As many of you know, last week I had the opportunity to attend Hispanicize 2017 as a speaker to discuss the Afro-Latina identity and the challenges we all face standing in pride of not only our African roots but also our Latino cultural heritage as indivisible parts of who we are. While there were only four of us on the panel, we really wanted to capture the experiences and views of other Black Latina influencers who weren’t able to be present, but who are very much a part of this shared journey.
That’s why I reached out to fellow Black Latina influencers to answer a simple question that for many took decades in the making. When we talk about the Afro-Latina identity, this is something that everyone arrives to from a different perspective, our views are as diverse as the makeup of who we are. At the same time, there is a commonality in our experiences as members of the African Diaspora in the United States that underlines the need to open the conversation and help the next generations have a stronger sense of self.
As humans, we all have a need to have a solid identity as a way to have connection with others. For some, it is a journey that can take a lifetime as the process of self-discovery can be long. When it comes to Afro-Latina identity this process can be a bit more complex as it is a community that is often invisible to the naked eye. Some of the things that are common to the Afro-Latina identity have to do with the particularities of Latino culture, like loving to dance, mixed musical rhythms, the history of the slave trade as it relates to the Americas, as well as the mixed food heritage that combines Spanish staples with African delicacies that are unique due to their simplicity and delicious flavor.
All of the above being said, we know that identity is so much more than those commonalities. The Afro-Latina identity is as strongly rooted in Africa and Spain as it is in the personal journey of each one of us. That’s why I like to ask women if they identify as Afro-Latinas and what the Afro-Latina identity means to them.
Afro-Latina Identity: What Does It Means To Be A Black Latina?
This time, a group of Afro-Latina influencers from different backgrounds gave their answer to this question and helped me and fellow Hispanicize 2017 panelists Rocio Mora, Dania Peguero and Bren Herrera open a dialogue with an audience that was eager to have this conversation at an open forum.
How I Define It
Afro-Dominican, Embracing Diversity
“To me, being Afro-Latina means living at the intersection of blackness and latinoness. Being unapologetically proud of my African roots and the diversity of my mixed heritage as the foundation of my identity.”
“To me, being Afro-Latina means not feeling self-conscious about the color of my skin, my kinky curly hair, my full lips or my mulatta features. I feel comfortable in my own skin and I use my voice to empower others to do the same.”
Afro-Honduran, Risas Rizos
“To me, being Afro-Latina means being aware of my roots and embracing them.”
Afro-Dominican, Black Latina, Negra Bella
“Identifying as an Afro-Latina is much more than acknowledging my awesome melanin! It is about knowing history, my family history, and experiencing first hand the black experience.”
Afro-Cuban, House of Bren
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means bridging the gap between our African roots and our modern ideology of race and the interconnectedness of cultures and traditions.”
Afro-Dominican, My Mamihood
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means not having to choose. It’s not an either or question. Black and Latinx can, do and should coexist.”
Afro-Puerto Rican, Estilo Familiar
“To me, being Afro-Latina means that through my body, mind and soul run a dichotomy of characteristics that reflect the races that live in me. A mix of White and Black that is express in everything I do. A European paleness with a nose and hips that are proof of the blackness that run through my veins.”
Afro-Dominican, Mujeres y Yo Podcast Host
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means I am an exquisite, exotic fusion of two amazing human beings, and having the privilege of being born in one of the most beautiful, historically, ethnically and culturally rich regions in the world… the Caribbean.”
Afro-Panamanian, Es Mi Cultura Newsletter
“To me, being Afro-Latina means proudly embracing all the beauty, complexities, and strength of my African ancestry, while staying true to my Latino culture.”
Afro-Dominican, Smart Little Cookie
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means more than just being Black or being Latina. It is about culture, your roots, and where you come from. I come from a country where the majority are of African descent. I love my Latina upbringing and I sure am proud of roots.”
Afro-Puerto Rican, S.A. The Writer
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means having incredibly strong ancestors who never gave up.”
Afro-Puerto Rican, Otros 20 Pesos
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means sabrosura, cultura and pride inside my veins; in my hips, the curly hair, my plumped lips, the loud voice and light skin. I’m Caribeña, Taina, Africana and Spanish all in one and proud of that.”
Afro-Puerto Rican Influencer, Modern Mami
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means loving my culture, my trigueña skin, and passing that love onto my beautiful, multicultural children. I want them to love their brown skin and be proud of their rich heritage!”
Afro-Spaniard, Diario de la Negra Flor
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means being proud of my identity that is composed of everything I am, Black, Spanish, Catalan… my identity is multiple, it has many faces, and it makes me who I am.”
Afro-Mexican, Tech Food Life
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means embracing my Mexican and African-American Heritages. I am not one or the other, I am proudly both.”
Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin, PHD
Afro-Dominican, Latinas Think Big
“To me, being Afro-Latina means strength and beauty.”
Afro-Brazilian, Trendy Latina
“To me, being an Afro-Latina means wearing my ethnicity proudly, not being afraid to fit into stereotypes. We are a beautiful result of our ancestors, which should be celebrated, not labeled!”
I love this. What a wonderful mosaic of beautiful women! Gracias Dania
Maria Jose Ovalle
LOVE this! Even amongst hispanics we are not always aware or conscious of the history of other countries. I had never heard or seen a black person speak Spanish until I was in the US (I was 15 and came home to tell my mom, thats how OMG it was for me) In fact, sadly, in chile they don’t teach black history. I had NO idea there were blacks in Chile. I know it sounds completely ignorant, but when you come from a country where black history isn’t taught or made part of the culture, how are you supposed to know. I was in college when I still was convinced there were no naturalized black chilenos (only recent African and Brazilian immigrants) and I told people that. And worse, tour guides IN chile say there are not afro-chileans. When one guy tried saying that to my husband I had to step in and say something. He looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t know either. When I began working at the World Bank a friend said she had worked with a black chilena activist. I literally thought “no way” What? All it took was a little search and BOOM, an entire history of afro-chilenos, predominantly in the north of Chile in Arica which was part of Perú. You see, the south of chile is white — as in European (mainly German) immigrants which is my heritage. Chileans still don’t realize we have (a small) but significant afro-chileno population. I’d love to learn more, because I feel I was brainwashed all of my life to think we are mainly white. By the way, her name is Marta Salgado. If you ever meet her, reach out to her, tell her I want to meet her.
Thank you for sharing your experience Maria José! That’s the reality for many Latinos; other than the Caribbean, people pretty much don’t know about the African Diaspora in other Latin American countries. To me it’s incredible that you’ve never seen a Black Latino before moving to the US. What you say about Chile and Black history is a constant across the board. Even in the Dominican Republic where about 90 percent of the population has African ancestry, our history doesn’t make an emphasis on Black history. We learn a lot about the Taínos and the Spanish, and of course, we have many Afro-Dominicans in our history, but it is not highlighted like that. It is a sad truth, but all of that comes from the slave trade and the years of slavery in which Africans were stripped from their names, history and sense of self so they could enslaved. What you tell me about Chile I think is very similar to other Latin American countries in which the Afro population is concentrated in a small area and is not uncommon from people in other sides of the country to not know about it. I’m fascinated by this and especially about what that means for Afro-Latinos in the US. Without the recognition of our own community it is even harder for other Americans to get it. Thanks for providing Marta Salgado’s name, I will research and try to get in touch with her. ¡Gracias querida!
Thank you Meryland for being among us. There are many conversations to be have around this topic and I’m happy to have a beautiful community that wants to be engaged in it.
This is cool and all but I am side eyeing some of these “afro-latinas”.
What’s the determining factor to being black here- one drop?
A black abuela means you have black in you… it doesn’t make you black though.
Also, more diligence should be put into finding black Latinas other than the ones always used… it always STILL FEELS SO WHITEWASHED.
We are here. And we are not black when it’s convenient.
Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts here Keka! I see what you are saying and I was hesitant at first when a few friends identified with being Afro while they not necessarily look like it. I really thought deeply about this, about what identity means and it really means so much more than your skin color or features. Some of us are not as dark, and some of us are really dark. The real conversation is about that, am I to deny your Latino identity because you are really dark and don’t fit the misleading idea of Latino just being white? And then, the opposite question comes up: If you grew up in a Black culture and family, but you are mixed raced and look like your non-Black family. Does that make you less Afro-Latina? In this case, I spoke to people about how they see themselves, because identity can be something that pertains to a community of people, but also it has to do with each person’s individuality. People have questioned my African ancestry at times, and personally, that’s all I know as I grew up with my Black family and know little to none of my Spaniard side. So, I see where you are coming from, and I’m all for highlighting Black Latinas in all shades, but when it comes to identity, I feel I cannot judge who identifies or not with it. I would love your ideas and recommendations on the kind of content you’d like to see featured, because I love to write about Latino culture and identity, and want to really give voice to topics we don’t often see about the Black Latino experience. Again, thanks for reading and engaging!
Growing up in black culture or being immersed in black culture doesn’t make a person black though. I’m not even talking about genotype. If you have 2 black parents and you are extremely light or even white skinned with blue eyes, you are black. African genetics created a multitude of physical attributes. I am specifically talking about the inclusion of white latinos with “some” black blood. Having a black grandparent doesn’t constitute being afro-latino and we should be clear about that… Black latinos wouldn’t be considered to be white because of a white grandparent or great- grandparent, right? Wouldn’t the same principle apply in reverse? Are we even asking? That question is NEVER asked and it should be. It won’t be asked but again it SHOULD be. There’s a saying that blacks take in “all of the strays” and “white folks make clear markers on who belongs to them”.
Even simple math says a quarter of something makes a majority of something else. That principle applies to this perfectly.