Irene Vasquez: Director of World Cultural Studies Discusses Link Between African Americans and Latinos on LA Alliance
Professor and chair of Chicana/o studies Irene Vasquez spoke recently about misconceptions surrounding African American and Latino relations during a history segment of “L.A. Alliance,” a show presented by the Los Angeles nonprofit Diverse Strategies for Organizing. In the episode, Vasquez, the director of World Cultural Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills, gives historical perspectives of the settling of the Americas by Africans and peoples of African descent in in Latin American independence movements. The show is available online at the organization’s Website and will air this fall on Los Angeles Time Warner cable stations.
“[The show] highlights organizations and efforts between Latin Americans and Latinos to work cooperatively and establish positive relations in communities,” says Vasquez. “This is an alternative to what we see in the media, which stresses conflict between African Americans and Latinos.”
“It’s one reality,” she says. “There is conflict among youth in schools and in prisons. But there are other realities of communication and [mutual] support.”
Vasquez says that one-third of Latin America’s population is comprised of Afro-Latino descent peoples, as Africans arrived on the continent during the early exploration of regions known today as Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Chile. In addition, she describes how later in the 20th century, African Americans made their homes in Mexico and Latin America because they felt they were treated more equally in these countries than in the United States.
“There is a very long and rich shared history that has existed between African descent and Latino descent peoples,” says Vasquez in a segment that depicts the two populations working side-by-side during the 1960s civil rights movement. “As a matter of fact, Mexican Americans participated in the Poor People's Campaign, organized by Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“When you look at the paths of the ancestors of African and Latino peoples in the western hemisphere, you see these paths have intersected and merged into what I would call journeys toward equality, dignity and social justice,” Vasquez continues. “The steps we take today to recognize this shared heritage are a very important part of developing a better human society.”
- Joanie Harmon