Black Cuban, Black American: A Memoir

Black Cuban, Black American: A Memoir

Black Cuban, Black American: A Memoir

Black Cuban, Black American: A Memoir


Cultural Writing. Latino/Latina Studies. African American Studies. This book marks the first publication of a living author in Arte PAAblico's landmark Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage series. Growing up in Ygor City (now Tampa) in the early twentieth century, the young Evelio Grillo experienced the complexities of life in a horse-and-buggy society demarcated by both racial and linguistic lines. Grillo recaptures in prose this unique world that slowly faded during the Depression. An insightful and inspiring work - U.S. Representative Barbara Lee.


[T]he American pattern of rigid segregation of blacks and whites
asserted itself with unrestrained, brutal vigor. For all of our sharing
of language, culture, and religion with white Cubans, we black
Cubans were black. When the school bell rang, we joined the
streams of children headed toward the “colored” schools. School
resolved all of my confusion about my color, my Spanish tongue,
and my culture. I was a black boy. That’s what was important!

HOWEVER SELF-EVIDENT THE TRUTH of the above words might seem, when considered in context they reveal an anxiety, a racial and ethnic identity crisis, that few Hispanics or black Americans have ever brought to the fore. This because in the U. S. framework of racial and ethnic politics, Hispanics and black Americans—and whites, for that matter—seldom overlap; they are not allowed to. A glance at a present-day government form or loan application, with racial categories such as “white (non-Hispanic),” “black (non-Hispanic),” and “Hispanic,” seems to confirm that neither whites nor blacks can be Hispanic, regardless of their national origin, cultural heritage, or ethnic affiliation.

The attitudes that brought about the institutionalization of these ill-conceived categories are not new. In the specific context of white and black Hispanics, they are the result of a century-old clash between two different notions of race and ethnicity—one Latin American, in which national identity and culture supercede race, the other U. S. American, in which race supercedes other factors.

Excerpt from first paragraph of Chapter 7 of Black Cuban, Black American.

It is noteworthy that in the United States Census 2000 there are three categories for gathering racial and ethnic information instead of one—ethnic self-identification, “Spanish/Hispanic/ Latino” (with space for specific information); racial self-identification (which permits one to account from multiple categories); and ancestry/heredity (for one’s national or ancestral origin, or that of one’s forbears).

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