Campaign For An Accurate Count of Afro-Latino(a)s in the 2020 Census

By José Francisco Ávila

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With a new decade approaching, Census 2020 is around the corner. Participating in the decennial census presents an important opportunity for Afro-Latino(a)s to stand up, be counted, and tell their stories. For many Americans, the story of where we come from and who we are is inextricably linked to race and ethnicity.

It is important to understand that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are separate and distinct concepts and are collected via self-identification. Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race. Identity is nuanced, diversity exist within diversity. According the Pew research Center, a quarter of U.S. Hispanics identify as Afro-Latino.

Contrary to what most people think, Hispanic is not a race; it is an ethnicity. The U.S. Census Bureau collects Hispanic origin information following the guidance of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) 1997 Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. These federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are separate and distinct concepts and that when collecting these data via self-identification, two different questions must be used. OMB requires federal agencies to use a minimum of two ethnicities: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. OMB requires five minimum Race categories: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

In an effort to achieve an accurate count of Afro-Latino(a)s in the 2020 United States Census, GALENT would like to recommend to Latino(a)s of African descent, how to answer the following questions, on the 2020 Census questionnaire: Question 8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin? Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Puerto Ricans and Afro-Cubans, identify as X Mexican, X Puerto Rican, X Cuban. All other Afro-Latino(a)s identify as X Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin and print your Afro-Latino(a) origin (Costa Rican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Dominican, Haitian, Argentinan, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan) Question 9. What is Person 1’s race? X Black or African American, and print your Ancestry descent (Afro-Mexican, Afro-Puerto Rican Afro-Cuban, Afro-Costa Rican, Afro-Salvadoran, Afro-Guatemalan, Afro-Honduran, Afro-Nicaraguan, Afro-Panamanian, Afro-Dominican, Haitian, Afro-Argentinan, Afro-Bolivian, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Chilean, Afro-Colombian, Afro-Ecuadorian, Afro-Paraguayan, Afro-Peruvian, Afro-Uruguayan, Afro-Venezuelan.) X Some other race, print culturally differentiated ethnicity (Cocolo Creole, Garifuna, Kriol, Miskito, Miskitu, Raizal, Palanquero, Quilombola, etc,).

The multiple dimensions of Hispanic identity reflect the long colonial history of Latin America, during which mixing occurred among slaves from Africa, indigenous Americans, white Europeans, and Asians. In Latin America’s colonial period, about 15 times as many African slaves were taken to Spanish and Portuguese colonies than to the U.S. Today, about 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America, making up roughly a quarter of the total population, according to estimates from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America at Princeton University and the World Bank.

Afro-Latino(a) are the result of that mixing, they are persons of African Descent of Mexican, Caribbean, Central and South American Ancestry or Ethnic Origin. These are countries whose inhabitants speak a Romance language Spanish, French or Portuguese and practiced Catholicism. They share a long history of displacement and exclusion. Although each country has its own history and nuances, these factors largely shape the Afro-Latino(a) values and become a fundamental part of the Afro-Latino(a) “culture” they share here in the United States.

The Afro-Latino(a) identity has become convoluted, due to the fact that in the United States, Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably though they actually mean two different things. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking countries, while Latino refers to people who are from or descended from Latin American countries whose inhabitants speak a Romance language, Spanish, French or Portuguese, therefore, it includes Haiti and Brazil in addition to the Spanish Speaking countries.

Today, many people despise the term “Hispanic,” given its connection to Spain and colonization and it erases important differences in race, culture, language and class. Those with African and indigenous roots often feel left out of conversations and celebrations under that label.

As the year comes to an end, the 2020 Census is quickly approaching. It is important for Afro-Latino(a)s to answer Question 8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin? Question 9. What is Person 1’s race? And print the culturally differentiated ethnicities, in the Some other race field, as described above, in order to achieve an accurate count of Afro-Latino(a)s in the 2020 United States Census. It is important to understand that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are separate and distinct concepts and are collected via self-identification. Hispanic origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race. Stand up and be Counted!