August 06, 2010

Earlier this week MTV announced this year's nominees for its Video Music Awards (VMAs) and one name you didn't hear mentioned in the Best Hip Hop Video category was Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi.  That's right, why would you expect a Mexican to be nominated in this category?  But you did.  Or more specifically, you heard the name of a blaxican better known as Kid Cudi.

You don't hear much about blaxicans (or Afro-Mexicans if they live or were born in Mexico) but they do exist.   I personally know two.  And sadly, blatinos (black Latinos) are often overlooked or mocked in the universe of Hispanic media and marketing.

The Los Angeles Times in early July reported on how Televisa in Mexico opened its morning coverage of the 2010 World Cup: a skit with actors in black face make-up, dressed in fake animal skins and wild Afro wigs."  Televisa's reaction to the criticism underscored the difference in how the issue of race has evolved on either side of the border.  It seems that the degree to which depictions of blacks are considered racist seems to diminish as you cross south of the border.  So while the kerchief-headed Aunt Jemima and Sambo's boy have disappeared (today's Aunt Jemima has no kerchief and wears a pearl earrings), in recent years in Mexico you had a stamp honoring the black caricature Memin Pinguin.

Of course, Kid Cudi has talked about his Mexican heritage and even created an alter-ego, Juan Pablo, to express his Mexican heritage.  Given his black appearance and his chosen music genre, you might be mistaken into thinking he doesn't even acknowledge his Mexican side.  Far from it.

But you can't help wonder about the blaxican's mindset given our not-always-pleasant media environment.  About a year ago Tyra Banks had on her show a young blaxican who unabashedly promoted his black heritage and denigrated his Mexican side.  After persistent probing Tyra eventually was able to get the young man to fess up: he "hid" his Mexican side in reaction to the negative portrayal of Mexicans by people and media in general.  Sad sad sad.

We're not where we should be but hopefully with the emergence of a biracial US president, blaxicans in the US will assert their unique biracial/bicultural heritage, and all media will behave in kind.

And so it's nice to see another blaxican begin to take his rightful place in the world of music: San Pedro, California-bred Miguel Jontel Pimentel---better known as Miguel.  This young R&B singer with a uniquely smooth sound was recently profiled in one of the bibles of the hip hop world, XXL magazine.  And like with Kid Cudi, most people will only see Miguel's black heritage.  But all you have to focus on is his name.  And you really learned about Miguel's pride in his dual heritage when during World Cup he tweeted about his emotions as he watched Latin American teams play.

I'm reminded of an old Pete Wilson TV spot circa Prop 187 ("they keep coming").  The likes of Kid Cudi and Miguel remind us once again: we've been here and you'll find us everywhere.  They are their own people, who happen to have unique backgrounds.

Comments

Bravo Manny for this post! The race conversation needs to continue happening in this country and your story on Blaxicans in geat! Unfortunately racists attitudes from Televisa do spill over the border but we need more Kid Cudi's to help people understand that we are everywhere.... I'm going to retweet right now....

Thank you for an enlightening perspective. I wonder if there is a unified effort to promote pride and heritage among Blaxicans and Blatinos in general? It saddens me to see self hatred among people of a darker hue. Sammy Sosa really threw me for a loop when he got his skin lightened. Love the skin you're in!

Great post, Manny! I am fortunate to know a Blaxican from Phoenix, and she is very proud of her heritage...which also includes a bit of Native American as well. It's amazing to me, the AfroLatino culture/heritage is so rich and influential to our popular culture these days....that it surprises me when I talk to people and they are unaware. Case in point: At this year's New York International Film Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting an African American woman from the Southern part of the US. As she told me how she had her own film festival, catering to the urban market, I mentioned that she should focus on AfroLatinos, especially since many aren't. She had no idea. I explained it to her, named some famous AfroLatinos, and her eyes almost came out of her head. Thanks for enlightening so many on Blaxicans, which shows the diversity of the AfroLatino in the United States; these stories must be told, and much more often.

Hello Manny, I am so pleased to read this article. I am half Black and Half Mexican. I am very proud of both my heritages! I saw a PBS special about AfroLatinos. I cried with joy as I saw a young woman that looked like me. It is very nice see another blaxican begin to take his rightful place in the world of music. I hope someday I will make my mark in the world as an artist. It made my day reading this article. For the first time I am really starting to feel a more enlightened sense that people do see us, and this article and responses prove it.

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