AfroLatino Forum Conference was the latest in a series of meetings held in
New York City to bring together researchers, students, and artists alike for discussions
pertaining to the myriad of issues faced by marginalized communities in Latin America as wellas the U.S. This year, the overarching theme was race and its relationship to social justice in Latin America. Often times, the two concepts interact through the inequalities that have long
affected Latinos of African and Indigenous descent at a disproportionate rate. As I have learned, these inequalities manifest themselves most often (or most visibly, rather) through conflicts involving poverty, political representation, education, and land use management.
The conference was split into three major parts over the course of three days: anecdotal panels,
academic presentations, and artist exhibitions. Panel discussions during the first day included
Latin American immigrants, Americans of Latino descent, Spanishlanguage
educators, and a few other people who had noteworthy experiences while abroad in Latin America. A major theme was naming politics and the terms that people felt were most appropriate to use regarding Latin
America’s populations. Personal accounts of discrimination encountered in the U.S. were given,
and the “HispanicvsLatinovsBlack/ Indian” debate was brought to light.
Also noteworthy were the striking accounts of poverty that panelists experienced or viewed. One
Colombian activist recalls the lack of consumable water that an AfroLatinovillage faced in his
country and their plight caused by its contributing factors. Water flowing in many local tributaries
is becoming more and more polluted by construction sites that dump inexpensive hazardous
chemicals without regard longterm effects. Many of these chemicals are banned in the U.S. or
even Colombia, but neither usage statistics nor enforcement measures are adequately recorded
in the black villages affected. The ironic thing about such damaging practices is that the land
surrounding these sprawling complexes is not used productively. As pollution caused by
construction destroys indigenous flora and water bodies, property values plummet until
developers have to abandon the area in search of another economic opportunity. This process
forms urban “ghost towns” not even suitable for the original rural inhabitants.
I would highly recommend the conference to anyone, whether a Latin American student, researcher, or artist.