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Monday Musings: Is Afro-Latino Identity That Hard to Understand?

Monday Musings is a new series highlighting of “Ain’t I Latina?” founder Janel Martinez’s take on some of today’s biggest headlines, as well as random thoughts simply percolating in her mind. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve had to explain to someone that, yes, it’s possible to be Black, speak Spanish and be from a Spanish-speaking country. I’m glad I haven’t had to do this in awhile because, to be quite honest, it gets tiring.  I won’t go into the recent situation, however, last month I found myself side-eyeing a fellow Latina for her lack of knowledge on the Diaspora.

I participated in a panel discussion last month at SXSW on Black Twitter, which sparked great conversation amongst a racially and ethnically diverse crowd of techies and social media enthusiasts. Prior to the panel starting, one of the SXSW volunteers was straightening the nametags propped in front of me and another panelist. We were waiting for the last panelist to arrive. As she got to the tag with “Martinez” on it, she “politely” asked, “Is Martinez here?” I responded, “That’s me!,” in a somewhat matter-of-fact tone. I could tell she was a bit embarrassed, but I proceeded on with my conversation with the other panelist.

SXSW was jam-packed with events, networking and fun times. I had an amazing experience and can’t wait for next year, but upon my return home I thought about the volunteer’s question. Should I have schooled her on the spot? Was it cool for me to let it go?

I’ve unofficially made it my mission to briefly inform people that you can be Black and Latino anytime I get questioned about my identity, being AfroLatina, or get asked a question about anything related to the two. But I’ve found that the explanation can fall on deaf ears and people who still want to continue thinking the same way they’ve always thought.  While I refuse to explain my existence or every detail of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to folks that otherwise already know this history or that we do exist (I mean, colorism will have people denying your and their own lineage), I can’t help but feel the need to educate anyone I can about this, especially those who allow intentional/unintentional ignorance to proceed.

Have you ever found yourself having to explain your existence or Afro-Latino identity? How do you handle those situations? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below, on Twitter or Facebook.  

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