Cal State San Bernardino will welcome in fall 2023 a new exhibit to the Museum of Anthropology, “Afrontolo,” thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The exhibit will have two sections: one featuring Afro-descendants in Mexico and another focusing on Afrolatines in California. Attendees will learn about the stories, the cultures and the impact of the often-forgotten Afro-Latinx communities. 

While the tentative opening date for “Afrontolo” is Sept. 15, 2023, director of the Anthropology Museum Arianna Huhn, her team and the various community partners are working to educate the community about the history of Afro-Latinx.

“Our project hopes to help exhibition visitors understand and promote a greater understanding of Afro-Latinx history,” said Huhn, an associate professor of anthropology.

The Afro-descendants of Mexico section of the exhibit is inspired by four communities: Tamiahua (Veracruz state), Coyolilo (Veracruz state), Coahuila and Costa Chica (Oaxaca state), with each community having different representations in the exhibit.

For Tamiahua, the focus is cuisine, cooking, fishing and connecting community traditions to Africa and other Afro-descendant communities.

The Coyolilo portion focuses on the joy of the community and embracing of Afrodescendants.

For the Costa Chica community, its focal point for the exhibit is three dances from the region that reflect the cultural features of Afrodescendants.

As for Coahuila, the main idea will be the history of the Black Mascagos, whose ancestors were escaped or freed slaves who fled to Florida, before heading south to Mexico to retain their freedom. 

Aiding Huhn and CSUSB in the creation of this exhibit are representatives of Afro-Latinx communities.

“The material used is dynamic and unique to each community,” said Huhn. “Each representative has done such a phenomenal job of putting together unique content that tells their stories.”

The second portion of the exhibit, Afrolatines in California, focuses on the historical importance of Afro-Latinx descendants in California.

Featured in this portion are the portraits and stories of 20 Afro-Latinx descendants from California. The portraits, which will be displayed with each story, were created by Afro-Latinx artists.

“The goal here is to showcase the diversity, joys and challenges of the Afrolatine experience,” said Huhn.

Aiding in the creation of this section are the Association of Latino Faculty, Staff and Students and the Black Faculty, Staff and Student Association of CSUSB. In addition, various other community members that include the Garcia Center for the Arts, the International Society of Black Latinos in Los Angeles and the Multilingual Department of San Bernardino City Unified School District, are working to bring the history of Afro-Latinx to life.

The educational reach of this exhibit will expand beyond the exhibit itself, as lesson plans utilizing the exhibit’s content are being created.

“We hope to extend discussions of Afro-Latinx cultures, histories and experiences outside of our exhibit,” said Huhn.  

The history of Afro-Latinx can be explained in various ways, and for this exhibit, its name, Afrontolo, helps to explain it. If translated from Spanish to English, “Afrolanto” means “face it.”

“This exhibit’s name,” said Huhn, “reflects the journey of Latin America to acknowledge its Afro-descendant populations.”