(Title inspired by the song Vámonos Pa’l Monte, by Eddie Palmieri)
Thinking about culture from the Latin American Diaspora, which includes Latin@s in the United States, usually evokes flavors, sound, and movement.. Latin@ culture is rich, tiene mucho sabor, on all three fronts. From the beats that make up our favorite rhythms to the seasonings that embellish our cuisines, people everywhere profess their love for Latin@ culture! But good food, music, and dancing are only a partial (albeit popular) manifestation of the richness of our culture.
What is less known is that this culture has been forged in fire. Much of what is celebrated and interpreted through art in our culture today is rooted in resistance, resilience, self-expression, self-preservation, as well the beauty, the pain, and the necessity of the mundane. The widely accepted staples of our culture have evolved from a painful history of colonization, slavery, and genocide that are often, and understandably, hard to revisit. However, looking deeply into the mirror to engage with our history allows us to recognize and appreciate the meaningful contributions of our ancestors and wrestle with the parts of our collective history that elicit pain and that to this day require action.
Recognizing the power of music, dance, and community as a representation of our culture, our monthly column seeks to investigate the Afro-diasporic roots of the rhythms and dances many of us grew up with, underscoring the experiences of the Black members and participants of the culture. We seek to build an understanding about how Afro-descendant people largely created and sustained these rhythms and dances that have exploded and have been commercialized over time. We aim to highlight the Blackness in the music and dance we love.
Our main goals are to educate ourselves and our readers, as consumers and enthusiasts of Afro-Latin culture, on its Black roots, highlight the work of Black artists, dancers, and scholars across the Americas, and develop a practice of anti-racism in our interactions with all cultural products of Afro-Latin culture we partake in.
Video by Elise Mahon, UNC Research