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: