Why all Latinos should care about Black History Month

Brazilian women march at the 2015 Marcha das Mulheres Negras

At first glance, it may seem like the Latino community cannot relate to the struggles and history of African Americans in the US. But, if you take a closer look, you will see we have much more in common. 

First, in some way or another, the African American community’s contributions have benefited other minorities. That, in itself, is more than enough reason for the Latinos to commemorate Black History Month. 

For instance, when you think of civil rights, Black and Latino children were both segregated in schools. But, it wasn’t until the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation ended. 

But, seven years before that, the Mendez family in California fought for integration and brought “a class-action lawsuit with other Latino families against four Orange County school districts that had separate schools for whites and Mexicans,” according to NPR. The Mendez v. Westminster case went all the way to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1947, they won, and segregation for those districts ended.

Second, who better to understand the African diaspora identity than Latinos? Especially considering that more slaves from Africa were trafficked to Latin America than to the United States.

"There were 11.2 million Africans who came to the New World in the slave trade and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States," Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. told us in a discussion about his PBS documentary series Black In Latin America. "The real black experience, in terms of numbers, is all throughout the Caribbean and Latin America." 

More and more people are beginning to realize that Latin America’s racial landscape is as diverse as their culture — a fact that has been relatively ignored for far too long. 

Finally, this month should also be about African descendants, and their imprint on the country as well. 

As HuffPost blogger Anthony Otero wrote, “Latinos have a long history of African heritage within their linage that is not brought to light enough. We are willing to recognize the greatness of Roberto Clemente but are we prepared to celebrate his African roots?”

These are just a few of the reasons we all need to take the time to celebrate our Afro-Latino influencers. Think of the Afro-Latinos making strides in Hollywood, like Lauren Velez or Naya Rivera. And, don't forget about bachata singers Romeo Santos and Prince Royce. Still not satisfied? Check out 46 more Afro-Latinos making serious moves in Hollywood. 

So next time you think about Black History Month, consider the contributions African-Americans have made to the United States. But, also consider the fact that we all have much in common as a minority community. 

This story was cross-posted from Latina.

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