Reclaiming My Afro-Mexican Identity – Chey Charvis

My story is going to be unlike many other Afro-Latinas because I wasn’t able to really “Grow up Latina.” I was adopted when I was just a baby (1.5 years old) and was raised by a Jamaican family. But, even though most of my experience growing up was through the eyes and arms of another culture, I knew that I was different. In elementary school, I was the only Black girl who could speak spanish. In kindergarten, I remember having a few spanish speaking friends and I would converse with them often.

It wasn’t until I was in about 4-5th grade that I was questioned and teased about how I knew Spanish. I was accused many times of “trying to be Puerto – Rican.” I used to cry because I didn’t really know why I could speak spanish, I just could. No one has ever teased me or called me names until I was 10 so it hurt to figure out why it was a problem. Because I was such a shy kid anyway and wanted to make more friends, I chose to stop speaking it in order to satisfy others. There was a family who lived across the street who were Afro- Latinas and they were the only ones who I would speak spanish with (until they moved). Then I was back to my lonely space. 

It wasn’t until my late teen years that I tried to reconnect with my biological family. Even though things didn’t work out the way that I planned in terms of bonding, I had the strong urge to continue to learn about who I was and where I came from. I did that off and on (more off than anything) before I stopped for a long time. I figured “What was the point” when I already felt like I lost the biggest part of me (the language).

I tried to study Spanish in high school just to get it back but got frustrated and stopped. Over the past few years, I have been taking the time to relearn myself, my language, and my culture. Although this is still a learning curve for me and it’s not easy, I owe it to myself and to my family to embrace my Mexican culture and heritage. I am proud to be Afro-Latina, even if my hair, skin, or imperfect spanish doesn’t reflect that. 

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