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The two terms, Hispanic and Negro, were not terms that both our communities selected. They were assigned to us by the United States.
The term Hispanic is what the conquistadors used to label and oppress the natives (Boricua or Taino) when “discovering” the land about 500 years ago. Hispanic embodies the bloodshed of the Indigenous and discredits the culture that was native to the lands before stolen by the colonizers.
During the 1970s, for the US Census, to have an effective control in counting the numbers of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans, came up with the term “Hispanic.”
Then the US reinforced it by convincing the three groups that by using the “Hispanic” term, umbrella, they would be in a much better position to get federal funding.
After that, Hispanic appeared all over America. Here in Buffalo, you find that although over 80% of the Buffalo & Erie County Latino population is Puerto Rican, they classify themselves as Hispanics. You can witness this by the names of your local Puerto Rican/Latino organizations: Hispanics United of Buffalo, Hispanic Women’s League, Hispanic Heritage Council, Association of Hispanic Art, and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Parade (added Hispanic a few years ago, when they were told it was easier to get funding if they used the term Hispanic).
What do these organizations have in common? Non-profit organization status and government funding.
The government even developed “Hispanic Heritage Month” to cement the deal, which was easily adopted by 90% of Latino groups.
The term Latino describes a geographically derived national origin group. It refers to people originating from or having a heritage related to Latin America. “Latin” refers to the romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese and French) spoken by Latin Americans.
Puerto Rico is part of Latin America. Latin America includes Mexico, Central and South America and all the barrier islands of the Caribbean that speak Spanish, Portuguese, or French.
Furthermore, Puerto Rico, along with Cuban, and Santo Domingo, are part of the Latin America experience — human slavery, violence, torture, and genocide. That is why they are all part of the “African and Latino Diaspora.”
It is very hard, but many Puerto Rican groups, including writers, poets, musicians, are trying to bring consciousness back, but its difficult due to the many years of mental conditioning, mental colonialism, and the tons of money the Feds throw at these organizations.
It is an uphill battle.
I would like others to add their take on this subject, pro or con.
Feel free to inform me, educate me, or correct me, as I’m always willing to learn from my community and colleagues.
Note: Alberto O. Cappas is the co-publisher of the Buffalo Latino Village, co-founder of the Campeche Art Gallery, and the founder/co-chair of the Puerto Rican Committee for Community Justice (PRCCJ)
Comment: I have been conscious for many years, and to expose the subtle forms of oppression, I’ve had to be patient, strategic, sensitive and selective…these are descriptions of me speaking about Christopher Columbus, The infrastructure of our Arawak roots and living communities, Los Caciques, Bohiques, Nitainos y Nabori…The people know the truth when You bring it to them…Now we must live it…demonstrate the alternatives, speak of Independence and what that looks like…Our struggles are slowly opening up…Let’s jump into All this work that must be done…thank you for this opportunity…
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