"An Ode To Being Blaxican" Shines A Light On An Erased Identity
"You are both, and you don't let nobody tell you different."
"My thing was, be proud of who you are. black, brown—it don't matter. You are both, and you don't let nobody tell you different."
In a video posted by mitú, Dolores Morado, a brown abuelita, tells the story of raising biracial children born of black and Mexican ancestry. Morado seeks to instill a strong sense of cultural identity in her family, blending the two cultures together in her household.
"We went through a lot with my family. They heard that I was pregnant from a black man, and she came over [her aunt]," she explains in the video below, "and she said that I was going to have to be strong in order to be able to raise them, but people were going to talk about them. And then I said to her, 'And they can kiss my ass, then.'"
Morado's grandson has this to say in addition: "The hardest part is knowing where to fit in. Can I really identify with these two groups of people by race? Coming up Black and Mexican, most times people want to tell you, you know, cause they look at you one way, they want you to be easily identified."
Black Latinx people face hyper invisibility and pervasive anti-blackness within their communities. While Latinx people are a rising population in the United States, they are less likely to identify as black according to a 2014 article, as proximity to whiteness means access.
The erasure of black-Mexican identity is particularly troubling. While Afro-Mexican president Vicente Guerrero signed a decree in 1829 banning slavery in Mexico, and escaped slave runaways found refuge across the border, the recognition of such history became blurred centuries later.
Last year, Mexico took a historic step in acknowledging the existence of Afro-Mexicans, in which some 1.38 million people would finally be recognized as being Afro-descendant by the government. The national identity, which was mestizo, ignored the descendants of African enslavement in the country. Afro-Mexicans still face invisibility because of the legacy of Spanish dominance and colonial anti-blackness while fighting for recognition for nearly 15 years. States in Mexico with heavy Afro-descendant populations are Veracruz, Guerrero and Oaxaca.
Profiled in the Los Angeles Times, artist Walter Thompson-Hernandez, who initiated a research project about Blaxican identity, documented those with multicultural identities in 2015. "Blaxicans are dual minorities," he told Ebony Bailey. "We represent two of the largest ethnic minority groups. And I think because Blaxicans represent two of the most aggrieved groups in Los Angeles, it's important to understand that certain sets of issues and challenges that have been traditionally labeled as African American or Latino, ultimately, do not exist for people who self-identify as Blaxicans."
Morado's grandson remains vigilant to keep her family proud of their simultaneous heritages, and challenging anti-blackness, praising his grandmother. "Her pride and resistance, her strength and resilience," he professes. "The tree that fell in the woods, let out a mighty roar, the world was sure to hear."