Afro-Latinas made headlines in 2016. While Afro-Latinas, or Black Latinas, have been changing the game through activism, art, business and entertainment, among other spheres, for decades, 2016 furthered the visibility and awareness for our community globally. Between the inclusion of Afro-Latina superheroines in comics to historic moments like Rafaela Silva winning Brazil’s first Olympic gold medal this year, our narratives are reaching new heights.
With the year nearly over, it’s only right we celebrate how Afro-Latinas changed the narrative, created a space for greater visibility and did so unapologetically in ’16:
1. Celia Cruz honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Queen of Salsa, who died in 2003, won three Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy Awards during her impactful career.
2. Juliana Pache creates #BlackLatinxHistory. After scrolling her Twitter timeline and not seeing Afro-Latinx inclusion, even by Latinx-focused outlets, Pache took things into her own hands. The Afro-Cuban/Dominican singer, writer and marketer created the hashtag to share the accomplishments of Black Latinx leaders, athletes, activists and creators, among others.
3. Gymnast Sophina DeJesus became a viral sensation with her amazing floor routine. The half Puerto Rican, half black senior at UCLA senior hit her whip, nae nae and handspring with ease. Her big moment came after overcoming a fractured back, a broken finger, intense pressure and deferred Olympic dreams.
4. Artist and activist Zahira Kelly creates #MaybeHeDoesn’tHitYou to show domestic abuse is more than physical. Using the hashtag, hundreds of women tweeted their stories of abuse. “The initial tweets were about me and people close to me,” Kelly told The Huffington Post. “Abuse culture is something most women experience, and at higher rates for women of color like me. But we get very little support for it and are rarely equipped to suss it out.”
5. Actress Dascha Polanco schools Charlemagne of The Breakfast Club on the existence of Afro-Latinas.
6. Dr. Marta Moreno Vega is the inspiration behind the Marvel Comics issue featuring Puerto Rico’s Taíno Culture. The founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) is the inspiration behind Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s most important character, Abuela Estela.
7. Puerto Rican superheroine La Borinqueña made her debut at the 59th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. The New York-born Afro-Boricua is a total badass!
8. Image activist Miss Rizos stands up for teen shamed by Catholic school for wearing natural hair. Carolina Contreras, who opened up the first natural hair salon in the Dominican Republic, came to a teenage girl’s assistance, supporting her after the school refused to admit the young woman if she didn’t straighten her hair.
9. Afro-Cuban songstress Daymé Arocena releases One Takes EP. Her voice is everything!
10. Nitty Scott MC gifted us with “Negrita” in ‘15. This year she’s still creating even more magic and working with fellow Latino rappers Bodega Bamz and Joell Ortiz in a group, No Panty.
11. Princess Nokia dropped one of our favorite albums of the year, 1992. In an ode to Africana spirituality and badassery, we got “Brujas.”
12. Twin French-Cuban sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz behind musical group, Ibeyi, were featured in Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
13. Cardi B has had one hell of a year! From Love and Hip-Hop New York and Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1 to cover girl (VIBE Viva) and joining the cast of BET’s Being Mary Jane, she’s proof that no one can stop what’s destined for you.
14. Dominican poet Elizabeth Acevedo tackled police brutality in “Beloved or If You Are Murdered Tomorrow.”
15. Brazil’s Rafaela Silva won the country’s first Olympic Gold medal at this year’s games. Born in the favela of Cidade de deus, Silva, a queer Afro-Brazilian woman, nearly bowed out of judo after being called “a monkey” and being trolled continuously. Way to show ‘em!
16. Singer-turned-chef Kelis opened up her first pop-up restaurant in London in July. The Le Cordon Bleu – trained chef is making her mark on the culinary industry.
17. Noelle Santos, Bronx native and Afro-Boricua, won second place in the New York Public Library’s New York Startup! Business Plan Competition and opening up The Lit. Bar. It’s the borough’s first independent book store and wine bar.
18. Co-founder of the blog Black Latina Negra Bella, Dania V. Peguero, LMSW, Ed.S. published the book, Niñas Bellas: Come In All Beautiful Shapes, Sizes and Colors. The children’s book chronicles four girls who look different but discover they have a lot in common.
19. Nadia Lopez delivers a powerful TEDTalk on education and the school-to-prison pipeline. The founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy is showing the world how underprivileged communities can beat the odds and create positive institutions that have a global impact.
20. This Afro-Colombian girl reciting the late Afro-Peruvian artist Victoria Santa Cruz’s poem, “Me Gritaron Negra” went viral and will forever give us life!
We know there have been other defining Afro-Latina moments that have taken place this year, so please share with us, below. Also, let us know what’s been your favorite Afro-Latina moment in 2016!