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A reflection on PBS' "Black in Latin America" Part I

by Jennifer Wynns

In the first installment of the PBS documentary series, Blacks in Latin America, the focus was on Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I found the piece to be very accurate in exploring the history of both sides.

It is absolutely true that, due to slavery, colonialism, and the racial caste system employed by the Spaniards at the time, there is a lot of self-hatred, self-ignorance, and bigotry in the Dominican Republic, like in every other Latin American nation. Also true and noted in the documentary is the fact that 90 percent of Dominicans have some African ancestry, which many do not acknowledge.

I do not understand, however, the sentiment of many who watched the documentary and took to Twitter and Facebook to state that Dominicans should denounce our mixed heritage and just label ourselves as only black because that’s what we look like; and that if all Dominicans lived in the United States, for example, we would all be considered black, anyway.

Dominicans are mostly mulattoes and we should celebrate and embrace all sides of our ancestry, regardless of our skin color or what we look like. The Dominican Embassy states that, “the ethnic composition of the Dominican population is 73 percent multiracial, 16 percent white, and 11 percent black. The multiracial population is primarily a mixture of European and African.”

If you took a look at my family, you would be confused or would automatically think that my grandmother had about three different baby daddies. She had 10 children with my grandfather, and they are all different shades of the rainbow. My dad, for instance, is black, and one of his sisters is white with green eyes. If they were to classify themselves solely on their skin complexions, my aunt would have to consider herself white, while my dad black. Yet, they share the same exact ancestry.

The aim of the documentary is to educate and shed light on racial identity and relations across Latin America. It should be the aim of the viewer to learn and objectively share the knowledge, instead of instigating ignorant discussions. The Dominicans who denounce their African ancestry should educate themselves, learn to love themselves, and celebrate their ancestry. After all, it’s imprinted everywhere in our culture from our typical music–Merengue–to our typical dish–Sancocho.

Hopefully one day in the near future, we can all learn from one another and stop judging, stop giving uninformed opinions, leave our insecurities and our pride behind, and stop classifying people based on their skin complexion or what they look like. This is what has led to all the confusion, ignorance, and self-hate that are so prevalent in today’s society.

To learn more about Jennifer, visit From the bottom of my conscious brain.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. I love this, and the same can be said for Puerto Ricans. Great post!

  2. Daniel Ruiz says:

    @ Julito. Actually there has been a growing movement in PR for some time to proudly declare oneself as solely black. The last census showed that there was a 50% percent increase in the amount of Boricuas who did so.

  3. Thank you for this post! There were some ignorant comments about this documentary and Henry Louis Gates Jr. I’m so glad both you and Being Latino have dismissed them. =)

  4. robert says:

    What Jennifer fails to see that irregardless of what the Dominican embassy states, the fact that Dominicans are/look black what counts is how white people here in America see you. Here in AMERICA!

  5. Jennifer says:

    @Robert I don’t let other people’s ignorance define me or my heritage. That’s their problem, not mine. ;)

  6. Appreciate your comments. I agree with your perspective and feel the program was a sincere effort to explore the history of a very unique people and their history. I was intrigued by the report.

  7. Darren Ross says:

    I thank Dr. Gates for opening eyes as an African-American.I have visited outside the US but this PBS documentary was a part of history that has touched my soul.I felt a connection to all the countries visited in the Black communities.By viewing this program has made me seek in obtaining my doctorate in international studies even more.

  8. Richard says:

    Great program. I am always surprised to hear Dominican Americans deny their black heritage and claim they have native american and european blood when it is obvious they have African ancestry. Their obsession with good and bad hair is comical, but I suspect the blame goes to the DR government brain washing people over generations into believing whiter is better.

    I think we all must celebrate the different cultures and ethnicities throughout the Americas. Besides Black in Latin America, there should be other series like Europeans in Latin America, Jews in Latin America, Arabs in Latin America and Asians in Latin America. I think these are great topics and should be explored in depth.


  1. […] Wynn at BeingLatino shares some good thoughts on the series and the complexity of Latinos: Dominicans are mostly mulattoes and we should celebrate […]

  2. […] when you consider that the combined legacies of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism greatly contributed to the production of a highly diverse Lati… (particularly in the Western Hemisphere), our common experiences of hardships become especially […]

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