Diverse identities are the genetic makeup of this country. February is Black History month, and it is important we recognize, incorporate, and celebrate Afro-Latinx people not just for a month, but all year round. Afro-Latinx people have made waves and contributed to a culture in Latin America, the United States, and all over the world. As media in the United States and Latin America continue to barely scratch the surface of black identity in Latinx communities, it is important we continue amplifying the voices of Afro-Latinx people everywhere and celebrating their legacy. A legacy that has stirred change and revolution, and that is cemented in global movements, art, activism, science, among a plethora of lasting impacts.
Amara La Negra
Miami-born Dominican singer and activist, Dana Danelys De Los Santos, or Amara La Negra, has made a name for herself in the music industry since 2010. She brought the topic of Afro-Latinidad not only to Hollywood but also to the American hip hop scene. Her activism is centered on the limited scope of Latinidad perpetuated by the media. Her work is encouraging conversations in the entertainment industry to touch on Black identity in the Latinx community.
MJ Rodriguez is a beaming star, who made the Golden globe-nominated series “Pose” famous as she played the lead character. This Puerto Rican emblem of resilience is one of the first trans Afro-Latinas to be the lead character on a television series drama. She was part of the largest cast of trans actors in a show that displays the intersectionality between sexuality, race, and gender. She continues to push artistic boundaries on and offscreen and is inspiring a generation of diverse theater and film.
Netflix hit series “Orange Is the New Black” actress and activist, Selenis Leyva, is an Afro-Latina who has used her platform and talents to uplift communities. She received three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. She is also a recipient of the ALMA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television. Leyva is leaving an indelible mark on arts and culture and is also using her platforms as a fierce ally of the LGBTQ + community.
Julia Lopez is an Afro-Mexican artist who changed the muralism movement in Mexico for years to come. She is the daughter of African and Amuzgo heritage parents. She began exhibiting in 1958, and since then her work has been shown in various parts of the world. Her work allowed her to model for other renowned artist of the mid-20th century such as Jose Chavez Morado and Diego Rivera. Her work has been widely recognized all over the world with awards. Her work is currently in the Salon de la Plastica Mexicana. .
Marielle Franco was a Rio de Janeiro councilwoman, sociologist, and activist who left behind an exceptional story and legacy. Franco was working with the Commission for Human Rights in the Legislative Assembly of the state of Rio de Janeiro. She was a black lesbian who spoke up about abolition. She created awareness about militarization, lack of schools, health services, transportation services, and infrastructure issues in the Favelas in Brazil. Her life was taken in 2018 in an attempt to silence her. Today her plight and struggle to defend the rights of the favela citizens has not gone in vain. She paved the way for many activists who like her, have been inspired to create institutional change in Brazil and to not be silenced. Her memory is taught about and honored through universities, mayors, and cultural collectives all over the world who demand her justice.
Gomez was a revolutionary filmmaker with intersecting concerns about the Afro-Cuban community and the value of its cultural tradition and treatment of marginalized sectors of society. She studied literature, piano, and Afro-Cuban ethnography. She was the first female Cuban filmmaker, and despite her passing only at 31 years old, she left behind a legacy and rich body of work. She was also Cuba’s only woman director in the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art & Industry. Her work reflected her activism, the inequalities in Cuban society via divisions of gender, race, and class. Her work also criticized the Cuban revolutionary society for failing its promises of equality to Afro-Cubans. Her work was sanctioned by the Cuban government and became digitized and publicly available only in 2007. She has paved the way for many Afro-Latinx and aspiring filmmakers whose work also is portrayed in a revolutionary context.
It is important that history is celebrated and commemorated holistically, and not in parts. The mark Afro-Latinx people have cemented in society is one that has been a part of this country’s making, and that will continue to be present in generations to come.