From her graceful spirit to her vibrant energy and creative soul. It was so easy to get lost in her innovative artistic videos. It feels like I was watching a live roller skating experience. Black Girl Magic unfolded right in front of my eyes, the glow showed up and showed out. It was extraordinary!
Her strength, resilience and determination to keep striving and rising in her craft was inspirational. Her is Liliana Ruiz. She is a Afro-Latina Rollerskater, Storyteller and Justice Warrior. Liliana is setting the tone for Black skaters to have a space and stronger representation. As she continues to amplify voices of melanin skaters Liliana also fights for racial equality and brings attentiveness to injustice against Black lives.
Roller Skating has been a beneficial tool for her individual self-healing and self-expression. Living unapologetically and carefree in her skin is a motto Liliana lives by. Growing up half Mexican and half Black her pride reflects strongly in her passion for the art of roller skating.
How was going up Blaxican in the Los Angeles area ?
I did not grow up in Los Angeles. I moved here for college when I turned 18. I grew up Blaxican half of my life on the border of Yuma, Arizona and Mexico and the other half in Chula Vista, California and Mexico. It was challenging growing up mixed in both areas because during my time growing up, there was still a low but rising presence of social media and the internet. Given my family’s socioeconomic status at the time, we didn’t have access to these powerful tools until my early teenage years. Social media played a huge factor in me finding my community of other Afro – Latinx people who voice and embrace both their African and Latin roots at the same time. Before that, it was merely seeing my one Mexican/Puerto Rican tia who married my Dominican tio as representation of Black looking people who were fully immersed in Latinx culture. Yet even they showed signs of anti blackness.
Did you ever feel like you weren’t Black or Latina enough?
I have always felt like other people, strangers, even those who say they love me and care about me—-try to categorize me as one or the other—“Black or Mexican”. For a while in high school, some of my Black friends would consider me Mexican and tease me about not being Black because I grew up in a Mexican household and didn’t know some things about Black culture. On the other side, I felt like my Mexican and Latinx friends, people who I related to as well and in some ways MORE, always simplified me as the Black girl or la negrita. Although I understand, read and write Spanish, my speaking? Majority of the time I held back because of the consequences or follow-ups from allowing Spanish to flow from my lips. When I was younger I held back from speaking Spanish as much as I actually wanted to in public because many times when I DID speak, Spanish speaking people would question my identity instead of focusing on the actual topic of the conversation OR critique my speaking skills as a way to determine whether or not I was truly Mexican. There has always been this idea in my head, formed by the actions and through the words of others: I have to choose. Well, I choose to be 100% Black and 100% Mexican.
What does Afro-Latinidad mean for you and how do you embrace your roots ?
Afro-Latinidad to me means struggle, strength, resiliency and most of all light. Afro-Latinos shape so much of our world, culture and a lot of our innovative leaders may not have been given credit in the past and even in the present because of these limiting categories set before us along with the anti black theme that our world fosters. I seek to find more information about them, experiences and stories of the generations of Afro-Latinx people who came before me because I feel deprived of history. And I believe that in their experiences we can find hints for solutions to many of the problems we still face today. The way I embrace my roots is I aim to live unapologetically, now and forever. I stunt Latina empowering t-shirts, bump the Spanish music I have been listening to all my life as I drive down the streets, speak in Spanish FIRST whenever speaking to someone who I know speaks Spanish and English, all while also being a Black ass person.
What triggered your passion for roller skating ?
The escape. When I was younger like around 10 or so, we’d skate and ride our bikes and just GO. I used to love that feeling so I just never stopped. I kept skating, going faster and started getting better with time. When things get stressful, I would either ball up or skate. When I hurt my knee playing basketball and lost a scholarship, I could not ball the same without re-triggering my knee. However, skating did not trigger the same pain in my knee. Coincidence? I think not. I was meant to skate and so I skate. Not only does it keep me in shape, it provided me so much relief mentally and spiritually in times I thought my life was cheap. I skate for my well-being and because I love it. So, I guess pain triggered my passion for roller skating.
How do you use roller skating to express yourself ?
I feel like the music I skate to and how I skate to it is how I express myself. I consider myself an untraditional person from the lens of “America.” When I skate, I can feel very free and magical almost. I use my instagram to share skating content in addition to advocating for causes that matter most to me. I even created a page called @CastingBlackSkaters which aims to connect talented Black skaters to paid opportunities in the media and entertainment industry. I have two BS degrees in Journalism and Film & Media with an emphasis on Social Justice. I incorporate and encourage Black collaboration in front and behind the cameras. The page helps me publicize and show representation for a community of people who are often misrepresented or not given the opportunity to be complex and intersecting, multi-dimensional and inspiring individuals. Given my financial opportunities in the media industry thus far because of skating, I wanted to also uplift other Black skaters who are just as talented as I am if not more and have been skating for way longer than I have been living. I believe justice for Black folks in the skating world looks like self ownership, financial opportunity, accountability, and most of all accurate representation.
Has it been a therapeutic outlet for you?
Yes, absolutely! Roller Skating has saved my life time and time again. I am very thankful to have the physical ability to roll still. For a moment, after I had to undergo emergency ovarian cyst surgery, I was unable to walk or skate and that is when I experienced the PRIVILEGE of being able to skate. I do not take that for granted.
How do you use your platform to celebrate your roots ?
YES! I love sharing about my experiences as an Afro-Latina. I feel like people learn or rather unlearn better when they watch a human being unfamiliar to them being THEMSELVES, sharing stories about their life and overall just exposing them to a lifestyle that they may not even know exists or are ignorant about.
Do you feel like there is a lack of representation shed amongst Black skaters ?
Yes, I feel like there is a lack of representation. There are so many talented Black skaters yet there is a certain criteria or trend I see with the ones that are widely accepted amongst all people. Just like there are a handful of successful and popular Black actresses and actors who get the same types of roles over and over, I see the skate community/companies highlighting the few individuals who “Stand out” whether because of their social media numbers or their looks. I love to see Black people win always but it makes me a bit sad to see that most of the time I do not see bigger bodied women being put on a pedestal in comparison to thinner women. I say this because I consider myself to be on the thinner side and have been amazed by the talent coming from bigger girls but yet I don’t see them getting the same type of attention as me or the others. In addition, just like actors and actresses, there is a trend for Black “but also ambiguous” or mixed-looking individuals getting more attention than other equally if not more talented Black female skaters. I would focus on the lack of Black male representation too but I’ll save that conversation for another day for the lack of variety of female representation seems to be something I have more experience in recognizing and caring about.
Has your cultural identity contributed to your passion for skating ? If so, how ?
I believe my identity as a Black Latina has contributed to my passion for skating because the Black community is an integral part of rollerskating culture particularly in the United States but now with social media, we can see Black influence worldwide.
Keep up with Liliana !