Sammy Sosa Syndrome Spreads to US Latinos

THE BLACK and indigenous grandmother all but disappeared from Sammy Sosa's face two years ago and now it seems it's gone from US Latino homes too. According to a USA Today analysis of the Census 2011, the majority of Latinos, when given a choice to choose a race, checked off white. I am not shocked by these findings. The fact is that Hispanics -- here and South of the Rio Grande -- have a very complicated history with race. As a group at the core we are delusional and self-hating when it comes to race. When we look in the mirror, we refuse to acknowledge the black or brownness in our DNA, a tragic result of colonization.

While many people of African and indigenous descent live in every Latin American nation, both because they are descendants of the native peoples of the region or because their ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought over during the slave trade of the 15th, 16th and 17th century, descendants of these populations have been exploited and invisible and in some countries even denied, see Mexico, see Sammy Sosa. Hispanics prefer to boast about the Spanish, i.e European grandma with blond hair and blue eyes, and conveniently forget la india or la negra. As the rapper Tego Calderón eloquently told me during an interview in 2007, "we were lulled into thinking we are the same."

A DNA study in Puerto Rico may tell the story of the entire region. While in the 2000 Census 80% of island Puerto Ricans self-identified as white, a maternal DNA study found that only 12% of the population has maternal European ancestry. The majority had 61 % Native American (as in Taino, Arawak, Igneri) and 25 % African. The whitening process that happened on the island in the early part of the last century was replicated all over the Spanish Americas.

No surprise that in 2011, the descendants of a glorious people, when looking at their reflection in the mirror see ivory not ebony. And some tragically reach out for the whitening cream.


  1. It is sad the this becomes the way that many Afro-Latinos feel they need to do this in order to fit in the larger culture. It most comes to no surprised considering the lack of representation in much of the Latino Media outside of Baseball.

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