Mabuiga, ¡Bienvenido/a! Welcome!
I welcome you in the native language of my Paternal Black Carib/Garifuna Ancestors, the language they had to learn when they settled in Honduras and of my Maternal Ancestors, and the language of my other Maternal Ancestors, but I learned it, as part of my assimilation into the United States of America (USA) culture at 15 years old.
In my memoir, I draw on my own family history and lineage, to interweave my own childhood experiences with more than 500 years of history to analyze the impact racial mixing had on my maternal family. Following is an excerpt.
Like President Barack Obama, since my childhood I struggled to reconcile social perceptions of my multiracial and ethnic heritage, he as the son of a Black African father and a White American mother, in my case, the son of a Honduran Black Carib/Garifuna man and a Honduran Mestizo woman. I was born in my paternal grandparents’ home and grew up with my father, Therefore, I embraced my identity with dignity, by self-identifying as Garifuna, no qualifiers required! However, my maternal multiracial and ethnic heritage, led me to research my ancestry.
You see, the first African slaves arrived in Honduras in 1540 (That’s 79 years before they arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619!) By the 1600s, many Africans had escaped and mixed in with Indigenous People, Spanish migrants, and freed Blacks to form the range of mixtures that constitute the mainstream Honduran Mestizo population.
Spanish colonizers developed a caste system to classify people of color based on type and degree of mixture. Spaniards and their descendants (Criollos) represented the highest social status, Mixed peoples had an inferior position on the social scale. Remember the recent “In the Heights and the Erasure of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latinx Folks” episode? On my mother’s family, I have relatives who look like Amara La Negra, and others who look like Gloria Estefan, while others look like Rigoberta Menchú. To paraphrase Grupo Niche’s song Etnia , “Hay López negros, hay López blancos”. There are Black Lopez, there are White Lopez.
I invite you to stay tuned for future updates on my writing progress and the book launch announcement.
José Francisco Ávila
Telephone: (810) 462-1243
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