I am no stranger to the questions or “Are you sure you’re Mexican?” or “if you’re Latina, how are you black?” I anticipate these questions because I know that they’re coming.
My name is Thalia and I am from San Diego, California. I am Mexican and Afro-Panamanian and identify as Afro-Latina.
Growing up, I had no idea what an “Afro-Latina” was. I just thought that I was Mexican and Black. My mom is Mexican and my dad is Afro-Panamanian. I grew up with my mom and her ex-husband who is white for the majority of my childhood. To say that I was confused was an understatement. I knew what race my dad is but because I didn’t live with him, I grew up only learning about my Mexican side. I have always been hyper-aware that I looked different. I was the only “black” girl in my family. I was always praised for my “pelo bueno” but I never felt beautiful, because I looked so different from everyone around me. Being a Latina and a Black woman is something that I am immensely proud of now but it took me years to be comfortable with who I am.
I had a huge awakening around my Afro-Latinidad in 2015 after I went to a Miguel concert. I go through this thing where I get obsessed with an artist after I see them in concert. I listen to all of their music and watch their interviews so I can know as much about them as possible. During this process, I found out that Miguel is Black and Mexican. I was astonished because up until that moment, I didn’t know that other Afro-Latinos existed. I was around 20 years old at this time so up until then, I thought that I was alone.
I went into a deep dive into “Blaxicans.” I ended up finding a page on Instagram called “Blaxicans” that highlighted various Afro-Latinos living in Los Angeles. I learned that there are different types of Black Latinos like Afro-Puerto Ricans and Afro-Dominicans. I didn’t know how blended our cultures were. I had seen these types of people before but I just thought that they were dark-skinned Latinos. I know that this thought process was incredibly ignorant but I had never been taught about this side of myself. I felt seen and heard in a way that I had never felt before. I’m pretty sure that I learned the word “Afro-Latino” from that page.
I was excited about this discovery so I told my family and friends about it but it doesn’t mean that it was met with an open mind. Most people thought that I was crazy. They said things like “aren’t you just Latina then?” or “How are you Black if you’re Latina?” Their questions were hurtful but once I knew this information it’s like a light turned on inside of me and no one could dim that light no matter how hard they tried.
A huge struggle that Afro-Latinos face is having their existence validated. People make us feel like we don’t exist or that we don’t belong to any race. It’s a hard thing to hear and feel but I know my truth and I know who I am. I don’t need people to validate my existence. A lot of people don’t understand because they are used to the traditional ways that a Latino or Black person is supposed to look and don’t realize that you can be both. It takes a lot of patience and explaining which gets exhausting but I never stop trying to teach people because I want to educate people as much as possible. I would love to see a world where little Afro-Latinos and Afro-Latinas see themselves on TV and in the media. Representation is so important!
Fast forward to now, I am 25 and truly embracing who I am. I love telling people about my Afro-Latinidad. I use my social media to talk about my identity and lifestyle. I fall into the fashion and lifestyle niche on IG but I try my best to shed light on Black and Latinx issues. I intend on honoring my Afro-Latinidad and making space for other Afro-Latinos to be seen and heard for the rest of my life.
I am also the social media manager at @hijadetumadre which is a Latina lifestyle brand. We’re big on showing Latinidad in its entirety and love showing how different and beautiful Latinas are. I get to work on creating representation for ALL Latinas on social media every day. It is so rewarding. I have learned a lot about my Latina side working there and it is a blessing to work at a place that gives me the space to embrace my identity and make a difference for Latinx folks.
It took a while to get to this point but I feel proud of who I am and can’t wait to continue sharing my journey on my social media. Feel free to follow me on IG @tuhleequh. Thank you!
Thalia “tuhleequh” Dyche is a social media enthusiast who is documenting her Afro-Latina experience through her social media accounts. She received her B.S. in Communication from BYU-Idaho in 2018. Upon graduation, she moved home to Southern California to pursue a career in social media marketing.
When she’s not working on her career goals, she enjoys sharing her outfits and lifestyle on her social media. Thalia enjoys sharing her unique perspective on being Mexican and Panamanian online. She is also a photographer and graphic designer who is always looking for different ways to express her creativity.
You can find her trying a new restaurant or testing out new skincare products in her free time. Thalia is currently the social media manager for @hijadetumadre and resides in San Diego, California. You can follow her along on her journey @tuhleequh on Instagram and all social media platforms.