In the shoes of a wanderlust traveler, stepping onto new grounds is a life-changing experience. It’s a new chapter unfolding in front of you. This expedition opens doors to new people, deep explorations , new concepts, tasting new cuisines and adapting to a new culture and environment.
For people like me who sometimes can’t always travel to these places by thereselves we live and breathe through travel blogs. Traveling blogs allows one to connect with the outside world without actually physically being there. Though at times it feels like your there.
This is the feeling I get when reading one of my favorite Afro-Latina traveling blogs Tejiendo Experiences. Through this platform I am able to connect to my diaspora and live vivaciously through her experiences.
Dive deep into this Afro-Colombian Travel Blogger Kayla Fory’s journey and her adventures in Ghana.
The Afro-Latina Traveler
How do you embrace your Afro-Latinidad?
I am proud of my heritage and love sharing it with others. There is a misconception that being black and Latinx are mutually exclusive, but I am here, our community is here. I love my natural hair and all the styles I can wear, but also love my arepas in the morning with avocado and egg. The duality of my identity allows me to navigate between cultures and not shy away from being different.
What was life like growing in in California as a Afro-Colombian? Was there an Afro-Latina community?
I grew up in the Bay Area around a predominantly Asian American community and many people around me were not aware that Afro-Latinxs even exist. I was always different from everyone else as the only black person and often the only Latina in the room. Most people’s first association with Latinx culture is predominantly through Chicanx and Mexican experiences. I had to explain to people growing up that yes, I was black and yes, I was also Colombian and this wasn’t just MY family but a large portion of Latin Americans have African heritage.
When I was younger, I found it frustrating to constantly explain that ‘yes, we exist’, but then realized when I was older how little exposure there is of Afro-Latinx’s, in general. So often the media’s portrayal of Colombia is limited to those with fair-skinned and straight hair, which doesn’t represent the diversity of the country. I began to see people’s questions about my identity in a more positive light as an opportunity to share and explain.
How important was reclaiming your blackness while still embracing your Latino roots? Have you ever experienced obstacles?
I don’t think it’s an issue of reclaiming blackness within Latinx culture, because the two are already so engrained in one another. The yuca in my sancocho is from West Africa, the rhythm in a Cuban rumba is from West Africa, the origins of Candomblé in Brazil are also West African. For me, it is important to acknowledge these ties and learn from these histories to respect our ancestors that passed these traditions down onto us.
I am not white passing, others have always perceived me as black first and then would later be surprised to find out I was also Colombian. I self identify as ‘negra’ when asked and my family always surrounded me with black positivity in the US. I actually experienced the most frustration explaining my choice to keep me hair natural and self identity as black (over morena) in Colombia. It was really difficult for some people to understand why I refuse to straighten it and claim blackness.
Is there still an existing diaspora in Colombia ? If so, tell me about it.
As in, are there Afro-Colombians? The entire Pacific Coast is predominantly black as are a number of areas around Cali, like where my family is from. There are a lot more Afro-Colombians than most people realize. How Latin America and US define race differ greatly; someone that is indio/white passing in Colombia for example would in many instances be classified as black in the states, which I find all very interesting.
As an Afro-Latina traveler what has been some of your fondest memories ?
Making Colombian food with local ingredients in Ghana has been one of my favorite things. It helps us all realize how similar we are as a people even if as the diaspora we don’t do things exactly as West Africans now would. There are so many shared elements in our food that showcase remnants of
Africa embedded in our daily lives as Latinx’s.
What’s is the travel lifestyle life in Ghana? Any similarities to Colombia?
In Ghana, I rely on more word of mouth to get around and figure out what’s going on than in Colombia. The first time I was in Ghana there were hardly street signs and now there’s UBER! It was hard to understand directions that were heavily based only on landmarks. I think transportation and ways of getting around in Ghana are definitely improving, which make it easier for international travelers.
Was it challenging to adapt to a new country and environment?
It was challenging at first, but any new chapter requires a period of adjustment. Living in Ghana has taught me to be very patient and resourceful. There are so many obstacles or unexpected delays that arise from day to day so learning how to be flexible was key.
How essential was creating a platform like Tejiendo Experience?
I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences as an Afro-Latina traveler. It’s a narrative I’ve hardly seen in other platforms and I wanted to highlight change makers within the greater community. It is important to create and take up our own spaces. I wanted to inspire other women that might be thinking about how great it would be to reconnect with West Africa through travel but might feel intimidated to do so. It was important to me to make the blog bilingual to connect to as many people as possible. I try to share my adventures in a way that is relatable even to someone on the other side of the world. To me, that’s the beauty of technology.
As you mentioned our narrative is often ignored, how can we go about being represented more?
We need to create more and rely less on others to validate our narratives. It is so important to document your story and mark your place in time whether it’s a podcast, blog, music, art, etc. We can collectively say yes, we are here and empower our own community through our work and our spaces. Social media is a great way to build a following and promote your work and ideas. I love Instagram and showing people where I’ve been. There is so much potential to create and build in this moment and it’s important to take advantage of the tools and resources available.
Any tips for future travelers interested in the diaspora!
Keep up with Kayla Fory and check The Tejiendo Experiences blog site below