By Bianca Betancourt—Growing up, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “AfroLatina” and how diverse, complex and complicated that term could really be.
When people would (intrusively) ask me “what I was” I would always answer the same way: “Puerto Rican, Black and Native American.”
Puerto Rican—because of all the minorities that make up my being it was the least offensive to my white suburban surroundings, even though it was often confused with being a part of Mexico.
Black—because the term “African American” was always too long to say and I subconsciously tried to hide that part of me within the other makeups so people wouldn’t focus on it so much.
Native American—because my family always credited my shiny, dark locks of hair and facial features because of this small part of my family tree. Granted, if you took a look at my grandmother in her heyday, you could see this part of our makeup right away.
But in the eyes of my friends, and even my family, being simultaneously Latina and simultaneously Black was never talked about or considered. We were simply doing our best to blend into an Americana town that couldn’t comprehend the complexities of our race and our history.
Many women, high profile and everyday civilians alike, are constantly discredited when they try to equally claim all sides that make up their ethnic character.
I remember mentioning to girlfriends my senior year of high school that I wanted to dye my hair a caramel, honey blonde “Like Beyonce or JLo’ and I was quickly shot down saying I didn’t look like either so I obviously couldn’t pull off the look. I was hurt, because all I wanted was to merely be able to temporarily mimic some of my style idols, but looking back I knew their comments were only made because of their lack of awareness of who I truly was.
Depending on how one acts, speaks and looks determines how a non-person of color views “what” they are. To my friends I didn’t “act” Black and because I wasn’t Mexican (growing up in the American Southwest, far, far from Caribbean influence) I didn’t really qualify as a stereotypical Latina either. They sure loved to eat my mother’s interpretation of arroz con pollo, though.
I always identified with certain actresses and celebrities of mixed makeups who often said that they just wanted to be seen as a person rather than a jigsaw puzzle of cultures and races; as the “exotic” outlier or sexy ambiguous mixed chick. For so long we’ve been treated like creatures instead of humans, focused on how just a marginal percentage of us look and the babies we reproduce. So much is focused on what we look like and if we fit the American accepted mold: but who has ever stopped and asked us how we feeling about who we are walking in this world everyday
We are not exotic.
We are not here for solely your eyes.
We are full and equal offspring from the African diaspora and the historic Latinidad.
It doesn’t matter how light or dark one is, whether or not they speak Spanish, or if their hair is curly, kinky or straight: being an AfroLatina is it’s own racial entity and being that we need to educate the world about. No part of us is more important than the other and no part of us should surely be respected more than the other.
We are African, We are Latina, We are human.
Bianca Betancourt is serving as a guest contributor for #IAMENOUGH. Bianca is a writer and editor currently residing in Chicago, Illinois. She has written and reported on a variety of stories ranging fromentertainment news and politics to personal and opinion-editorial essays. She founded CIRCUS Magazine in May of 2012 and since then has retained her role as editor-in-chief and oversees all of the site’s editorial and video content.
She has also contributed stories to The Chicago Sun Times Splash Magazine, The Chicago Reader, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post’s She The People blog and currently writes for Remezcla and TeenVogue.com. She hopes to be a liason between the ignored and those who have the power to publish. She wants to shed light upon the voices of the voiceless and is specifically passionate about stories regarding gender roles, race and ethnicity, love, sexuality and social injustice.