Here is a little-known fact about the Latino population in the United States: 25 percent identify themselves as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent.
The figure became known just two years ago, when the Pew Research Center conducted the first nationally representative survey that "asked the Latino population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latino".
Many would argue this is yet another indication of the lack of visibility of the black Latino community, rooted in Latin America since the colonial era, but with little political and economic representation, even in countries where they are the majority.
To try to change that reality and highlight the contributions of the community, a group of professionals is organizing Miami's first Afro-Latino Heritage Excellence Summit, on April 13 and 14, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.
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"The conference will feature a mix of academic and popular culture sessions, as well as participation from personalities in the media and other industries," said summit coordinator Gil Rodríguez.
A highlight of the event will be the Award ceremony on Saturday honoring Dominican journalist Tony Dandrades, who has worked on Univision’s "Primer Impacto" show for more than 20 years. Dandrades is one of the few Afro-Latino faces on Hispanic television in the United States, and in his interviews and reports he has brought attention to personalities and issues that affect the Afro-descendant communities around the world.
"I have followed his career for years and I consider him a true pioneer of Afro-Latino activism," said Rodriguez.
The summit is a joint initiative with the Ernesto Gamboa Project, by Honduran writer Orlando J. Addison, which seeks to raise awareness about the cultural contributions of people of African roots.
According to a report published by the United Nations, there are about 150 million people of African descent in Latin America. This population is generally the most marginalized racial group. Both indigenous and Afro-descendant communities live in the poorest areas and have less access to quality education, home and land ownership as well as money to start their own businesses, the report said.
At the Miami conference, whose mission is "to reduce marginalization by amplifying visibility," there will be several panels on the history of Africans in Latin America, the right to public spaces and memory, racial and financial inequality in Miami and the way in which Afro-Latinos are presented in the media.
Information about the event and registration can be found at: www.thegamboaproject.com/tickets/.