How Afro-Latino Festival Is Empowering A Rich & Diverse Community

The 3rd Annual Afro-Latino Festival could not have come at a better time. Amid national unrest and sweeping racial tension, the 3-day event (July 10-12) is bringing together artists, scholars and performers to affirm and celebrate Afro-Latino culture. Afro-Boricuas, Dominicans and many others across the Caribbean community will gather at panel discussions, documentaries, musical performances, dance workshops and art exhibits throughout New York City.

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In a time where the Latino ethnic and racial identity continues to shift, it is important to not only recognize but educate on its rich and multi-layered heritage. Here’s how the organizers are doing just that, and so much more…

It serves as a voice for the voiceless:
“We look at Afro-Latinos as a coalition community,” founder Mai-Elka Prado told NBC. “We have a lot of unique issues, from lack of representation in the media to profiling to immigration. We want the festival to be a place where people can be heard and seen, in an authentic way. Our concerns – whether it is our cultural heritage, our economic situation, political issues – are all fundamental and deserve a platform.”

It aims to celebrate the essence of Afrolatinidad:
“Many of our (Latin) cultures have not necessarily celebrated our African roots, said New York State Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez. “Events like this recognize our heritage, and the contributions to our identity that come from both sides of our heritage.”

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It is concerned with the multiplicity of the Afro-Latino experience:
“The issues addressed when you say you are Afro-Latino are multiple and complex,” explained author and professor Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, who believes the Census undercounts Afro-Latinos because the questions are culturally insensitive. “In Latin America, people have come up with all these terms – café con leche, como greko, mulata – all to avoid saying that they are Black. And then people come to the U.S. and identify as Puerto Rican or Dominican or Mexican – the African identity seems to be lost, in part to cultural pressures.”