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.