March 1, 2016

Afro-Latino: A deeply rooted identity among U.S. Hispanics

Identity for U.S. Hispanics is multidimensional and multifaceted. For example, many Hispanics tie their identity to their ancestral countries of origin – Mexico, Cuba, Peru or the Dominican Republic. They may also look to their indigenous roots. Among the many ways Hispanics see their identity is their racial background.

A quarter of U.S. Hispanics identify as Afro-LatinoAfro-Latinos are one of these Latino identity groups. They are characterized by their diverse views of racial identity, reflecting the complex and varied nature of race and identity among Latinos. A Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America. This is the first time a nationally representative survey in the U.S. has asked the Latino population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latino.

In the U.S., Latinos with Caribbean roots are more likely to identify as Afro-Latino or Afro-Caribbean than those with roots elsewhere (34% versus 22%, respectively). Those who identify as Afro-Latino are more concentrated on the East Coast and in the South than other Latinos (65% of Afro-Latinos live in these regions vs. 48% of other Latinos). They are also more likely than other Latinos to be foreign born (70% vs. 52%), less likely to have some college education (24% vs. 37%), and more likely to have lower family incomes. About six-in-ten Afro-Latinos reported family incomes below $30,000 in 2013, compared with about half of those who did not identify as Afro-Latino (62% vs. 47%).

How U.S. Afro-Latinos report their raceAfro-Latinos’ views of race are also unique. When asked directly about their race, only 18% of Afro-Latinos identified their race or one of their races as black. In fact, higher shares of Afro-Latinos identified as white alone or white in combination with another race (39%) or volunteered that their race or one of their races was Hispanic (24%). Only 9% identified as mixed race.

These findings reflect the complexity of identity and race among Latinos. For example, two-thirds of Latinos (67%) say their Hispanic background is a part of their racial background. This is in contrast to the U.S. Census Bureau’s own classification of Hispanic identity – census survey forms have described “Hispanic” as an ethnic origin, not a race.

The multiple dimensions of Hispanic identity also reflect the long colonial history of Latin America, during which mixing occurred among indigenous Americans, white Europeans, slaves from Africa and Asians. In Latin America’s colonial period, about 15 times as many African slaves were taken to Spanish and Portuguese colonies than to the U.S. Today, about 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America, making up roughly a quarter of the total population, according to estimates from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) at Princeton University.

Afro-descendants in Latin AmericaUntil recently, most Latin American countries did not collect official statistics on ethnicity or race, especially from populations with African origins. However, a recent push for official recognition of minority groups throughout Latin America has resulted in most countries collecting race and ethnicity data on their national censuses.

In 2015, for the first time ever, Mexico allowed people to identify as black or Afro-Mexican through a new question in its mid-decade survey. About 1.4 million Mexicans (or 1.2% of the population) self-identified as black or of African descent based on their culture, history or customs, according to Mexico’s chief statistical agency.

Afro-Latinos make up significant shares of the population in some corners of Latin America. In Brazil, about half of the population is of African descent (black or mixed-race black). In the Caribbean, black Cubans make up about a third of that country’s population. In the Dominican Republic, black identity is much more complicated. Estimates of Afro-descent in the Dominican Republic range from about a quarter to nearly 90% of the population depending on whether the estimates include those who identify as “indio,” a group that includes many nonwhites and mixed-race individuals with African ancestry.

Topics: Latin America, Race and Ethnicity, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Identity

  1. Photo of Gustavo López

    is a research analyst focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

    is a senior researcher focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    I believe when you do not know that all things derived from the African people, you do not have even the slightest grip of the information you believe to know. Everyone wants to discredit Africans and say they are not from there or their not mixed with it, they should be paying homage to Africans because otherwise none of you would be here. White mix absolutely nothing. You guys just got here. Blacks are the original We Carry the most melanin and we are the most powerful so to try to ever discredit Africans, allows me to know how much the degenerate mutation is working in you. And on a more personal level, afro Latinos or Indios, mestizos, the mixed ones? Looks 80 times better then the stringy hair simple white ones. No shade, just truth, take it how you wanna.

  2. Forever Anonymous1 year ago

    Ana and Gustavo, your article was very confusing and poorly written. You failed to provide important information such as the number of respondents and the regions of those respondents and correlating those regions to the results you posted; this would have helped understand possible the posted results listed in the “How U.S. Afro-Latinos . No wonder you are getting so much flack. For example,

  3. Anonymous1 year ago

    I think with all the difference of opinion further proves the poll. But it’s very interesting seeing all the conversation.

  4. Anonymous1 year ago

    I do not agree or identify with the term Afro. I believe that it is one more way for white american sociologists to keep dividing us and changing history. Your color and main features tell who your ancestors are. In my country, Cuba, some look white (descendant of Europeans) some are black (descendant of Africans) and some are obviously the product of both races. We use the term mestizos. It is very common for us to have people that look “different” within the same family.What is most important is the country in which we were born.
    That is what make us diffetent from others and yet we know that we are all alike. All the people from Latin America know that we shared the same abuses and mistreatment of the white Europeans.


    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      I disagree with your assessment, as this would preclude racism form exsiting in latin America countries and it does. It also assumes that all people are mixed and they are not, and it assumes that (eurpeans

  5. R Quijote1 year ago

    Problems with Surveys

    So, 24% of Latinos self-identified as Afro-Latinos, but only 18% of this total identified as Black or being mixed with Black; and 40% of this total (the 24%) self-identified as White, and 24% as Hispanic.

    To say that Afro-Latinos views on race is unusual is a way eschewing the fact that this survey is flawed. That any human being on this earth would self-identify as “Afro-descendant” and also identify his/her race as White, and non-black, is nonsensical. Further, a person who identifies as “Afro-Latino” is by definition obviating the “Hispanic” identity, so why would that person proceed to identify his/her race as Hispanic?

    1. Forever Anonymous1 year ago

      I could not have said it better myself. The study was confusing and misleading. It is indeed nonsensical to include a group of people who identify as “white alone or white in combination with another race (which could be Native American, Asian, African because PEW did not specify) or Hispanic under the heading “How “Afro-Latinos’ report their race. Is Hispanic to mean something other than Latino? I did not know they were different. And in this context is it to mean non-black Latinos. It left me confused. Poorly written article.

  6. R Quijote1 year ago

    Gustavo Lopez and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera

    I think you guys need to be more diligent and careful in your use of data and concepts and avoid misrepresenting Hispanics and Spanish America.

    In the U.S., the labels–Latin American and Hispanic–almost always denotes a person of Mexican origin (3/4 of US Hispanics) or from “Spanish” America–Brazil is a distinct country, with different culture, history, language, demographics. As your own map shows–and a visit to these countries proves–the Black population in Spanish America is relatively small. The Spanish took over areas that were “thick” with Native people, and had less need for African slaves (Only 17% of all black slaves brought to the Americas went to Spanish America and more than half of these went to Cuba only after 1700). Of the 130 Million blacks In Latin America, about 100 Million are in Brazil. Spanish America has a population of over 375 Million, and only about 30 Million are Afro-descendants–and the overwhelmingly majority of these reside in just a few countries (Cuba, Dom. Rep., Venezuela, and Colombia). The failure to draw this distinction results in the reader misinterpreting the reality on the ground in Spanish America and the Hispanic population in the U.S.

    Most people in Spanish America have only seen black people on Television–there is no visible black presence in Mexico or Argentina. Even in Colombia–with a relatively large black population–Whites and Mestizo (90% of the population) live in the highlands and Blacks and mulattos (7% to 9%) live in the coast (Choco, etc) do not see each other much–Antioquia and Caldas are as White as any southern European country.

    It is a mistake to conflate the history of Brazil (and its black presence) with Spanish America; and it is an even greater blunder not to distinguish the Dominican population and its racial history from the rest of Spanish America. Spanish America–from Mexico to Argentina–needs to come to terms with its Native American population, it is where almost all the indigenous people of the Americas reside. The Dominican Republic and its black population is an outlier in the history of Spanish America.

    1. Esto Es Actuación1 year ago

      So, you’re basically saying that Brazil and the Dominican Republic should not identify as “Latinos” because we are an “outlier” in the history of the Spanish America? I guess it’s true what African Americans is been telling us for years. We shouldn’t identify as “Latinos” because the rest of Spanish America, don’t see us as your “people”.

    2. Esto Es Actuación1 year ago

      De algo que si estoy claro de la mayoría de los latinos blancos y indios es que harían todo para alejar la sangre africana de la “Raza”.

    3. Martin Franco1 year ago

      Having just returned from Colombia, I can assure you that there are PLENTY of Afro Colombian’s in Medellin (Antioquia), Bogota (Cundinamarca) and Cali (Valle del Cauca).
      You could not avoid seeing Afro Colombian’s if you tried. Having previously travelled through the north, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta etc. It seemed to me that the Afro Colombian community’s claim that 40% of Colombian’s carry African ancestry is correct.
      However, because of SO much race mixing in Colombia, whether they choose to claim the African part of their ancestry is another matter.

      1. R Quijote1 year ago

        @ Martin Franco . . I just returned from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I can assure you that there are PLENTY of AFRO-ARGENTINIANS . . . blah, blah, blah . .
        Let’s stick to objective facts. The numbers I provide are from the CIA report, the EU, and Colombia (even the wikipedia numbers are close to what I provide). I lived in colombia for over a year and I never heard Afro-Colombians say that 40% of Colombians are Afro-descendant, or that there are plenty of blacks in Medellin. But, again, we should rely on objective, legitimate sources, e.g., CIA report.

        Race mixing, etc., that is your opinion. I can say that same thing about Jews, Italians, Greeks, Syrians, Turks, (call the Irish gorillas) etc., all of whom are considered “White” in the US. By contrast, Sofia Vergara (from Barranquilla) and Juanes (Paisa) are purportedly people of color in the US–they both look pretty European to me.

  7. P. M.1 year ago

    It seems to me if there’s any shame to be had over this Pew Research Center story it should be among those who seem to feel so compelled to distance themselves from African lineage. What this story does quite well (as reflected in comments of readers) is to demonstrate the depth of the injury suffered by enslaved Africans and their descendants and the brutality and evil of whiteness. It also highlights the depth of internalized racist oppression among many persons (who feel so desparate to distance themselves from blackness as reflected in the broad label of “Afro-Latino”) in the Carribean and Latin America.

  8. Dominicanita Linda1 year ago

    I was expecting more research & study about racial & skin color views in Latin America, specially the DR from such prestige research website.

  9. Dominicanita Linda1 year ago

    Gustavo Lopez

    I need to correct this misconceptions & misunderstanding of the term “Indio” in the Dominican Republic.

    In the Dominican Republic the term “Indio” or “Indiesito” (as we usually say it) determine Skin Color Description. It does not mean that Dominicans think of themselves as being Racially Pure Taino or Indigenous.

    We have different skin color descriptions such as Indiesito, Moreno, Blanquito, Rubio, Jabao, Canela, etc.

    In the Dominican Republic, people go to school, we are the 9th largest economy in Latin America which support a average education for Dominicans. In our schools & education system throw out the Dominican Republic, we learn every single day that Dominicans are a mixed people of “Españoles, Africanos & Tainos”.

    When Dominican refer to our part Native race, we usually say Tainos or Indigenas. Sometimes Indio but we know when the context Indio for race & skin color is differently being use.

    In the D.R. there haven’t been a racial census since 1960. The last census the DR marked themselves as 73% Mixed, 16% White & 11% Black.

    Now the most recently Racial Census on Dominicans was the United States 2010 Hispanic Census. Which according to Pew Hispanic research 59% of the 1.5 Million Dominicans came from the D.R. or born outside the U.S.

    These 1.5 Million Dominicans marked themselves as follow:
    58% Other / Mixed
    28% White
    13% Black
    1% Indian/Native

    The last United States Census show that 99% of Dominicans do not think or believe they are racially pure Indio or Native.

    I hope you can fix or edit this because it keep pushing this misconception about how Dominicans see race and it only bring hatred & disdain against Dominicans by certain group of peoplem

    1. Gustavo López1 year ago


      Thank you for your comment. In this post and in the map above we used data based on the book “Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America” by Edward Telles and the Project for Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) at Princeton University. According to Telles, in the case of the Dominican Republic, the term ‘indio’ is considered ambiguous as it could contain people of African descent, but may contain others too. This particular estimate comes from a survey conducted by the Latin American Public Opinion Project. The question asked of respondents was (in Spanish): ¿Usted se considera una persona blanca, mestiza (india), mulata, negra u otra? – with response options: Blanca, India, negra, Mulata, Afro-Dominican, u Otra.

      The estimates therefore contain responses for black, mulatto, indio and afro-dominican.

      To learn more you can visit


  10. Manny Israel1 year ago

    Not surprised racism is deeply rooted in Latin America ..I know a dark Skin Dominican who told me he’s more White then black..this white guy at my Job said he could’ve fooled me after he walked away after he over heard our conversation lol. When Trumps elected guess the be force to look in the mirror.

  11. Liz Mata1 year ago

    This is so inaccurate. I am Venezuelan and consider myself morena or tan, and I am not Afro Latina. Misinterpreting data helps no-one.

    1. Gustavo López1 year ago

      Hello Liz,

      Thank you for your comment. The data for the map comes from the book “Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America” by Edward Telles and the Project for Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA) at Princeton University. We decided to use the larger estimate of Afro-descendants from the book, which includes the term “moreno” for Venezuela and “indio” for the Dominican Republic. According to the author, the terms are inherently ambiguous and they may include people of African or black ancestry but may contain others too, and that is why the were included in this estimate.


      1. Liz Mata1 year ago

        Shame on PEW for quoting this source without seriously fact checking. Here’s a simple check point. Venezuela has roughly 30 million people (including the Chavista regime ghost millions for election scams) of which the map states roughly half are Afro-descendants…. Some of Venezuela’s largest regions like: The Andes and The Amazons have literally no Afro descendants at all. These regions were impenetrable back in the day and there was little to no migration. The Race conversation is polarizing enough without adding bad data to the issue.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      You’re not? What’s an Afro Latino? A Latino who considers himself African ? What’s a Morena? A dark Hispanic person? Where do you think the darkness comes from, the caucus mountains in Europe?

      You people….