When asked if he ever corrected the record for being Puerto Rican before the press conference where he was introduced as lieutenant governor, Mr. Delgado in a statement that he was “raised to be a mix of heritage,” including “Latino roots.”
“That’s the background I grew up with and how I identify,” he said in the statement. “My mother’s maiden name is Gomez and she grew up identifying Latina roots.”
Racism and colorism may also play a role in how Mr. Delgado’s description of Afro-Latino is received, said Bronx Representative Ritchie Torres, who identifies as Afro-Latino.
“I find it curious that those of us with black skin often question our Latino identity,” said Mr Torres, who supports Mr Delgado. “As an Afro-Latino, I’ve been repeatedly told that I don’t look Latino, whatever that means, and so I have to be less authentically Latino than lighter-skinned people.”
Zaire Z. Dinzey-Flores, an associate professor of Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University, said she understood why some Latinos were upset about the appointment. Being Afro-Latino in the United States, she said, involves a complicated mix of race, language and culture.
“Experience informs what you see, how you perceive things, how you bring in problems that go unseen or unnoticed,” said Professor Dinzey-Flores. Choosing someone of Afro-Latino background to represent the constituency in government, she added, should be about capturing that experience “authenticly” and not about “ticking a box.”
Melissa Mark-Viverito, a former New York City Council speaker who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, agreed, saying that Mr. Delgado’s claim of Latino heritage “raises the question and concern of people who loosely assume a certain identity and not be completely honest.”