Two weeks ago, I was eating dinner with a group of neighborhood friends. One of my friends is Dominican and he was talking about the color issues amongst us.
We spoke for a bit and it was an interesting conversation. But he used one word that has puzzled me forever: ‘Cocolo.’
He said: ‘I’m a Cocolo.’
I didn’t really know how to react to it because he embraced the word and saw no issue with it. Plus, it was the first time I heard someone of my complexion call himself that (he’s actually a few shades lighter).
Throughout life, friends, family members and my own ears told me that word is offensive. I hear it at restaurants, on trains, and in barber shops when talking about someone who is Black. I’m sure some of my readers have heard it and either cringed or wondered what it meant.
Here is one definition I found online:
Now, whenever I hear the word it’s in two contexts – a bad one and a harmless/proud one.
‘Maldito Cocolo’ (Damn Black)
‘Eso cocolos me tienen cansao’ (I’m tired of Blacks)
Then its used in a way that doesn’t sound so harmful.
Que eres tu? Yo soy un cocolo (I’m a Black)
Que era el hombre? Un Cocolo. (He was Black)
From the definitions and examples I provided you, you’ll see that it can be used as a prideful word or perceived as a hateful one. Thing is, I’ve only heard one person say it in a prideful way my whole life. Most of the time I hear it, it’s used in a negative sentence.
One day, I pressed one of my friends about it and he said: ‘It’s not the N word. It’s just a way of calling people who are your complexion. Sort of like Gringo.’
I’ve never said Cocolo in my life (not once), but I have said Morenito to describe someone of my skin color whether Spanish speaking or not. I shouldn’t be using that word because it’s offensive in nature as well.
But Moreno lost its negative connotation with me. I’ve been called a ‘Morenito’ by my Grandma and others close to me. I never looked at the word Moreno as an offensive word because I felt it described people of my complexion – and I guess when I heard it – I heard it from people close to me so never took offense (wasn’t said in an offensive manner either).
Whenever they say it it’s: “Mi Moreno tan bello o mi Moreno tan buen mozo.” (Handsome/Beautiful)
But I’m here to say that both Cocolo and Moreno are both negative to me. Whether they are to you, is on you. But I’ve had Black friends and other Latino friends of my complexion ask me what I thought about it. My dad said he doesn’t accept Moreno or Cocolo now or when he was growing up in DR. He says call me a Negro. My Uncle let’s people call him Moreno all the time and doesn’t have an issue.
I just think if you’re Latino, you should call people ‘Negro’ which is the equivalent of Black. I would say ‘Afro-Americano,’ but some people are too lazy to say so many words.
I know this was a bit confusing, but it’s because it’s almost like the N word. Some Blacks say it to each other, but aren’t too fond of other races saying it. In most cases, cocolo is used to describe American Blacks. But what makes it extra confusing is that it’s used by Dominicans to describe other Dominicans or any other Black who is Latino.
This stuff gives me a headache and I’m sure it provides you with one too.
*Pops an Advil*
Have a good weekend…
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