It was during my college career that I officially heard the term Afro Latina, weird right? I guess I was a late bloomer. Born to Afro Colombian parents, they never quite emphasized on the fact that we were Afro Colombians, we were just Colombian. It has been my observation, as I have dissected myself over the years, that migrating to the United States at the age of four limited my knowledge about my background to some extent. I did not get the opportunity to truly dive into my roots as deeply as I would have liked. Fortunately, becoming familiar with the term Afro Latina aided me in doing that and to my pleasant surprise I discovered a part of me that I did not know was there.
As I think back, the limited exposure that I felt I had to the real Afro-Colombian experience, limited most of my cultural knowledge to mainly two things: the food that I loved and the memories that I cherished. I associated being Colombian to the buñuelos and pandebonos (cheesy bread goodness) that I absolutely marveled in. To me, being Colombian also consisted of my mother’s sancocho de pescado and my grandmother’s mazamorra antioquena and arroz con leche colombiano that by the way, are the best food I have ever tasted.
Not only this, but the fond memories I carried of my grandmother’s house in Colombia, that I surprisingly recalled, also played a part. Until this day, I still remember bits and pieces of our family outings at the Panse river and my grandmother taking my older sister and I to the Cali fair. I can wholeheartedly say that I treasure these memories and can brag about Colombian food all day but that is not the point here. The point is that attaching Afro Latina/ Afro Colombiana to my name, meant more than just a label and it went beyond my customs, food and family memories.
Furthermore, describing myself as Paola, the Afro Latina, gave me a stronger sense of self. It became a form of empowerment and my secret protest. Saying the phrase: ‘I am Afro Colombiana’, became my way of standing up for every Afro Latina girl that did not see a representation of herself in the telenovelas and shows that most of us grew up watching. It was also my way of making the bold statement that regardless of what society may try to ingrain in us, our “outward” beauty is glorious. Most importantly though, every chance that I get to say that phrase, I am protesting against any feelings of inferiority because I believe that we, Afro Latinas, have much to be proud of.
So, while I take pride in the fact that I was born in the beautiful country of Colombia, I am even more proud of my features, hair and chocolate skin that I have my African Ancestry to thank for.
Being Afro Latina can just be a label to some, but for me it is greater than that and greater than me.
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