Growing Up Afro- Latina – Zoe Boynton

Hello, My name is Zoe Boynton. I am an Afro Latina and I am Panamanian!

Growing up I struggled to accept my Latina identity because only one side of my family is Afro Latino (My mom’s side) with my dad’s side being African American. Growing up I only identified with being Black. It was easier for me to just tell people that than get deeper into why I knew Spanish, ate coconut rice and used Adobo in everything I make as a brown skin woman.

My grandfather got to the United States from Panama at a very young age. They immigrated to the Bronx at the height of the Civil Rights era. He was an Afro-Panamanian man, visibly Black to those in the US, yet spoke zero English and had to navigate the racism of the 60s in the US. Every day I remember that because it teaches me how far my family has come. My grandfather was told, “Don’t speak Spanish!”

So that he wouldn’t be singled out when going to school, yet he never let anyone deny his culture. Hearing this story makes me feel proud every time. It reminds me of the trials and tribulations I and other Afro Latinos go through every day. 

 Later I discovered that both of my Black cultures are amazing and beautiful. I’ve learned to never forget where I come from. In the United States, people often associate being Latinx with lighter skin, and straight hair. They put Latinos into a box. They think it’s a race when it’s an ethnicity. As I grew up I had people say “you’re Black, not Hispanic” and “Well… you look, Black. You don’t look, Latina.

“What is a Latina supposed to look like anyways?”

We are so diverse in Latin America! In Panama. and all the other Latin American counties, you have Latinos of European descent, African descent, Native descent, you name it, they got it. I often times thought to myself “I need straight hair, I need lighter skin.” Unfortunately, almost every Afro-Latina reading this would’ve probably either thought that or heard that from someone. Beauty standards and expectations often flooded my brain as a young girl. I didn’t understand why I had to be the one with thick curly hair and skin that turns brown instantly in the sun. 

Now that I’m older I love my brown skin. People pay to tan like this! Haha! I love my thick curls, they’re naturally thick and happy. I love being a Black Woman, I just happen to be Afro Latina too, which is awesome! It’s a cultural identity with so many deep twists and turns. Being from the country that originated Reggaeton a genre of music with African, Caribbean, and Spanish influences is a great flex! Being able to go home and get ox tail and arroz con pollo is also a bonus! 

As I looked deeper into my upbringing and experiences as an Afro Latina in the United States I realized that I want to use my platform to educate and bring awareness to Afro Latinos so that other people who are like me don’t have to experience the amount of racism and lack of representation in the future.

I want to create a space where those struggling with their cultural identity like I did can feel like they have someone to help encourage and empower them to love themselves and where they came from!

I’ve created TikToks, Reels, and countless videos talking about my experiences as an Afro-Latina. Whether it’s dealing with people denying my culture or the people seeing me as just a Black woman, I have talked about it all in an effort to bring relatable experiences to a wider audience.  Overall being Afro-Latina is awesome. We are beautiful, worthy, and come in all shades!!! We are amazing!!!

My name is Zoe. I am a Management Information Systems student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I’m originally from Delaware (the first state!). My Latin heritage is Panamanian, I identify as Afro Panamanian and African American. I am passionate about creating representation for everyone in the Afro Diaspora and specifically for my fellow Afro Latina


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