Growing up I always knew I looked different, from the texture of my hair to the color of my skin. The intersection of Latinx and Black identities run deep, yet Latinas who look like me aren’t front and center in popular media. As a woman who proudly identifies as an Afro-Latina, I’m here to say that the journey was a long and hard one.
I was born in the Bronx New York and raised in Miami Florida to an Afro-Colombian mother and Dominican father. I remember being called “morenita” by my friends in elementary school and never really understanding why they associated me with that term. My mother was a single parent, so she was never able to sit my sister and me down to tell us about the harsh realities of society once we walked out the door.
In the household, we were Latinas who embraced our culture in every way, but to society, we were two little Black girls who astonished people when we spoke the language. “Wait you speak Spanish; you must be Puerto Rican” or “Did you learn the language in school?” were phrases I got tired of hearing.
Understanding the colorism that exists within the Latinx community is important because it relates to the collective conscience of racism as a whole. My mom is a beautiful black woman, but I can’t tell you the number of times I witnessed her experience microaggressions by her own people in public spaces, because of the color of her skin. Being a witness to this made me shy away from claiming my own blackness for a while.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I really started looking more into my culture and the Black history that lies within both Colombia and the Dominican Republic. I always felt like I was too Black for the Latinx community, but then too Latina for the Black community. It was definitely a battle of identities for me because the history books and society tell us that we can’t be both.
Yet the African diaspora that took place in Latin America is never spoken about, but a big part of our history. When I started doing my research and learning more about my African ancestry, I knew this was something I needed to celebrate and embrace because it was the exact explanation of why I felt so out of place within my culture for a long time. I am Black, but I’m also Latina, something I became very confident in claiming.
Today I am proud to say that I am the president of one of the few Afro-Latinx Student organizations that exist within the Florida University systems. Creating a safe space for people who identify as both and being that voice for students on campus is something I prioritize. I never want anyone to struggle with their identity because of misconceptions and hope that bringing back the Afro-Latino Student Association on the campus of Florida State University, motivates others to speak up about things they value.
In the near future, I hope to expand this organization and create different chapters on various campuses around Florida. Some people find their purpose early in life, and others late. I know without a doubt that God placed me on this earth to bring more awareness to this topic and it is exactly what I plan to do. I am the product of the most resilient people to walk on this earth, and for that, I will always cherish being Afro-Latinx.
Meet Daviana Mercedes
Hello, my name is Daviana Mercedes I am a student at Florida State University studying retail entrepreneurship with a minor in sociology, born in the Bronx New York and raised in Miami Florida. I identify as an Afro-Latina.