Terms for Black Identity

The words that ethnic and racial groups choose to identify themselves often evolve over time. Local movements, racially-conscious activists, and lay individuals in both Spanish-speaking Latin America and in Portuguese-speaking Brazil are increasingly using the terms Negra (Black woman), Negro (Black man) and Afrodescendiente (African descendent). These words are often used interchangeably by Black Latin Americans, to denote dignity and pride in their contemporary identity and to stress their ancestral connections with Africa.

The terms Negra and Negro have long held pejorative meanings in Latin American societies. They were considered, and are still considered by some, to be insults that connote inferiority in the context of racial hierarchy.

Those who embrace Negra, Negro and Afrodescendiente do so as acts of self-determination, self-identification and power. They are undermining the negativity associated with these words and are rejecting labels that, in a racial spectrum, are intended to distance them from Blackness.

In the United States and other parts of the Global North, the terms Afro-Latina and Afro-Latino are commonly used. In Latin American countries, people generally do not use these terms.

When and Where I Enter, Inc. respects people’s right to identify themselves however they choose. We prefer to use terms that Afrodescendents choose to identify themselves. You might occasionally see the term Afro-Latina on our website, particularly when someone we write about someone that uses this term to refer to herself. When referring to people of African heritage in Latin American countries, we generally opt to use the words people in the region select to identify themselves, especially if the intention is affirmation and empowerment.