Dash Harris Machado is the co-founder of AfroLatino Travel, an organization that facilitates trips focused on centering Latin America’s African roots, and co-host of the Radio Caña Negra podcast. A lifelong activist, she regularly hosts workshops designed to dismantle anti-Blackness, and in 2010, she produced NEGRO, a docu-series about the Latinx Identity and its deep-seated race, color, and class complex. In this personal essay, she challenges the concept of Latinidad and why she chooses to honor her Blackness instead.
"How do you honor your Latinidad?"
“I don’t!” My girlfriends, two fellow Black Central Americans, and I screamed in unison as we dissolved into our usual cackles. Janvieve Williams Comrie, a human rights strategist, shared this question with Evelyn Alvarez and I after it was presented during a workshop she attended on the first day of Latinx Heritage Month. She recalls rightfully informing the facilitator how triggering and violent this seemingly innocent query was. How do we honor something that doesn’t honor us? How do we honor our rapists, murderers, thieves, and wardens? How do we honor genocide? How do we honor lies?
I am here because of my Negritud, my Blackness, and in spite of Latinidad. Latinidad, Hispanidad, “La Raza Cosmica" (The Cosmic Race), “La Raza" (the race) — are all manifestations of hegemonic, white European domination and subjugation — and it continues to be. Ironically, for all the theatrics of this “cosmic Latin” race, Latinx — merely, a geographical identifier — has never been a race nor an ethnicity. How could over 20 countries share a singular ethnicity?
I am a Black Panamanian with Antillean and colonial Panamanian roots. Afro-Panamanians may be descendants of Africans, free and enslaved, during the colonial period as well as descendants of Afro-Caribbeans from Anglo and Francophone Caribbean countries whose labor built major agriculture and infrastructure projects of the country. While the nation was built by Africans and Afro-descendants trafficked to Panama and migrated for labor, dominant white culture simultaneously rejected and exploited our existence.
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