Este hombre es un negro blanco!

Isaias Ortiz
Davenport, FL

Este hombre es un negro blanco! This man is a white black. The first time I heard that phrase was circa 1980, a family member said while referring to one of his friends, while they were singing and playing their guitars together. I was 20 years old by then, growing up in the country side, the central mountains of Puerto Rico. Both men laughed after, along with most people that heard it. I didn’t get the meaning then, but the phrase got stuck in my head, like when I think of a song in the morning and it stays with me for most of the day, whether I like it or not. Racism in Puerto Rico takes on a subtle tone. It isn’t as overt as it is in the continental US. We hear phrases like: “Mejora la raza” (Improve the race), which is said when a person of darker skin marries a person of lighter skin, or “Moro Viejo, mal cristiano” (An elder moor makes a bad Christian), which is used to describe a stubborn person. I moved to the US in 1982. A few years later, around 1993, while I was vacationing back home, I heard it again. This time I asked for its meaning. The person, a man I knew from my childhood, said it was simple. A “negro blanco” (white black), it’s simply a “nice guy”. A black man, that is so nice, that he could be considered a white guy, for all intents and purposes. To this day I don’t know how to feel about that….


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