The Afro-Latino Connection - Page 3 of 6

The Afro-Latino Connection

to a standstill…power within our communities lays in our discretionary purchasing with corporate America, to be able to change the corporate landscape and change the dialogue of how corporate America deals with our communities.” Herrera says this power can be used to affect corporate governance, procurement, and employment opportunities.

Currently, the state of black-Hispanic relations in the United States is a mixed picture. Surely the media frenzy surrounding the emergence of the Latino population as the largest minority group has lent itself to a contest-like atmosphere between the racial groups. There’s also no denying that old prejudices and rivalries remain on both sides–bringing numerous challenges to overcome before any alliance can be formed.

In order for an alliance to succeed, a national agenda would have to be created that includes such issues as diversity, inclusion, and access to economic, political, and educational resources, according to Nicolás C. Vaca, a Harvard Law School graduate and author of The Presumed Alliance: The Unspoken Conflict Between Latinos and Blacks and What it Means for America (Rayo; $24.95). “Let’s figure out exactly what each party needs and wants, what is important for each group, and then work out a plan for achieving it without the rose colored glasses,” he recommends.

Efforts for alliances are being made on the political front. M
embers of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosted members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in a small beach resort in Puerto Rico in October 2003. Politicians were invited for a weekend of social activities as well as political dialogue designed to foster cross-cultural understanding and facilitate the forging of common political agendas. This was the second gathering; the group met for the first time in 2002 at a New Orleans retreat.

“In order for us to work together and dialogue, we have to be able to interact, to get to know each other,” says Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Rodriguez adds that the caucuses have worked to jointly draft a minority legislative health initiative that will be presented to Sens. Daschle and Kennedy.

In the meantime hopefully, Afro-Latinos will continue on the path to becoming an economic and political force, and by doing so, bring the Hispanic and black communities together. This is something Cid Wilson hopes to see. “We can honestly say we know what it’s like to feel racism and discrimination–on the Latino and the African American sides,” he says. “The way to build bridges is to get involved in both communities.”

Whether these bridges are eventually built remains to be seen. Hailing from different countries with different cultures, the movement toward a stronger sense of Afro-Latino unity and identity must pick up speed. There is no doubt that challenges will abound, but the potential rewards are too promising to dismiss.

BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with several prominent Afro-Latinos to better understand the issues they face daily. Here’s what they had to say:

Cuban-American actress Gina Torres’ television credits include recurring