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  • Writer's pictureColibri Collective

Making Space for Afro-Latinos

Making Space for Afro-Latinos. Image shows photographs of Afro-Latino kids and young adults writing, playing music, recording podcasts, and playing.

Afro-Latinos are often erased from mainstream narratives but they have a rich culture that should be recognized and celebrated. They’ve been an integral part of American culture for generations. Yet, the first national survey that asked the American Latino population if they considered themselves Afro-Latino was held just a few years ago in 2016. According to that study, “one-quarter of all the U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.” That number has only grown: Nowadays there are at least 2.4 million Afro-Latinos in the United States.

The Afro-Latino influence is undeniable. But why are Afro-Latinos so often sidelined?

Afro-Latinos have been making history for decades. The Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, was hugely influential throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, as seen by her four Grammys and three Latin Grammys. Today, representation has made massive strides as more Afro-Latino celebrities enter the limelight. Mj Rodriguez, an Afro-Puerto Rican and transgender actress, was recently awarded a Golden Globe for her role on FX’s Pose; she continues to make history by breaking barriers for future actors. Phoenix Suns basketball player Devin Booker was named NBA All-Star for the second consecutive time after leading his team to the NBA Final in 2021.

Afro-Latinos are not only breaking barriers in Hollywood and the sports industry but in business too. More mainstream chains have realized their marketing should represent their diversity of customers. Target is one such example: The retail chain has added products created by BIPOC entrepreneurs to its shelves, including Bomba Curls, a hair care brand owned by Afro-Dominicana Lulu Cordero. Cordero says that her journey has been motivated by her drive to fight for representation in the beauty industry.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok have become platforms for Afro-Latinos to speak out, share their stories, and educate others about their experiences. Creators like Paola Garcia, Carolina Contreras, and Abby Bello use their social media platforms to spark meaningful conversation about the lack of mainstream representation for Afro-Latinos. Spotify, in particular, has been a platform for Afro-Latinos to celebrate their experiences through podcasts and music.

Orgullo Afro-Latino is a playlist highlighting Afro-Latino artists and their hit songs.

Dialogues in Afrolatinidad is a podcast that dives deep into the history of Afro-Latino culture, contemporary issues, and history.

Afro-Latinos are a growing population in the U.S.; their vibrant culture should be celebrated. But there is still a long way to go when it comes to representation for the Afro-Latino community. We can start now by uplifting their voices and educating ourselves on the challenges Afro-Latinos face.

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