From the moment I moved to New York City, almost ten years ago, I noticed many black gay/bisexual/chillin'/too-insecure-to-admit-it men who have a ridiculous fetish for Latin men. Yes, the feisty Latin lover...with the "pretty" hair, "fine" features and romantic accents. Yes, they call you "pa" and "papi", and might go half with you on a trip to their "native" island. Isn't it sexy?
I found this peculiar, considering no ethnicity or race is particularly fascinating to me—maybe this is geographical. I grew up in two areas, Washington State and Philadelphia, one lily white, the other predominately black. The only "Latinos" I saw were Mexicans, who have little to no African descendants and looked nothing like me. Also, there were a small cluster of Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia. Nonetheless, my life was very black and white—I still can’t tell when someone is Jewish!
I wasn’t socialized around Latinos, or more specifically, Caribbean Latinos. Actually, like many non-New Yorkers who moved to the city when they were older—I never heard of Dominicans until I moved to New York. Mind you, this is before the era of mass information and the internet at your fingertips.
I first heard the term "Dominicans" from a black gay guy in New York—I thought he was talking about a group of porn stars! "Those Dominicans can f&!k! Those Dominicans can take some d%!k! Those Dominicans can suck some d%!k!!" I thought Dominicans were some major porn troupe! Come to find out it was just an ethnicity from the Island of Hispaniola.
My non-sexual introduction to Latinos was people thinking I was Puerto Rican or Dominican…supposedly because of my hair texture and skin tone. I was a little offended being that I have so many family members from the South; there are tons of black people who are light-skinned with the same hair texture as mine. In addition, black folks come in all shades and textures—to my knowledge, I looked like every other black man I grew up with. In Philadelphia people rarely even thought I had a white parent, unless I told them. Other black people did not question my blackness, until I moved to New York City.
Interestingly enough, it was rarely Latinos who thought I was Latino—it was black gay men. "Oh, I thought you were Latin, but you're just light-skinned." I suddenly became less appealing because I was just a common colored boy with a white mammy. I would even meet black gay men who pulled a Christina Aguilera and said, "Well, I'm a quarter Latin." Then there were the men who would cheer, "I'm dating a Puerto Rican guy!" As if they just won a shiny golden trophy with an uncut piece!
What shocked me the most was to hear other black gay men rant about black gay men—sounding strikingly similar to hetero black women who complain about black men. "I'm tired of these niggas! They are all trifling! We're losing all the good black men to white men! I'm just gonna get me a Latin man!" I would hear arguments that Latinos are better men because they are more timely, more sexual in bed and even have better hygiene...hygiene? Does that Castilian blood make them stay in the shower longer? The self-hate had its own stench.
Why do some black gay men eroticize Latin men the way some white woman have a Mandingo fantasy? I understand the argument that "Latinos are black too!" However, many Latinos do not identify as black and when leaving the states race is suddenly a construct that doesn't translate in many places across the globe.
For example, I know Dominicans who do not identify as black and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. However, I’ve met some black folks who have this hysterical issue with it...well, baby if they don't call themselves black how does that affect us? Surely, they aren't “African-Americans” and black is a racial identity that just started being used as a political force in the 1960's. Why should a sixty-year old Puerto Rican woman call herself a black woman when her lifespan is older than the political term "black"?
Oh, I guess it's a little different if it's a 25 year-old hot Latin man and you are a self-hating black man who thinks because he can't find love with another black man that it will suddenly be easier with Latin men. Baby, all those issues you have with black men are going to follow you from black to white to Asian to Latin. If you believe every black man is disgusting and trashy then that is exactly what you will find.
I don't know if gay Latinos eroticize black men the same way some of us eroticize them...I have a feeling they don't. I remember a study years ago where various races/ethnicities were surveyed asking which race/ethnicity they identified with the most. The majority of whites identified with Asians, Asians identified with whites, blacks identified with Latinos and Latinos identified more with whites. No one identified more with blacks. Obviously, this isn’t true for every Latino, but I still believe this survey is relevant today.
Of course there is nothing wrong with dating Latin men or dating outside your race. If you find someone who makes you happy through the madness of people out there then more power to you. Nonetheless, when you romanticize a whole sector of people while criticizing another sector of people and you are part of that people—somethin’ is ah’ brewin’ that’s a bit deeper than a natural attraction. Maybe you’re seeing yourself in the black men you date. It's challenging, compounded with being black in America, gay and maybe poor. Therefore, forming a union with someone who is a mirror image of yourself in physicality and socio-economic status might be a bit too heavy for the already wounded.
This Latin fetish actually has nothing to do with Latinos, but more to do with self-hate. Many of us are still wrapped up in someone who is light-skinned or Anglo features. So why not go a step further and obsess over a different ethnicity because it makes you feel better about yourself that you can pull someone who is your ideal fantasy? Maybe it will make you more attractive, a little more exotic, a little more timely, a little better in bed, a little more clean...