by Jacquie Posey
Free and enslaved Africans shaped and built Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Their descendants, known as Afro-Latinos, are featured in a new photo exhibition by cultural anthropologist Sandra Andino, associate director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Penn.
“Afro-Latino in Philadelphia: Stories from El Barrio,” which opened on Dec. 4 at Taller Puertorriqueño, a community-based multidisciplinary arts organization in North Philadelphia, explores the intersection of African heritage and Latino identity.
Andino, who teaches the course “African Diaspora in Latin America and the Spanish Speaking Caribbean” at Penn, believes that arts education has the power to transform lives. Through her photography exhibition, she seeks, in part, to dispel negative stereotypes, combat racism, and raise awareness of Afro-Latinos’ contributions to the city.
“While living in Philadelphia, I met many Afro-Latinos who had similar stories and had experienced racism in their countries of origin, in the U.S., and within their own communities,” Andino says. “That’s when I felt that I had to say something creatively through my photography to create awareness of this issue and hopefully change racist ideologies and views.”
The show features eight people, who, like Andino, are Afro-Latino, and whom she photographed and conducted audio interviews with in 2010. The exhibition documents their personal stories through photographs and discussions that offer an intimate perspective of their lives and the collective conscious connection to their African heritage.
“Afro-Latino in Philadelphia” is an outgrowth of Andino’s quest to find her family roots, a search that led her to study Africa and the African culture’s connection with people from Latin America and the Caribbean.
“My family’s story is very similar to other families in the African Diaspora of the Americas,” she says. “We—the descendants of Africans from the continent, the Spanish Peninsula, and the Caribbean—arrived to the island of Puerto Rico, established lives there, and contributed to the island’s socio-economic, cultural, and political formation.”
“Afro-Latino in Philadelphia: Stories from El Barrio” is on display at Taller Puertorriqueño, 2721 North 5th St., through Jan. 9.