Janis Hernandez

Cafe Mama Ines en Santiago de Cuba.
Cafe Mama Ines en Santiago de Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES — In grammar, adjectives are used to express the origin or nationality of people. In linguistics, compound terms are words formed by two or more simple voices.

These rules, learned in school when we’re little, have generated some concern with certain expressions that I’ve been hearing for some time. Therefore, I’ve taken the license to call these prefixed names of origin.

I’m speaking of expressions such as African-American, Afro-Latin, Indo-European, from my point of view these are no more than innovations implicitly carry a certain degree of discrimination.

These refer to where people are born, regardless of their citizenship, either by choice or by circumstance.

I can understand that compounds such as the following are used:

Cuban-American
Russian-Chinese
Algerian-Australian
French Canadian
Italo-German
Polish-French

Both adjectives are used for referring to the country of origin and acquired nationality.

But if someone is a native of a country and therefore a citizen, why refer to their racial background? I consider it completely unnecessary.

This is very common in the United States, where the president himself is referred to as an “African-American.” Is Barack Obama less American than Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton or Bush (to cite some of his more recent counterparts)? None of them were called Caucasian-American [although Kennedy was sometimes referred to as Irish-Catholic].

But since we’re so imitative of our northern neighbor, despite our many criticisms of that country, I’ve been hearing this more often in the Latin American media. For example on TeleSur, they use the word “Afro-Latino” citizens.

What equality and integration do I hear spoken about when clearly this only establishes differences? I’ve never heard anyone calling someone “Afro-Cuban” in Cuba. I think it’s less pejorative to call them “black.” In the end, whether one is “black” or “white,” it only describes the color of their skins, not their original condition.

One is from where they were born, beyond passports, beyond the language they speak, beyond race. Can anyone tell me that singer Concha Uika isn’t Spanish.


5 thoughts on “Nationalities with Prefixes?

  • Janis Hernandez is clueless. This is the kind of arguments that have kept black latinos
    invisible in Latino society. You are just like everyone else. But the reality is you are not like everyone else. You are different from those of the lighter hue. You have to get a lighter mate to improve your lot.

  • I didn’t miss the point: nationalism as well as most forms of fanaticism is ridiculous and in most cases an undeserved source of pride.

    In your example is ok for your neighbor to feel pride for the achievements of his kid. After all, said achievements are a byproduct of his education, environment and cultural values that to some extent he taught his kid. In the other hand, identifying himself with the achievements of his favorite baseball team or favorite players is silly; they win or lose because of their own skills and their fan base has nothing to do with it and more often than not they are just a source of trouble.

    You only need to take a look at how sport fanatics behave to understand my point; even countries universally regarded as bastions of politeness and civility as Canada have to deal with the issue (i.e. Stanley cup riots).

    There is a fine, but distinctive line between liking something or being inspired about someone and identifying yourself with the subject of your inspiration and taking personal pride on it. As Belbo said, “ma gavte la nata”

  • You miss the point of the pride. It’s about the culture and traditions of their heritage, not the genetic material. For example, up here in Canada, a Cuban-Canadian neighbour of mine is proud that his 8 year old son is a talented baseball player while his son takes pride in the heritage of great Cuban ball players. You see, the pride involves a cultural heritage and a talent fostered by that culture.

  • In that case is even worse, people should feel pride for what they do, not for what they are. What you are is simply an accident of birth, not a skill or a personal achievement and therefore not worth feeling pride for. Thats it, unless being the first sperm to reach the ovum had some kind of merit worth feeling pride for.

  • You miss the point that the hyphenized label is applied by the person himself and is used as a symbol of pride, not discrimination. Even 2nd and 3rd generation descendants will proudly refer to themselves as Italian-Americans or Cuban-Americans.

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