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.


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

    • Marissa says:

      I speak Spanish fluently, and have been studying it for about fifteen years (I’m twenty-two). I grew up in Mexican Town, a district of Southwest Detroit, and it was honestly the best decision I made. Many people often think I’m afro-latin, which I’m not; I’m half white. It’s a beautiful language, and I love using it to get in-touch with my afro latino/a brothers and sisters.

      Great article!

      • Allysa Rose says:

        I’m from Detroit too and I graduated from Cass Tech. I’m from The east side over by East Warren, Gratiot — you know all that area. I’m very familiar with MexicanTown! Especially on those 5 de Mayos growing up 😭👏🏽 well I just wanted to say go girl! I’m really happy for you! I just really got into learning Spanish about 2.5 years ago. And I’m hoping for the best!

  1. priceless21 says:

    Brilliant post. I’m black and live in Spain, but what I have found is, a lot of Americans don’t realise that more black slaves went to South America than the U.S. I’ve met black people from all over South America who are blacker than me. I’ve met one brother from a place called choco town in Colombia which is all black, love your blog keep up the good work.

      • priceless21 says:

        It’s good and bad. I’m in Madrid, and there is still a lot of racism, especially against blacks and Hispanics here, but as a whole it’s good.

  2. Kushite Prince says:

    Interesting that they didn’t want people to see she could speak Spanish. Hmmmm……….very interesting.

      • Kushite Prince says:

        I suspect the producers didn’t want to show the diversity in black people. They don’t want us to realize we are all part of the African diaspora. We are all brothers and sistas regardless of the language we speak. That might cause unity which they don’t want. Just my opinion on it.

  3. Kelly Saux says:

    You may not realize it, but you probably already have a fair understanding of the Spanish language and quite the vocabulary as well. After all, most Americans would have no problem reading the menu in a Mexican restaurant, or understanding basic Spanish words. But, if you are interested in increasing your Spanish speaking skills, you may want to consider the Pimsleur Spanish program.

  4. Martina Berry says:

    I’m so happy to have come across your website. This happens to me all the time. I grew up in Latino communities where there was only a sprinkle of African Americansso naturally I picked up the language through friends and experiences in the community, especially in the grocery store. It’s come in handy at work but you should see the reaction when people find out I speak Spanish. Then comes the question, “where are you from?” It only confuses them when I share that I’m not Latina. I would like to find more people like me to talk about some of my experiences. Keep up the blog.

    • Sam says:

      This post made me smile because I love the idea that black people or Africans speaking spanish is so rare. I will write in Spanish for everyone here since you guys speak it lol He estado aprendiendo español durante los últimos nueve meses ahora por mi mismo y he estado muy feliz porque estoy aprendiendo un idioma que siempre he querido aprender. Soy africanoamericano de Nigeria y tengo veinte años. A mi el español es un idioma hermoso y siempre ha sido para mi. Me encanta el acento, la cultura, y la gente. Al principio yo empecé a aprender escuchando a la música (reggaeton lol) que mi amigo tocó en su carro (él es dominicano).. Entonces, empecé viendo la televisión mucho todos los días. Los programas como Caso Cerrado, Casos de Familia, Las noticias cuarenta y siete y otras cosas como eso. Específicamente escuchando a la música mejorado mi espñol muy rapido porque yo traduje las letras mucho. Todavía estoy estudiando por mi mismo con libros de estudio (step by step spanish books to start from the beginning and master tenses grammar etc). No tengo nada más decir pero español es asombroso y un día quiero hablar con fluidez, maybe in 2 to 3 years. Im sure I made a ton of mistakes haha pero gracias por escushcarme. I love knowing that im not the only black person or african who genuinely loves the spanish language and followed through with learning it.

      • Black girl, Latin World says:

        tu comentario me hizo sonreír. Te veo pasión y determinación con el idioma. si usted aprendió todo eso en tan poco tiempo, me imagino que va a ser fluido antes de 2-3 años ! Gracias por leer.

  5. icediva says:

    Love this! Yes, I’m a Afro Latina who grew up in Texas and it was interesting because I was constantly explaining myself to the population. I finally faced the fact that I would be doing that forever.

  6. charallday says:

    My kids are half Mexican/ native American. I live in tx. And been here a little over a decade. I also speak Spanish and Portuguese even though I’m Liberian American. I think it is great learning new languages. I get the stares too being here. It rarely bothers me but what does is when people assume I was taught by my kids father. Which I furthest from the truth as I took an interest in it when I was about 8 and we moved to the city of Camden in NJ. It’s nice to see more people out there like my kiddos especially in Texas. Keep blogging. 🙂

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