Ortiz: The Latinx community needs to start recognizing Afro-Latinx as Latinx

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Latinx Heritage month started on September 15 and runs until October 15. The Latinx community consists of 33 countries and while the Latinx community is vast and made of different foods, music and customs, the Afro-Latinx community is not always welcome or recognized.

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According to the Division of Equity and Inclusion at University of Oregon, “LatinX Heritage Month, or Hispanic Heritage month (official government designation) recognizes and honors the enduring contributions and importance of LatinX Americans to the U.S. and celebrates the many heritages and cultures of Americans from or with ancestors from Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain and Central and South America.”

This lack of recognition roots from the colorism and anti-blackness in the Latinx community. As a white Latin woman, I confirm that colorism in our community exists and is a big reason — if not the main reason — as to why Afro-Latinx individuals are not accepted or celebrated by the Latinx community.

Therefore, this Latinx Heritage Month I hope to bring recognition to amazing Afro-Latin individuals.

Miriam Jiménez Román

Miriam Jiménez Román is an activist and author of The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Román states, “Blackness was equated with being African-American. This limited view left me concerned about my Blackness because I grew up as a Black Puerto Rican, and I’m very conscious how race and ethnicity have both impacted my life.”

Román focuses on using her experience as a Black-Puerto Rican to help bridge a gap between African-Americans and Latinos in the United States. 

Afro-Latinx individuals are just as Latin as white Latin individuals and it’s disgusting that our community dismisses them because of their skin color.

Piri Thomas

Piri Thomas, a Cuban-Puerto Rican, was an author and activist who discussed the racism, identity issues and poverty he experienced. As a darker skinned Latinx individual, he faced discrimination from both his family and society. In 1967, Thomas published his memoir Down These Mean Streets.

In his memoir, Thomas described his childhood, the time he had spent in prison and his understanding of race. According to student historian Devon McCurdy, “[Thomas] presented a tale of personal growth that led through racial bitterness to a commitment to racial understanding and a socially responsible existence.” 

Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill, who was Panamanian and Barbadian from her father’s side, was a television news anchor. Ifill helped pave the road to encourage other women of color to pursue journalism. According to Jenay Wright, a blogger who focuses on empowering Afro-Latin women, Ifill was one of the first Black women to host a nationally televised public affairs program in the United States in 1999.

On November 18, 2016, PBS published an article “What Gwen Ifill taught us” a couple of days after her passing. There, individuals shared what Ifill taught them not just regarding journalism, but about being a caring and selfless individual as well.

Massiel Indhira Arias

Massiel Indhira Arias, also known as Massy, is Dominican and is a U.S. famous certified personal trainer. Massy’s training style, according to the Massy Arias Website, “incorporates various techniques including resistance training, calisthenics, yoga, high-intensity interval training, and sprinting.” Massy suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety — going to the gym was her coping mechanism.

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In an interview with Shape magazine, Massy said “when you associate exercise with an aesthetic goal such as ‘lose 20 pounds,’ you’re going to fail. But when you train for performance — to jump higher, move faster, or run farther — you can’t lose because you’re connecting to something positive.”

She is an inspiration and example that being active and taking care of your body should be a priority to live a better and healthier life.

There are numerous Afro-Latinx individuals in the sport and entertainment industry that are written off as being only Black by the Latinx community because of their skin color. Examples include actress Zoe Saldana, former American football player Victor Michael Cruz, actress La La Anthony, soccer player Edson Arantes do Nascimento, also known as Pelé and award-winning filmmaker and director Jessy Terrero. 

Anti-blackness and colorism is deep-rooted in Latinx culture and unfortunately will always be present in some way. Afro-Latinx individuals are just as Latin as white Latin individuals and it’s disgusting that our community dismisses them because of their skin color.

Skin color does not define what it means to be Latinx — the love, passion, drive and pride of being Latinx is what matters.

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @Kenia_Ortiz_.