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Carter, June. La Negra as Metaphor in Afro-Latin American Poetry
1985, Caribbean Quarterly, 31(1): 73–82
Added by: Adriana Clavel-Vázquez
Carter examines the anti-Black sentiment in Latin American culture and pays particular attention to how, even in negrista poetry aimed at contributing to the fight against oppression of Black people, Black women are used as a symbol of sensuality and primitiveness. The paper argues that when Black women feature in poetry in the figure of la mulata, they are associated with nature and portrayed as inherently evil, sensual and primitive. Moreover, while representations of Black men evolved to focus on their inner consciousness, rather than on their physical attributes, and to combat oppressive imagery and symbolism, la mulata continued being used as a satire aimed at inviting Afro-Latin communities to take positive steps towards improving their social conditions. They were used to advance a criticism for how the anti-Black sentiment at the heart of popular conceptions of mestizaje ends up being internalized by members of Afro-Latin communities, so that Black women are represented as renouncing Blackness and engaging in a “whitening” process.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Carter’s discussion of Afro-Latin women offers a good opportunity to reflect on what an intersectional approach to race in Latin American needs to involve. As evidenced by the analysis of Rosario Castellanos’ Balún Canán, mestizas in Latin American societies face a double displacement: first as being in-between cultures, and second, as not quite part of the mestizo nation. In addition to this condition of mestiza womanhood, Afro-Latin women face another dimension of displacement. They are part of mestizo nations, but, as Black, they are not fully recognised as such; they are part of mestizo nations, but, as women, they are not fully recognised as such; they are part of Afro-Latin communities, but, as women, they are not fully recognised as such.

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