Latinos and afro-americans
Growing up Hispanic in Chocolate City Oakland, with both brown and black brothers, I somehow felt more at home with the darker of the two groups. The music – black music has always been a major force in my life. I was never happier than when I was dancing in clubs and later as a dancer in Everybody’s Creative Jazz Dance Company. When my daughter joined the company we had the awesome experience of dancing together for the public.
My library in Ensenada Mexico, my home for twenty years, is jammed with the biographies and autobiographies of musicians and the history of black music as seen through the eyes of music historians, critics, poets and fans. My home, office, and cars are wired to the music. My friends in this town tend to be Mexican and Cuban musicians who play Jazz, Son and Salsa.
Compact discs, Long Play Vinyl and satellite radios are constantly in play (I even have a satellite boom box for the beach): Straight ahead jazz, soft jazz for my baby at night, 1920´s New Orleans, 40´s big bands, reggae, hip hop, funk, slow grinds to get ya groove on, zydeco, gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, rap and last but not least LATIN JAZZ.
Tito Rodriquez, Eddie Plamieri, Ruben Blades, my San Fran homey Cal Tjader and my main Chicano man from So Caly – Poncho Sanchez. These cats all cause me to “heat up” and dance.
My soul is black and speaks Spanglish mixed with Eubonics!
I have been in the middle of racist Latinos and blacks who wanted to cut each other over bullshit bigotry. When I worked in the war on poverty in the 1970´s, as the Director of a Community Action Program, I was characterized as a sellout Hispanic who worked only for the interests of Blacks. The only time in my life that I carried a weapon as a result of the death threats.
I was betrayed by Chicano “leadership” who promised a compromise over a funding split behind closed doors to avoid a public fight. At the final funding meeting they ridiculed the proposal and me. Publicly acting out what they agreed not to do. They said I was a “Tio Taco” and a sellout to Latinos. After the meeting the Chicano projects director took me aside and said it was not personal – just politics. I went home after the meeting and cried.
My point in all of this is to say that people of different colors can be hypocritically racist. I say hypocritically racist because damn! We are people of color and have more in common than we have differences. We “people of color” have common traits that set us equally apart from the average whitey.
Check it out: We can dance. We wear bright clothes-don’t shop the gap. Wear hats, Wear lots of cologne. Eat tripe and like our food spicy hot. Mucho machismo. Wife’s got a job, we may or may not. Music volume cranked up and with a heavy bottom. Drinking and smoking are major sports. We fill the prisons. Women wear more makeup and use hair extensions. Heavy use of slang and profanity – muthafu*** & hijo de puta. Dogs are for protection and security, typically pit bulls. Don’t say nothin bout our mammas. Wear lots of jewelry, especially crosses around our necks. Lowridin is a common style as are shaved heads, baggy pants, white T shirts and designer sneakers. Both Mexicanos and Blacks love Mexican food and women with some booty. Mexican and Black parents like giving colorful and exotic names to their children, especially girls: Lavonia, Xochitl, Keesha, Candelaria. Curiously enough Blacks often give their children latin names. I have known afro brothers named Juan and Lorenzo-sistas named Juanita and Maria.
When two brothers/compadres pass each other on a two lane residential street they will stop and talk at each other out the windows ya all. Stop traffic-no problem we have to complete the conversation and those folks can and will wait.
So if we have so much in common how come we don’t like each other as we should?
Perhaps it is because we have so much in common that each group reflects back at the other much of what we don’t like about ourselves. Quien can dig it? No yo my brother.
I blame my mother calling me LeRoy for my love of the African female form.
Dark skinned Mexican women, Philipino Women, women of color: exotics are my weakness.
Black tourists are few and far between in Ensenada and even fewer buy property here. One of the things I would like to study some day is why such a low percentage of African Americans visit Mexico. I miss seeing my O’town sistas. Miss seeing them, hearing their laughter and watch the way they move their muscular frames with rhythm and grace.
But one day, some six years ago, I was sitting on a Pacific beach called La Salina.
Half the distance between Rosarito and Ensenada, is where I saw this African goddess playing in the surf. I was inspired to write the following poem. Hope you old guys enjoy and understand my feelings while reading this.
THE GIRL FROM LA SALINA
A deep blue Baja sky
Bright august sun glows silver off the pacific
In the shallow surf a girl of a woman
Deep black skin bathed in white Sea foam
Leaping onto the waves with dancer perfect legs and buttocks
Arms extended, she enjoins the waves in a joyous ballet
Although a distant image
Her heavenly crafted beauty defies an old man’s visual limitations
The sight of her creates longings
His body memory rekindles youthful desire
He will never know the pleasure of her intimacy
But un-saddened, for her vision brings memories –
Beautiful black women he loved and shared pleasures with
His wisdom prevents him now from acting like an old fool
Content that his age gives him freedom
To flirt with young girls in a fatherly way
Sneaking lascivious looks and concealing his harmless fantasies he is still the romantic
Hopeful that the next life will be like this one
Full of passion, color, dance, beautiful women and miles davis musical magic