• Marlenis Hernandez

The Reality of Being Afro-Latinx

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

My name is Marlenis Hernandez, and I am Afro-Latina. When I was younger, I was not aware of the term “Afro-Latina.” All I knew then were the terms ‘Latina’ or ‘Hispanic,' and that those were the only labels I could identify with.

“Afro-Latina'' was never implemented into my vocabulary, until I was much older. That was when I finally began to embrace myself, because this term allowed me to embrace both my skin and my culture.

Growing up with a black, Panamanian mother and an El Salvadorean father, I found myself confused with my racial identity for a while. Being with my mom, I felt no different. Everyone around me was either black or Afro-Latinx.

When I was with my dad, however, I felt out of place. I would go from a place where everyone looked like me to a place where no one looked like me. No one was brown or had extremely curly hair. People were fair or olive-skinned and had straight hair or loose curls. They would look at me as if I did not belong, and I internalized this feeling for a long time.

Another thing that made me acknowledge my differences was my grandparents' nickname for me. The endearing nickname that I was given was ‘Negrita.’ Believe me, I have no problem with the name, because it states the obvious fact that I am black.

But my dad has the same nickname, but the masculine version. I thought to myself, “My dad isn’t black.” I asked my dad why he had that nickname, and he explained to me that it was because he was tanner than his parents and sister. At that moment, I realized that skin color was a real thing that held importance in the world.

As I got older, I learned that black people reside in the Latin community because of colonization and slavery. My mom is black because of her African ancestors, and my dad is tan because of his native descendants. All this culture mixed into our DNA made us different.

After a while, I understood that my differences were beautiful no matter what. But now, after all this time of loving my skin, I am scared that my skin will get me killed. That my language will have me discriminated against, because “This is America, and we speak English.”

The countless victims of police brutality, such as Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor, make me look at this country as a failed joke. “All men are equal.” Meanwhile, our black men and women dying for just living.

This same sentiment goes for the Latinx and Hispanic people that are born here, but are constantly being harassed to “go back to their own country” for speaking Spanish and just for walking around.

Let us not forget the scarce amount of Native Americans that are going missing on their own land. This country is not equal nor great, because I am scared, and I am terrified that one day my dad will be taken away from me, or my mom will die in the hands of a cop. This country is not the land of the free, until black men and women stop dying as the result of police brutality and white supremacy.

America will not be considered "great" until children and their parents are set free from ICE, the Natives get back what is rightfully theirs, and African-Americans are not killed because of the color of their skin.

As a proud Afro Latina, I am grateful to have the ability to recognize the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice issues. I invite others to push for change and to fight for what is right.