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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hues of Heritage: Exploring Afro-Latino identity, colorism and pride (part three)

Exploring the importance of Afro-Latino representation and pride

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Lissette Garcia, office assistant, can be found at the front office of Global Prep Academy helping parents and students sign in.

Garcia, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, is often asked about her nationality when she greets parents and visitors due to her accent.

“The people here in the school who are African American hear me talk and they ask me, ‘You are Latin?’ I’ll tell them, ‘I’m Latin.’ They’re like, ‘Oh wow, someone who looks like me can be from somewhere else,’” said Garcia.

It makes her happy because she loves to teach children especially about the beauty of cultural diversity between people who share the same skin color, hair type and features.

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, the call for greater representation in media, culture and society reverberates louder than ever before.

Hues of Heritage

Afro-Latino representation emerges as a testament to the rich tapestry of human heritage and a catalyst for reshaping perceptions and dismantling stereotypes.

“I don’t have the luxury like a J. Lo or a Shakira to just be Latina. In every space, I am Black, and [in] every space, I’m also Latina, both things at the same time. I think there are spaces that are more welcoming of the duality of my identity than others,” said educator Angela Brito de Rodriguez who is Dominican.

“There’s a lot of hurt because of discrimination that Latinos feel from Black people and that Black people will feel from Latinos. So, sometimes people will be freely talking about the other culture, and I’m there in the middle.”

Rodriguez said that although it is important to make the distinction of Blackness within different cultures, it is a beautiful overlap that needs to be recognized.

While growing up as a Black Latina, Rodriguez saw only three Afro-Latinos on television who she felt were proud to be who they are.

One of these figures Afro-was Tegui Calderón, a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist, who Rodgriguez said is unapologetically Black and featured Black people in his music videos.
Rodriguez also looked up to Ilia Calderon, the first Black Columbian news anchor she ever saw on TV in the United States.

“Another one was Celia Cruz, the queen of Salsa. While coming out of Cuba, I would see it all over TV. She was also unapologetically her beautiful chocolate self and all the things that that meant,” said Rodriguez.

Over the years, Rodriguez said she has seen Afro-Latino representation significantly diversify with artists like Cardi B and Amara La Negra and even baseball players like Big Papi and Sammy Sosa who identify as Afro-Latino gaining recognition.


“I don’t think that’s enough though. It’s important for young people to be able to see themselves reflected in more than just media and sports,” said Rodriguez.

“Even here in Indiana, the very fact that I got the same email from three people asking me to meet with the Indianapolis Recorder about this topic is indicative of the lack of representation in our city.

Jose Castillo Jimenez, who is both Dominican and Venezuelan and serves as the business operations manager for Monarca Academy and the vice president of community for Indy Pride, Inc., said it is important for people to see more leaders like him.

“Growing up, I didn’t see or hear anybody that looked like me, sounded like me, stood for what I stood for, and it makes you feel alone. It makes you feel like there’s no one else out there that’s like you,” said Jimenez.

“It doesn’t give you a place to aspire to be whether that’s at school, in sports, and when you enter corporate America, or working for nonprofits. My thing is always representation, and my thing is always having a seat at the table.”

Afro-Latino representation amongst community figures like Garcia, Rodriguez and Jimenez can increase visibility and recognition of a vibrant, resilient and historically marginalized community.

“I might be darker, but we exist, you know? It doesn’t matter that I came from a different country, I have the same value. This is something that we need to be very proud of,” said Garcia.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here. You can also check out the Indiana Minority Business Magazine by clicking here.

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