The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted conversations around acknowledging and being more inclusive of different identities. Afro-descendants of the Latinx community have historically felt marginalized by both their Black and Latinx communities. The Black Lives Matter protests have reignitied conversations around identity, and many have started embracing their dual identities: Black and Latinx. For generations, Afro-Latinxs individuals had to choose between worlds. But now, many are speaking out as to why both identities need to be heard and represented.
“I have felt many times like I had to choose, but I’m glad that I chose to be myself instead.”
Marcela Lopez, an office administrator from Nevada, told Culture Hub that the anti-blackness and colorism in the Latinx community are deep-rooted and it’s a fight she’s constantly working on erasing. “I have unpleasant conversations with my Latinx community to try and enlighten them on the backward ways of thinking that exist in the community. Growing up, I was always complimented for my lighter skin tone. I was told to not get ‘too dark.’ This instills in the mind that being of a lighter complexion was a good thing.”
In a Pew Research Center survey, only one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, or of African descent with roots in Latin America.
“It’s frustrating having to explain that wanting my Black brothers and sisters to be treated with the respect they deserve as human beings is not picking between my Latinx and Afro background because they aren’t separate from one another. I’ve learned most of what I know about the Afro-Latinx community as a young adult, as this was never a topic growing up – even though my father is an Afro-Latino from Veracruz. I have felt many times like I had to choose, but I’m glad that I chose to be myself instead.”
Malana Krongelb, a race and ethnicity librarian and activist, sees herself as an ally to the Afro-Latinx community. She told Culture Hub that the popularity of the word Latinx increased after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting where 90 percent of the victims were Hispanic and from the LGBTQ community. “With such a traumatic hate crime, naming yourself proudly as Latinx says “We exist and we will not be erased.” It came at a time where people were searching for words to better describe their experiences, so it makes sense that Afro was added to Latinx, for people to identify with.”
“This stems from a lack of education around the word Afro-Latinx,” Malana says, “Because the U.S. operates along a false Black/White binary — lots of Latinx folks are pressured either to join forces with non-Latinx Black people, to assimilate into whiteness or remain perpetual foreigners. Afro-Latinx asserts the diversity and beauty of diasporic Blackness.”
“Despite the constant erasure we’ve faced, we’re still here, we’re still shifting the culture, and we’re continuing to fight for our seat at the table.”
Ora Battle, writer and founder of Prism, told Culture Hub the lack of Afro-Latinx representation in the media is abysmal, shameful, and actively harmful. “Our community faces so much erasure already. How can a problem be solved when nobody knows that the problem is there? It’s frustrating and upsetting that my community faces so much stigma simply because we are Black. Despite the constant erasure we’ve faced, we’re still here, we’re still shifting the culture, and we’re continuing to fight for our seat at the table.”
“Some of the most prolific figures in Latinx history were Afro-Latinxs and that deserves to be highlighted and celebrated much more. Just because my community is just now becoming more visible to the world, doesn’t mean we haven’t always been here! Our culture is so special because it upholds the traditions, religions, music, foods, and dances brought to our countries by the Africans and I love that so much about us.”
Recently, Dictionary.com added Afro-Latinx in a massive update of over 15,000 definitions that reflect on culture, identity, and race. “Now that I have the vocabulary to describe my identity, my blackness and my Latinidad are so intrinsically tied that I couldn’t choose if I wanted to, simply because both of my identities inform each other,” Ora says.
“Afro-Latinxs are neither too Black nor too Latinx. We simply are who we are. For a long time, claiming your blackness was dangerous, so the fact that we’re seeing so many people acknowledge and honor their African heritage is monumental and, in my opinion, revolutionary. We exist at the intersection of two beautiful identities with amazing histories and that deserves to be uplifted and celebrated.”