You understood what I said?: The Spanish Speaking “African American”

One time I was sitting in class assisting the Spanish Teacher Jesus and one of the Spanish speaking students came in talking to him about going to the beach.  Without thinking, I replied to the question.  “You understood what I said?” the student asked.

Dang, I blew my cover. 

Ever experienced this?  Replying to Spanish-speakers as a Black body in Texas provokes questions.  My professor, an Afro-Puerto Rican man, told me that people give him strange looks when he speaks the language.  And he’s PUERTO RICAN.  I guess, that’s life.  I believe that most of the time it’s more out of curiosity though. I haven’t met many Afro-Latinos in Texas.  In Texas, most of the hispanic/latino population is Mexican American or of Mexican descent.  Sadly, the Blackness in Mexican culture is not widely known.  So I can understand when someone takes a double look when I speak spanish.  Shoot, I do it too.

Luckily, there are a wealth of Spanish speaking African Americans who share my passion for the language.  One is one of America’s sweetheart Ms. Huxtible who learned Spanish when her family moved to Mexico during her childhood.  She is one of my favorite actresses.

The One and Only Phylicia Rashad of the Cosby Show

I recently connected through my blog with another Spanish aficionado, rapper Bishop the Eastside NappyHead.  He’s an African American who learned Spanish in Panama.  Check the first 30 seconds of this video where he raps in Spanish.

I encourage my African American brothers and sisters to learn Spanish and Portuguese to connect across the diaspora.  There are more Black people in Latin America than the United States.  Through language, we can understand our common experiences and linkages to Africa.  I understand more about my history as a person of color by studying Black Brazilians and Black Mexicans.  In  In Rio, I wish I spoke portuguese so that I could have understood more.  Learning a language opens up a new world of business and romantic connections.  But most importantly it opens up a world of fun.   Bust out the Rosetta Stone!  Hit up the Salsa Club!  Flirt with a spanish speaking person!  Speaking spanish is where its at.