Que Pasa Puerto Rico?

Latin America may be more racist than it likes to think.

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So what's up Puerto Rico? People have consistently tried to tell me that the nations of Latin America are color-blind societies, that racism is simply not an issue in politics or anywhere else. My research in the last five years has told a different story. Despite the fact that many in Latin America claim that the societies are so racially mixed that there can be no color prejudice, I have found that there is more anti-black racism in Latin American surveys than in the United States, and that there are clear hierarchies based upon color.

However, blacks and browns in all of these societies are disproportionately among the poor, uneducated and unemployed, while whites are disproportionately among the wealthy and elected officials.  At the same time, the myth continues that race is not an issue because there is so much racial mixture, and in fact Puerto Rico and others are "mulatto" nations.

In the context of the campaign, some stated that Obama's race would not be an issue or would perhaps be a plus.

"On the mainland, Obama is black, but not in Puerto Rico," said Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, the island's most distinguished political commentator. "Here, he is a mulatto, and this is a mulatto society. People here are perfectly prepared to vote for someone who looks like them for president of the United States."

This is of course the party line on the island and is used frequently to say why the island does not need a black movement. However, a mulatto ran on Sunday and race was an issue and not in his favor.

In Puerto Rico, the CNN exit poll states that 32 percent of those in the exit poll said race was important in their vote choice and 66 percent of those voters supported Hillary Clinton. Those totals more resemble voters in Mississippi where 25 percent said race was important and of those 70 percent voted for Clinton.

More or less, in this dimension Puerto Rico resembles Mississippi. Let's take my state California for example, only 17 percent claimed in exit polling race was important, and Clinton got 61 percent of that vote.

I love the island and the people, but there is a struggle that needs to occur in Puerto Rico. There is a persistent myth in Latin America that race does not matter and that maybe even people of mixed race are preferred. However, when it comes down to it, in real terms racism is alive and well and, by some measures, is a bigger issue than in the United States.

Read the Spanish version here.

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