ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has come to be known as a minority-majority state that is home to numerous backgrounds and cultures. One Albuquerque organization says it’s time locals had the opportunity to learn about a part of their lineage that may have been hidden, even to themselves.
AfroMundo is a collective of local scholars and storytellers who aim to cultivate a community that embraces both old traditions and contemporary ideas. Their upcoming venture, Shared Roots: A celebration of Afro-Latinx Culture, is New Mexico’s first Afro-Latinx festival (while some choose to identify themselves as Latino or Latina, Latinx or Latine are often used as gender-neutral terms to include non-binary members of the community).
The weeklong festival will feature music, dancing, films, panels, and bilingual events that showcase the shared histories, cultures, and traditions of Afro peoples throughout the Americas. Most events are free and open to the public.
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Dr. Doris Careaga Coleman of AfroMundo is the coordinator of the Shared Roots festival and an assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico. Hailing from Tamiahua, an Afromexican community in northern Veracruz, Careaga Coleman said she’s hoping to help others find their connection to their Afro-Latin heritage, a journey she too traveled. “I had the consciousness that I was Afromexican. I didn’t know anything about it,” she said.
Over the course of the pandemic, Dr. Careaga Coleman says the social and political movements that occurred resulting from the Black Lives Matter movement have brought Black culture and heritage into the forefront of public consciousness. She believes people are looking for their lost connections.
“We are a small community, the Afro-Latinx people. I think the idea of the AfroMundo festival started in our kitchens, in our living rooms, in conversation,” said Dr. Careaga Coleman. “We thought it was the right time. Right now, this year, to show how many Afro-Latinx lives here in Albuquerque, and how we contribute to the cultural life here.”
Dr. Careaga Coleman has spent her career studying Afromexican cuisine techniques used throughout her home state. She found similarities in the culinary arts used by communities in Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Albuquerque.
“Here in Albuquerque, we have a lot of Afro heritage too but we don’t know because this was part of Mexico in the beginning. In the colonial period in Nueva España, we had a lot of African population,” Dr. Careaga Coleman said. “We have that heritage, we just don’t know. When people know a little bit more about what we want to share here in Albuquerque, they have the necessity to see what happened in the family tree.”
Local performing artist and flamenco dancer Rosalinda Rojas has studied extensively the cultural connections between her Puerto Rican, Cuban, West African, Iberian, and Indigenous heritages. She said she was thrilled to see the lineup of festival participants who now have the chance to share their experiences and experiences that resemble hers.
“It’s very timely that our Afro-Latino and Latina heritage is acknowledged. It’s an opportunity for us to take our place within the histories that have been invisiblized and not so likely known,” said Rojas. “It’s very important right now that globally speaking, and even myself as an individual, to acknowledge, to celebrate, and also have a conversation of our African roots and our African heritage.”
Rojas will be speaking on a panel alongside her Black Flamenco Network peers for one of the films being screened as part of the festival. “Being part of the panel will allow us to come together and start to fit in those puzzle pieces that are missing of understanding or of knowing what is our personal narrative going forward individually and collectively,” Rojas said.
The festival, which features performances and films by local and international artists, kicks off Saturday and runs until April 23. In-person attendees are encouraged to register in advance. The capacity for each event is limited and varies according to the venue. For a full list of events, times, and locations, visit the AfroMundo website.