Race in Latin America

So-called Latinos are a mix of Amerindian, White, and Black people. However, such a diverse background is not enough to cease the racial tensions on the entire American Continent.

The entire American continent experienced colonization centuries ago, which was a process of land and human exploitation that forcedly blended people from different ethnicities. However, while the Latin part of it is heavily racially mixed, the American Community Survey stated in most recent data that only 2.0% of the population of the United States is racially mixed. Usually, the international community wonders what happened to both parts of the continent, but it can be easily explained looking deeper into history.

Whereas countries like the United States and Canada were settler colonies, the rest of America was taken by exploitation colonialism. As of that, the new citizens at that time had a very different mindset: while English people also wanted North America as an extension of their home, religion, and values, Portuguese and Spanish people saw Latin America only as a form to increase their incomes.

Thereby, the way white, black, and native people interacted was highly influenced by the respective mindset of the citizens of the colonies. Although is widely known that Africans and Amerindians went through a terrible conjuncture of exploitation and racism through the years, the fact that the Iberian people racially blended with them remains one of the most curious chapters of Latin history. The racial mixing process firstly was a cruel sequence of rapes by the colonizers, an episode of local history that seems to have been forgotten by several history books.

Throughout the years, interracial couples were more socially accepted – even though racism unfortunately was and is still there – and more mixed children were coming out of it. The American ethnical mix was something severely addressed by Latin literature, some of the main Brazilian classic books talk about such topics.

“O cortiço” by Aluísio Azevedo and “Iracema” by José de Alencar, two pieces that talk about interracial couples and redefined Brazilian history, to the point of still being read nowadays.

In the present times, it is hard to define who is white and who is a person of color in Latin America, since there were whole generations with relatives from many different backgrounds. It is easier for many Latinos to define as white whoever has lighter skin and to define as black whoever has darker skin, which turns the race concept into a superficial debate but also contemplates the local discussions of racial tensions.

Police brutality in the Chaco region happens, mainly, to people who have native ancestry.

Also in Latin America, people of color are more susceptible to police brutality, and those who have less Caucasian features are definitely the most affected, which is called "portada de cara" in many Hispanic countries.

National authorities must discuss such desolating racial tensions, to find solutions to tackle issues alike.

At last, it is fair to say race is unquestionably a hard-hitting topic in Latin America ever since colonization started. Although there is plenty of diversity on the continent – and it must be celebrated – it is important to understand where and how it was originated and if it is being pleasant to everyone.

There are many changes to be done there to hit racial democracy, but a new generation of politically aware Latinos are already on the frontlines of it, inside and outside of Latin America. That is something to believe in.