AfroLatinidad events highlight fusion of African and Latinx cultures for BHM

Samantha Weber, Staff writer

For the third week of Black History Month, there were many opportunities to learn something about the AfroLatinidad culture though numerous events and opportunities on campus.

Throughout the week, students were able to explore the African roots of Hispanic culture through events sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Cultures and the Hafenmaier College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, in collaboration with Black Students for Unity.

AfroLatinidad refers to the culture of someone who has roots in both Latin America and Africa, without having to choose between the two. Another common definition is a person of African descent who is a native or inhabitant of Latin America.

People may not want to only identify in one way if there are multiple backgrounds that make them who they are.

AfroLatinidad also celebrates the cultural similarities between African Latinos in those in Africa and Latin America. Assistant professor of Spanish, Sherez Mohamed, Ph.D., explained the importance of recognizing AfroLatinidad.

“By celebrating AfroLatinidad, we are helping to bring awareness to not only the culture, but also the struggles faced by those who identify as Afro-Latinos,” Mohamed said.

On Feb. 15, there was a panel discussion via Zoom facilitated by Mohamed about Black experiences in the Americas. There were four panelists including two African American students currently at Mercyhurst and two Dominican professionals, one of which was an alum of Mercyhurst.

At this discussion, they talked about many topics including identity, race and perceptions of race both in the United States and the Dominican Republic. Each panelist was able to comment on these questions, so the attendees were able to get different viewpoints on each topic.

Attendees were able to submit questions through the chat and they were answered at the end of the discussion.

On Feb. 17, there was a viewing of the 2014 film “Pelo Malo” facilitated by Spanish professor, Alice Edwards, Ph.D. This was an in-person event and was limited to 28 students in the specific classroom.

“Pelo Malo” is a Venezuelan film about a boy who is constantly straightening his hair and this leads to fights between him and his mom; especially when his mom then starts to question his sexuality.

On Feb. 18, there was a lecture entitled “Sangre Negra: Language, Race and the Global Telling of Black Stories” via Zoom with Eva Michelle Wheeler, an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Oakwood University.

Wheeler’s research includes Sociocultural Linguistics, Latinx Studies, Translation Studies and Spanish Linguistics. The lecture included discussion about how translated works can lead to misrepresentation in certain situations where it should be made clear what is going on.

Unlike the English language which has variations of the word ‘black,’ ranging from words used as cultural identifiers to racist slurs, in Spanish the dominant word is ‘negro,’ which can impact nuances in translation.

The word AfroLatinidad is not yet recognized by either Merriam Webster or as an official word, so there is a petition to try and get the word to be officially recognized.

“We decided to celebrate AfroLatinidad as an attempt to combine what we do in the Department of World Languages and Cultures with Black History Month,” said Mohamed. “We believe it is important to show that all of these spaces are intertwined and connected.”