When we asked Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. about why so many Latinos get confused about race, specifically when filling out forms like the recent U.S. census, he tell us it may be because Latino "is not a race in and of itself."
"The way people self-identify is very subjective and very cultural-specific," he continued. "And I don’t blame people. I just feel sad that people think that black is ugly," explains Gates. Tonight, his four-part special goes to Cuba, "Which famously declared the end of racism with socialism," Gates reminds us.
So what similarities has he seen while traveling through Latin America for these specials? "The saddest thing for me is that the poorest people in each of these societies are the darkest-skinned with the kinkiest hair and the thickest lips – the most African-looking people," Gates laments. "In each of the countries, the black element has been repressed."
And throughout most of Latin America, that means a large part of our history and culture is also repressed. Gates noted there are at least 120 million people of African descent in Latin America (not counting the English-speaking Caribbean). And, as he says, "That is a whole lot of people..."
Catch the second part of Black in Latin America tonight on PBS and follow Prof. Gates as he takes a trip to the island nation of Cuba.