It was about a year ago – on her first trip to Nicaragua – that 26-year-old Brittany Chávez began to call herself Afro-Latinx. “Growing up, I always had identity issues,” she told me. “I have the dark complexion. I was always asked if I was mixed with black. Naturally, I denied it because I just didn’t know. Obviously looking at my dad, he looks black. He is black. But he’s extremely anti-black, and I just never questioned it because he never brought it up. ‘I’m Nicaraguan,’ he would always say. So I said the same, too.”

When she visited her dad’s maternal family in Ciudad Sandino, Chávez – who is also half Guatemalan – saw photos of her relatives and knew she could never again doubt her African heritage. As a kid, her dad told her they likely descended from the Mayangnas, who intermixed with both African slaves and the Spanish. “No one ‘fessed up to their blackness [during my trip to Nicaragua], but it did open my eyes and help me understand how rampant anti-blackness is in Latinx communities,” she said.

Now, Brittany – who along with Raquel García co-founded ShopLatinxBiz, a platform highlighting Latino entrepreneurs – is using her company’s Instagram account to spotlight the experiences of other Afro-Latinxs this Black History Month. Dissatisfied with the lack of attention given to Afro-Latinidad, especially on platforms like Instagram, Chávez wanted to provide a space for those who rarely see themselves reflected in the media.

Last year, Afro-Cuban/Dominican singer Juliana Pache visited Latino sites on the first day of Black History Month and failed to see any content that discussed being both Latino and black. “But I noticed on one of the accounts, they somehow managed to post a picture and article about a non-Latinx white woman that morning,” she told Ain’t I Latina. “I was low-key infuriated. Not because there was a white woman getting representation, but because we got none.”

As a result, Pache created the #BlackLatinxHistory hashtag, and others excitedly joined in – giving shoutouts to figures like Marta Moreno Vega, Roberto Clemente, and María Elena Moyano. Because black and Latino are incorrectly seen as mutually exclusive, Afro-Latinos have found themselves left out of the conversation more often than not. They also have to cope with others categorizing them as either not Latino enough, not black enough, or both. The ShopLatinxBiz Afro-Latinx series is a reflection of that struggle.

Brittany and her team upload anywhere between four to six stories a week on Instagram from activists, artists, and business owners. With this project, Brittany – whose made it her mission to combat anti-blackness in the Latino community – has found the things that caused her confusion in the past are now connecting her with others. “A lot of the submissions have experienced the same anti-blackness, confusion and otherness I described, which I found really interesting,” she said. “A lot of us Afro-Latinxs, especially the ones who appear more indigenous, are finally accepting their blackness, whether or not their family does.”

Check out a few submissions below:

1

"It didn’t help that I had cousins tell me that I wasn’t black."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is #ShopLatinxBiz's social media manager and photographer, Vanessa Gonzalez (@vgonzophotog). – I had a hard time growing up and being mixed. My mom is from #Guatemala and my dad African-American. I had no one that I could relate to and no one that could understand what I was feeling. I grew with the #Latino side of my family and in a predominately Latino community; and although I identified myself with being Latina, I never could fit in. My hair and facial features were different than my families. Anti-black remarks that were made we’re painful and hurt deeply but was told “don’t take it personally” or “we’re not talking about you.” It came to a point that I was ashamed of being black. – Sadly, my dad passed away when I was young so I didn’t have him around to teach me about my black culture. I did get the opportunity to visit my dad’s family in Ohio during summer month’s but I did feel out of place and it didn’t help that I had cousins tell me that I wasn’t black. – I still have a lot of pain, anger, and even #resentment that I didn’t have the support and acceptance that I needed when I was young but everyday I’m learning to love and accept myself. I’m learning to embrace the beauty and complexity of not fitting into a box or anyone’s preconceived notion of what I need to be. Black or }#Latina. I’m Afro-Latina and that alone is empowering. ✊✨✊

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2

"I didn't see many Black and or AfroLatin/a/o/x people in media, no one who looked like me growing up."

#ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is Sabrina Vicente's story. (@pupkiin) – My father is from the Dominican Republic and my mother is from Puerto Rico. En Español y Ingles media I constantly saw images of people who were lighter and deemed beautiful, I didn't see many Black and or AfroLatin/a/o/x people in media, no one who looked like me growing up. I was called ugly a lot by my peers as I didn't fit many standards they had expected me to. – I had always wondered about my fathers culture, side of the family since I hadn't seen him since I was one, why my complexion is darker than the other side of my family, why I experienced #racism and sexism combined together. – Last year I stumbled upon information that linked a lot of Dominican and Puerto Rican people to #African ancestry and history in my quest for truth. I decided to learn more about where I was from and found out that I am also from Benin and Togo. When I learned about the #Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico's history on my own, found information about who I am it was a wake up call to stop denying myself, my truth, my #AfroLatinx self, stop damaging, straightening my hair, avoiding the sun, hating my lips, nose and skin. It was a call to self love that I carry with me everyday and a call to carry the pieces of me that were erased and lost for so long. – Now, I am connecting with my #roots and true self. Self education is needed and important. I am reading every book and website I can find about AfroLatin/a/o/x history, rights and feminism. I am learning more and more everyday about my ancestors, history and #decolonizing eurocentric beauty standards. Every morning I thank the Goddess for my curly hair, my brown skin, my lips, my nose, every piece of myself. – AfroLatin/a/o/x people are taught to minimize their Blackness and that their history isn't real. AfroLatin/a/o/x people are here, we are loud and proud. No longer will we be silenced, we will self educate and teach others. Be proud of who you are, each and every part. ✊✊

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3

"My mother is Black whether it makes you uncomfortable or not."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is activist and sociology (focus on race-relations, minor in Pan-African studies) grad student Anyesha Velez (@nysha.v) – Yes, I am Black. Yes, I am Afro-Latina. Yes, I carry both cultures with pride. No, I do not speak Spanish. No, that does not make me any less Puerto Rican. The #Taino blood still runs through my veins. Whether I know the Spaniard language or not. No, my skin is not as dark as you would like. No, I do not have an afro. This does not change who my ancestors, great-grand parents, grand parents, mother, brother, cousins, aunts, and uncles are and who my children will be. – My mother is Black whether it makes you uncomfortable or not. Your validation does not change who I am. My cultures and identity are not mutually exclusive. My cultures happen at the same time, all the time. They are deeply intertwined because of where my #African ancestors were kidnapped to. Yes, there were more African slaves in the Caribbean than America. – I am a walking gold mine of culture, knowledge, wisdom, tradition, exploitation, oppression, strength, #resilience, talent, education, resistance, music, poetry, spirituality, art, dance, heritage. Yes, my story is unique. And no I wont hide, ignore or suppress it, for anyone or anything. Yes, I am Black and Puerto Rican. ✊✊

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4

"Anti-blackness is rampant in the Latinx community and it is our duty to combat it."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is the co-founder and EIC of ShopLatinxBiz, @chavezbrit. – Soy Guatemalan y Afro-Nicaragüense. Una niña de la diáspora. I am both in solidarity and in the struggle with my black brothers and sisters. I acknowledge the privilege of my racial ambiguity, but I'm also quick to check people who try to erase my identity. Anti-blackness is rampant in the Latinx community and it is our duty to combat it. Let's shut it down. When you hear something prejudice and anti-black, speak up! There's no more time to be divisive! There is no brown liberation without black liberation and that's why I'm using this platform to highlight #AfroLatinxs. Our culture is so intermixed, so colorful, and so so beautiful. ✊✊

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5

"I used to try and erase all of my most beautiful features."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is activist, Avelina @evamarye_ – For most of my life I've struggled with trying to prove myself.. I've put my hair through hell, I've went out my way to stay out of the sun, I use to try and erase all of my most beautiful features. A few months ago, late at night I stumbled across a video of Elizabeth Acevedo performing and she said, "Curls too kinky for Spain and too wavy for dreadlocks," and those ten words described so much of my life that I could never put into words. – Because, some of us aren't #Latinx enough and some of us aren't Black enough. Colonization has told us to check a box and flip the page but our stories are far too big to ever fit in a box. And our existence is actual proof that our ancestors are still fighting. I founded my strength to decolonize amongst other Afro-Latinx who are out here holding it down and holding each other up. I am beyond blessed that the Creator chose me to be apart of two of the best worlds, and I refuse to let it be erased. – Afro-Latinxs hasta la muerta.

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6

"I feel that my ancestry allows me to explore the best of both worlds."

Marisol Catchings of @AztecaNegra—- I walk out into the world and most people see a Black woman, but my experience is so mixed that I can't only identify with one culture over the other. Two of the greatest gifts my parents gave me were constant reminders to take pride in being #Black and #Mexican and telling me I had no limits. I feel that my ancestry allows me to explore the best of both worlds, the food, the histories, the traditions, the music, and of course, the art. _ I love both of my cultures so much that I created my business to celebrate the beauty of being Afro-Latina. I'm blessed to belong to more than one community; especially as women of color, Black and Brown alike, are in the midst of rediscovering just how dope and powerful and magical we truly are. ✨✊ #BlackHistoryMonth #ShopLatinxBiz

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7

"I was very self conscious about any traits that gave away I was black because I wanted so badly to fit in."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is Izabelle Doublin (@izabelleedotcom). – I am #Mexican and Black. My mother's side is from Nayarit and are Cora. My father is also Black/Mexican. His mother from Durango and father is from Alabama, our last name comes from a French slavemaster. Simply knowing these facts about my background and learning these histories has helped me embrace and be confident in my being BlackLatinx! – It was hard being the only black one (besides my little bro) in the family growing up, and I was very self conscious about any traits that gave away I was black because I wanted so badly to fit in. I was only around my mom and her side of the family who had major issues with internalized racism and anti-blackness…especially my mother. She didn't like speaking Spanish unless it was to my nana, started straightening my hair in elementary school, and was insistent that I was "not that black", always explaining me to people. She would comment on the size of my nose, body structure, anything that was "too black" for her. So I didn't claim blackness while living with her because I wanted approval. – After I left home and went to college, I learned more about black #history and everything just seemed to make sense. I felt so connected to the black struggle and black community. I finally started to identify as black. I know it does not erase the fact that I also carry IndigenxMexicanx blood (I'm always asked "what about your mexican side?" or told "You're not thaat black".) THE TWO ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.  I know I have light-skinned privilege, which I try to constantly check myself on, but I AM BLACK. #NEGRASOY. I am black and I am proud, cuz we lit fam. ✊✊

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8

"As an Afro-Latina chef, I’m heavily influenced by my diverse background."

ShopLatinxBiz is celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth by sharing the stories of Afro-Latinxs. Here is NYC-based chef, Daniella Davis (@chefdaniella). . As an Afro-Latina chef, I’m heavily influenced by my #diverse background, fusing together these cuisines is not uncommon and is seen heavily in #Caribbean food. One of the best ways to highlight Black history month is to really celebrate the African contributions through food. Dishes such as #Dominican mangu, Cuban Quimbombo, #Venezuelan Rondon, which is where my family hails from are just a few that highlights the African roots. . Some of my most popular original dishes show my roots in both my #Latina, and #African heritage. I make a popular Moro, which is a black rice dish popular in Brazil and Cuba, but while I try to maintain its traditional recipe I add Caribbean spices such as allspice, and scotch bonnet peppers, along with green olives. Another original recipe would be my version of arroz con pollo, except I use a lot of cumin, and I add okra and I usually sear my chicken in palm oil which is native to Caribbean and African culture. Even my caribbean food tacos, and tamales which I’m known for as a chef is a dish where I naturally combine the two cuisines, putting things like #oxtail, and curried goat, as well as lightly fried fish with maduros too. One of my favorites that I like to snack on is a dish combining traditional Jamaican foods, and platanos, I top them with ackee and saltfish; Jamaica’s national dish. When eating certain Caribbean dishes naturally you see an influence of the #Spanish settlers as well, the heavy use of rice and plantain are throughout all of the Caribbean countries. Monfongo, a popular dish using platanos, and fried pork, is heavily influenced by its African inhabitants and the Spanish settlers who originally brought over the pig from Europe. Everyday foods that are popular in both Latino and Caribbean cultures are influenced from each other, without even knowing it. ✊✊

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