be deemed an anomaly but fit right in with the ‘concept’ of Afro-America.

  • Anthony

    Where can I purchase the complete documentary?

  • Sergio

    “If you can believe there are Afro-Europeans and African-Americans, then what stretch of the imagination does it take to imagine that there are Afro-Latinos?”

    Beats me. I’ve had many conversations myself with people about that very thing. Like in my piece about Saldana one commenter in particular had a fit that we were calling her “black”. And it seems to be a particular problem with African-American who insist on considering Afro-Latinos anything but black. I think you got to the root of it when you state that:

    “some would like to, or perhaps unwittingly, negate the presence and influence of African culture and heritage in Latin America”

    Too many African-Americans think that the only real definition of “blackness” is to be the descendant of African slaves in America as if there weren’t African slaves in other countries. And could it be a “jealousy” thing too that Latin American countries seemed to be more accepting (but not entirely, of course)of African culture and traditions than America where being African was the WORST possible thing to be?

    • One thing that irks me more than white people seeing black people as one huge monolith is black people who insist on defining blackness according to their own narrow terms… i.e. ignoring diversity and shutting out anyone who doesn’t fit in with their idea of a black monolith.

  • I am the television producer of AfroLatios. Thank you so much for the promotion..

    Please add this english link

    Renzo Devia


    I Would LOVE to get(BUY) a copy of the series to be able to show it on classrooms,workshops,etc. in Uruguay.Please…PLEASE!…let me know if it is possible.
    Thank you!….I think it is an amazing tool to teach future generations about our heritage.

  • looking forward to seeing the entire documentary!

    i just wrote something along these same lines about Afro-Mexicans and Afro-Latinos–truly fascinating peoples too many americans sadly know nothing about:

    give thanks for the producers of this documentary, it’s a necessary work whose time has come.

  • Onedodal

    I pray that your work will be received with much appreciation by the Black and Latino communities. I hope this is the bridge that brings a culturally rich and diverse people together to see the power we can wield collectively. GOD Bless

  • getthesenets

    on a related note…..PBS airs a documentary

    “When Worlds Collide” the Roots of Modern Latino Culture…

    tonight and over the next 2 weeks.. check listings..

  • Ana Iglesias

    This Documentary Should BE Shown In Theaters! Im 14 years Old And Im an Afro-Latina from Panama. Its So Frustrating When I Get told By Black People That I Am Not Black Because I Speak Spanish And Im From Panama. But I Always Have Faith that Someday This Will Change, Beacuse If Not we Afro-Latinos are Going To GEt Sucked In The Same Mentality And Let Go Of Our African Haritage. I Try As Hard As I Can To Educate People About It But some Are too Ignorant And Close Minded They Still Wont Accept the Fact, Even With All The Prove I give. I Feel Very Strong About This Topic And I Hope This Documentary Can Make A Difference.

  • Leslie Shearwood

    My friends and I are interested in finding out when we can view this documentary. It speaks to us all. We’re anxiously awaiting your reply.

    Thank you.