To be honest, I grew up just thinking I was an African – American woman. I didn’t learn of my Afro- Latinx heritage as I got to college. I knew my mother’s family came from another country, but since I was raised in another state so far, I didn’t really learn much about my mother’s culture until I moved to New York in 2014.
When I moved to New York, I still didn’t know anything about the Afro-Latinx community. I just thought that being Latino was just being of Hispanic descent. I thought being Hispanic also included Spaniards. I was definitely not educated on the actual truth. I would say that was because many of the older generation of my mother’s family did not see themselves as Afro-Latinx. The younger generation learned about the truth as they got older and became more educated like myself.
I went and graduated from Pace University. While at Pace, I met all walks of life. I would say college was where I definitely grew up, learned A LOT, and learned how to carry myself as a young educated Black woman (understandable, right?). I was studying English, creative writing, so with that came tons and I mean tons of researching, thinking outside the box, analyzing and editing. Literally everything, but I loved it! I learned things that never even crossed my mind and developed a passions for certain topics (Afro-Latinx being one of them).
Being that I was an avid fan of History, I decided to take a Post-Colonial Literature class in 2017! Honestly, shout out to Dr. Poe for this amazing, insightful class! Still one of my favorite classes till this day! Anywho, this is when my education colonized countries (including Haiti and Dominican Republic) started. We read passages from Edwidge Danticat, Yaa Gyasi, Maxine Hong Kingston, and more. I literally looked forward to this class every week! I participated the most and my professor loved my analytical papers on each book or passage we read and analyzed.
This was the spring semester of my junior year. So, while taking this class, I was also taking a Race and Ethnicity class. It was definitely my most stressful but favorite year honestly. While taking these classes, I started diving deeper into my identity because all I saw my self was an African American woman. By this time, I knew more of my Caribbean background, but not a lot and I definitely still didn’t see myself as Afro-Latina. It was funny because my friends at the time (who knew about Afro-Latinx) kept telling me I was though. So from my two classes and my friends, I decided to do more research and ask my mom questions. My mom is the most open person of the older generation, so I knew she would give me really good information about her heritage. Plus, she is SUPER intelligent.
Talking to my mother, I learned quite a lot. She told me that we definitely had Dominican in our family aside from the Haitian and Syrian. She expressed to me that I am in fact an Afro-Latina and that the true definition of an Afro-Latina is someone coming from a country that speaks one of the Romance languages in Latin America, but have African ancestry. She also made a mention that my father also talked about having some Louisiana Creole on his side. So with all of this new information I received from my mother, I decided to do some Internet research on Afro Latinx, Haiti, and Dominican Republic.
Upon my research, I learned of Afro-Latinx blogs on Instagram and started following the accounts and listening in on their lives and reading their posts. From then on, I still do continuous research (because you can never not do enough research) and learned to love and shout from the rooftops that I’m Afro Latina and proud. I also have been in the past two years have been the person people would come to asking about Afro Latinx, what makes someone Afro Latinx, and the history behind my beloved countries, Haiti and Dominican Republic.
I can honestly say that I never had a struggle with accepting being Afro-Latina. I’ve been accepted into my community with open arms. I did however had a problem of being black in high school. Not because I wasn’t proud of being black, but because I was questioned about my mother’s light skin tone, my curly hair, and my own skin tone from other non-Caribbean peers. I also was never around Afro-Latinx because where I lived in Michigan didn’t really have any Afro-Latinx.
My identity issues are a thing of the past now, but they are still my story of how it brought me to how I identify now. If it wasn’t for questioning my identity growing up and moving away, I honestly don’t know where I would be now. But, I will say this. I am a proud Black, Haitian, Dominican, and Creole woman. From my beautiful skin, to my beautiful curly on my head. I’m proud to be an Afro-Latina.