Afinándonos hacia el censo 2010… Artículo importante sobre el censo y el blanqueamiento de PR. Cariños, -María
Statistical Genocide in Puerto Rico
Posted on June 26, 2008
Every time I read Puerto Rico’s 2000 Census results, the undeniable reality hits me in the face with the power of an upstart boxer forcing a veteran to realize his glory days are over.
Based on the current rate, Afro-Puerto Ricans will statistically disappear at the end of the current century. This has happened in Argentina and Mexico, where leadership in both countries publicly stated they have no Black populations despite the presence of very active Black organizations fighting for political inclusion. We are witnessing the beginning of statistical genocide—Latin American style. In the most recent census, more than 80 percent of the Puerto Rican population self-identified itself as White, 9 percent as Black, 4 percent as other and 7 percent as mixed race.
I have read various studies by academicians who argue that definitions of race have changed markedly on the island since the Census was taken in Puerto Rico in the early 20th century. The census taken then, immediately after the United States’ colonization of the island, clearly indicated people of African descent comprised 50 percent of the population.
Many academicians state that many who filled out the 2000 Census form were confused about how to self-identify under racially confusing categories used for stateside Americans. How can you ask a Puerto Rican his or her race or ethnic group when pejorative terms such as trigueño, prieto, negro, negro fino, jabao, mulato, Indio and café con leche are normally used to describe individuals of African descendant.
Afrocentrists have weaved conspiracy theories about the White Puerto Rican elite re-writing history to disassociate the island from their African ancestry and legacy. They attribute the current statistical results to the rate of Americanization of Puerto Rican culture—colonization, migration and miscegenation. The theory that oppressed people take on the qualities of their colonial masters as documented by Frantz Fanon in his seminal book “The Wretched of the Earth” and Carter G. Woodson’s “Mis-Education of the Negro” further sheds light to the mindset behind the need to assimilate into the U.S. way of life.
I firmly believe that the 19th century Spanish policies of “Blanqueamento” or Whitening the population through European immigration by offering land grants to poor Whites from the Canary Islands, Corsica and mainland Spain proved to be perversely successful. Puerto Rican plantation owners strategically imported poor Whites because of the constant fear of slave revolts, particularly after the Haitian revolution. The theory of maintaining economic stability on the island through racial miscegenation created a workforce where slaves and indentured servants worked side by side in the sugar cane fields. Eventually, Puerto Rico became a Hispanicized society with Puerto Rican-born “criollos” who emphasized maintaining their cultural ties to the mother country or “La Madre Patria”—Spain.
There is still a gnawing feeling in my soul.
I am a 56-year-old man who witnessed the civil rights struggle and the riots while growing up in 1960s Harlem. I graduated from a university—Wesleyan—in 1974 with one of the first classes of that institution to include students of color. I remember when Puerto Ricans and African Americans were not allowed in trade unions without major court battles taking place for the right to work for living wages. I have spent a lifetime working in Latino and African American communities where I have seen many community champions risk their careers and lives to boldly advocate for these communities.
Does the present generation think we were fighting for the right to call ourselves White? The reality that 80 percent of Puerto Ricans consider themselves White has serious political and economic implications for U.S. communities of color in the future. Census statistics impact the distribution of critical resources to local communities by the federal government. This census data also impacts the redistricting of voting locations and communities may be gerrymandered to empower majority White communities.
It frightens me to think that I might one day have to concede to right-wing journalists like Patrick Buchanan, who prophesized that Latinos will be assimilated as another White ethnic group in the coming years? It is inevitable that some will be totally assimilated, but questions will always be posed which force individuals to look back at their roots.
For example, as a third-generation U.S. citizen who now lives in Washington D.C., I still get questions based on my last name such as, “Where are you from?”
My response is always, “I am from Harlem, N.Y.”
“No, no, where are you really from?”
“Really, I was born and raised in New York,” I explain. I can see the sense of frustration and I end the guessing game by saying Puerto Rico.
Light-skinned Puerto Ricans with African ancestry who are able to pass for White will choose the “safety” of being White under any political system. As most conscious Afro-Latinos know, the act of acknowledging your African roots is still viewed as an act of rebellion in the Puerto Rican mainstream.
Unless a Black consciousness movement grips Puerto Rico, I predict that under the current political structure and educational system, the Afro-Puerto Rican will be further marginalized and become nearly extinct as have the indigenous peoples of the U.S. And with open migration of Afro-Puerto Ricans to the U.S., they will find refuge in the African-American Diaspora.
There are so many pressing issues and challenges throughout the Afro-Latino Diaspora on which we need to focus. I want to see the residents of Puerto Rico stop playing this game of statistical genocide.
Christopher Rodriguez is a lecturer, trainer and author of “Latino Manifesto: A Critique of the Race Debate in the U.S. Latino Community.” He can be reached at Latino.Manifesto@yahoo.com.