I can’t make out what you are” “Are you really Latina?’ “But your hair” “You’re the first Latina I’ve ever met” if I got paid every time someone made one of those comments about me, I’d be rich rich. Growing up in an area in London where there were not many Latinos, I’d hear and still hear, these comments often. Even though there were other Latinos, my siblings and I were the only ones that didn’t look the stereotypical way Latinos were always described as. In all the schools I’ve been too, I’ve always been the only Latina in my year group and in one school, the only Latina in the whole school.
Half of me feels privileged because hopefully, I made a good impression on them about Latinos in general (even though carrying the whole ethnicity on my back is kinda a big thing). However, growing up as people questioned my ethnicity, I also questioned it. Being Latina is one thing, but being a brown skin Latina with thick curly hair? Did that make me Afro-Latina?
As we all know, older generations never really embraced their Afro Latinidad. Unfortunately, this included some of my family like some grandparents and probably many generations before that. This was then passed down to me and my siblings, which is why growing up I always wondered what I actually was, I never felt enough for either. We’re Latino. Point, blank, period. This is correct for all types of Latinos, but we should embrace our roots, as they made us who we are today.
As I got older, I began embracing the fact that I am of African ancestry, it is part of my story too. However, growing up here in the UK didn’t make that any easier as many don’t understand the term Afro-Latina. They think because the African part isn’t our culture, that we’re not part of it. But it is and that’s what many don’t understand. Latin America was so heavily influenced by African culture because they became and are part of Latin America. There are no two ways about it. It’s part of the cultura. It’s like me saying I’m not Latina because I live in another country, or that when I have kids, they shouldn’t embrace their Latin Heritage because they’re second generation. Just because our African roots have been passed down, doesn’t mean we cannot embrace it. You don’t need to show someone a DNA test to prove who you are.
I’m gonna keep embracing my Afro Latinidad, keep representing Latinas in the UK because we are here, making moves and taking up space. YES, we also exist in the UK. Never let someone question who you are. Embrace those curls, embrace the beauty of your skin, and most importantly, sis! embrace the roots. You are enough.
All of this is what I wanted to convey with my brand Poderosa London. It is a platform to empower, celebrate powerful women, and allow people to embrace either their culture or who they are wherever they go. I am such a strong believer in telling your story as you never know you may inspire by doing so. I also have T-shirts available as they are such a statement piece for many women, so I thought it was the perfect everyday way to do so.
My name is Ashley Farias, I was born in Ecuador but was raised in London, England. I am a recent Criminology graduate and I am so passionate about helping young people achieve the impossible, especially in disadvantaged areas; which is what I hope my future career entails. However, in my spare time, I run Poderosa London, a women empowerment brand that celebrates powerful women and provides apparel to allow them to embrace their identity daily.