This Black History Month, teach your Spanish students about the rich cultural heritage of Black people in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Black people have played a significant role in the history and cultural development of Latin America and the Caribbean. Their presence in the Spanish-speaking world can be traced back to the transatlantic slave trade, where millions of Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas to work on plantations and mines.
Despite facing slavery, discrimination, and marginalization, Black communities in Latin America and the Caribbean have made countless contributions to the region's music, dance, art, and literature. Black culture has left an indelible mark on the Spanish-speaking world, from the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of salsa and reggaetón to the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira.
As world language teachers, exposing students to various cultural assets and perspectives is essential; not only will your students learn about the rich cultural heritage of Latin America, but they will also gain an appreciation for the power of art to express social and political issues. So, let’s dive into the world of Afro-Latino art and explore the talents of these six incredible artists to celebrate Black History Month!
Totó la Momposina: The Colombian Singer Preserving Traditional Music
Totó la Momposina is a Colombian singer, composer, and performer widely considered one of Latin American music's most important and influential artists. Born in Talaigua, Colombia in 1940, Totó has dedicated her life to preserving and promoting Colombia's traditional music, particularly the Caribbean coast's music.
Totó's music is characterized by its rich blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish musical traditions. Her powerful voice and dynamic stage presence have earned her widespread critical acclaim and accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2000. Throughout her career, Totó has recorded numerous albums and collaborated with many of the most important musicians in Latin America and beyond.
In addition to her music, Totó is also known for her tireless advocacy for cultural preservation and promotion. She has worked to raise awareness of Colombia's rich cultural heritage and has mentored many young musicians.
Alejandra Robles: The Afro-Mexican Singer Making Waves
Alejandra Robles is a musician and songwriter who has become an essential voice for the Afro-descendant community in Mexico and beyond. In 1978, she was born in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico, surrounded by her community's cultural heritage.
Using her music and advocacy, she has helped preserve and promote the unique cultural traditions of the Black Mexican community, increasing their visibility. Despite the dominant narrative, African descendants also have a history and presence in Mexico, which is why many people, even in Mexico itself, are unaware of Afro-Mexicans' existence.
Join the movement and honor the rich cultural legacy of the Afro-Mexican community by listening to Alejandra Robles’ song, “No me conoces.”
Eva Ayllón: The Peruvian Singer Celebrating Afro-Peruvian Culture
Eva Ayllón is a Peruvian singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and another influential Latin American musician. She was born in Lima, Peru, in 1955 and developed an early passion for Afro-Peruvian music, a genre that combines African, Spanish, and indigenous musical elements. Ayllón's powerful voice, which blends African and Spanish influences, has captivated Peruvian and international audiences.
Throughout her career, Ayllón has recorded numerous albums that showcase her unique style and pay tribute to the rich musical heritage of Peru. Her powerful performances and dynamic live shows have earned her widespread recognition, and she is regarded as one of the most important voices in Latin American music.
Besides her music and voice, Ayllón has been a vocal advocate for preserving and promoting Afro-Peruvian culture. Her work has contributed to preserving Peruvian musical traditions and raising awareness of this genre. Her dedication and passion for her craft have inspired countless others, as well as being a mentor to many young musicians.
Celia Cruz: The Cuban-American Icon of Latin Music
Celia Cruz was a Cuban-American singer and one of the most iconic figures in Latin music. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1925, Cruz began her music career in the 1940s as a member of the Conjunto Sonora Matancera. She quickly gained recognition for her powerful voice and vibrant stage presence, earning her the nickname "La Guarachera de Cuba."
In the 1950s, Cruz moved to Mexico and continued her successful career before settling in the United States in the 1960s. She became a legendary figure in Latin music and was known for her signature Afro-Cuban style and upbeat performances. Throughout her career, Cruz recorded more than 80 albums, won multiple Grammy Awards, and was awarded numerous honors for her contributions to Latin music.
Cruz is considered one of the greatest salsa singers of all time and profoundly influenced Latin music. She popularized the genre and brought Afro-Cuban music to the world stage, introducing millions of fans to the rich cultural heritage of Cuba. Her music continues to be celebrated, and her legacy symbolizes pride and cultural identity for the Latin American community. In 2023, she will become the first Afro-Latina to be on US currency.
Amara la Negra: The Child of Immigrants Making an Impact
Amara la Negra is a Dominican-American singer and actress best known for her appearance on the reality show Love & Hip Hop: Miami. Born in Miami, Florida, she started her music career at a young age, drawing inspiration from her Afro-Latina heritage and her experiences growing up in the United States.
Amara la Negra's music is known for its bold and confident sound, showcasing her amazing vocals and distinctive Afro-Latina style. She often addresses issues facing the Afro-Latino community in her music and activism, including body positivity, self-confidence, and cultural representation.
Since her appearance on Love & Hip Hop: Miami, Amara la Negra has become a rising star in the Latin American music scene, winning numerous awards and performing at major music festivals. She continues to empower others through her music and advocacy for the Afro-Latino community.
ChocQuibTown: Art as a Means of Expressing Social and Political Issues
Choquibtown is a Colombian hip-hop, reggaetón, and alternative music band formed in Cali, Colombia, in 2002. The band consists of three members: Gloria Estefan, Carlos "Tostao" Valencia, and Miguel "Slow" Martínez. Choquibtown is known for its unique blend of traditional Colombian sounds with modern hip-hop, reggaetón, and alternative music.
The band gained national and international recognition in 2009 with the release of their first album, Somos Pacífico. Their music quickly gained popularity for its energetic beats and socially conscious lyrics that address poverty, corruption, and inequality. Since then, Choquibtown has become one of the most noteworthy bands in Colombia, performing at major music festivals and winning numerous awards.
Their 2010 hit, "De donde vengo yo," quickly rose in the charts and is considered one of their signature songs. It showcases the band's unique style and tackles social and political issues while celebrating their roots and cultural heritage.
Bring the Beauty of Afrolatinidad to Life in the World Language Classroom
Afro-Latino culture is a melting pot of influences that have shaped its rich traditions and art. These six Afro-Latino artists pushed the boundaries of creative expression and showcased the beauty and power of their cultural heritage. Join us in celebrating them this Black History Month!
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Former Spanish teacher based in Columbia, MD. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from la Universidad del Zulia and a Master's degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her interests include SEL education in the world language classroom, theater, and how to make the world a less scary place.Explore more related to this author