Spoken word artist Bocafloja brings up racial issues surrounding Afro-Latinos

Valerie Maule, Multimedia Contributor

Artist Aldo Villegas, better known as Bocafloja, gave a spoken word performance and later presented his documentary yesterday evening in the Student Experience Center and the Black Cultural Center, respectively. His performance was centered around racial issues in the U.S., specifically regarding the lives of Afro-Latino peoples.

He started the event by explaining his family lineage: his father was African and mother was indigenous to Mexico. As a young boy, his racial identity was influenced only by his Mexican heritage, and his African roots were not acknowledged. This was due to the way Mexicans constructed their racial identity; he had no historical framework or intellectual preference to identify himself as any other race but Mexican.

“Mexican identity was constructed as a race itself. You are Mexican and that’s it,” Bocafloja said “It was not until 2001 did Mexico write down on paper the existence of black descendants.”

He went on to talk about his move to the U.S., where he continues to create platforms through artistic articulative-forms to aid in dismantling hegemonic history as well as questioning whiteness and how racial category is more of a political vehicle.

When one student asked about the differences of racial identity and classification between Mexico and the U.S, Corvallis community member Shaznin Daruwalla was moved by Bocafloja’s statements and considered her own experiences coming from India to the Americas.

“I was relating it to how it was different in India versus how it was different in the US because one thing that stand out is that when you enter U.S. soil you are racialized. That’s my personal experience,” Daruwalla said “And so growing up in a multicultural and multiracial society like I did. When you get maybe the messages you get when you do show up here in the US and you are perceived as a brown person which was never a label that I never grew up with; It definitely has an impact.”

Colin Cole, a Ph.D. student in education helped to bring Bocafloja here and to make the event happen. For him, bringing different perspectives on race to the university environment is important because college students are mostly white.

“I think something we’re looking at in our classes, something that I noticed in my previous studies: academia is a very white space and I think we need to include other voices, other types of theory that might not pass through the filter and be neutralized,” Cole said. “So when the opportunity presented itself I was going to do everything possible to get him (Bocafloja) here because I am a fan as well.”

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