Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Black and Latina

This is a guest post from the ever fabulous, Monica of TransGriot

We all know Black women are beautiful in all their shades from vanilla creme to darkest ebony.

That also applies to Latinas as well.   Contrary to the conventional beauty stereotype, Latinas also come in a wide variety of skin tones, shades and body builds as well.  

There are sistahs in our midst who we are increasingly becoming aware of who proudly claim both their African and Latina heritages.  

Former MTV VJ Alani 'La La' Vazquez and CNN reporter Soledad O'Brien have been vocal about claiming both.   Vazquez even kicked it up another level by writing an essay for Latina magazine that pointed out that being Black and Latina are not exclusive identities.

“A lot of people don’t realize that I’m Latina, which is fine. One thing about being Latina is that there isn’t one look that comes with the territory. I don’t expect people to know my cultural background just by glancing at me.  I do, however, expect that when I tell people my family is from Puerto Rico, that I will be believed and not accused of trying to be something that I’m not. It usually goes something like this: a person having a conversation with me discovers one way or another that I’m Puerto Rican and fluent in Spanish. That person then expresses their shock over these realizations for any number of reasons–common responses are, “You don’t look Latina” and “I thought you were black!” I never said I wasn’t black. And since when does being black and being Latina have to be mutually exclusive?
Choreographer and actress Rosie Perez didn't surprise me either.   She's been associated with African American culture ever since her initial stint as the choreographer for the Fly Girls dance troupe on In Living Color and her role in Spike Lee's movie Do The Right Thing.  

Actress Zoe Saldana, Gina Torres, Lauren Velez from the 90's TV series New York Undercover, Tatyana M. Ali, singer Christina Milian and the late Cuban born Queen of Salsa Celia Cruz are some of the names that also appeared on the Latina magazine list as well.

But some of the ladies who are on this Latina magazine list who have Afro Latina heritage did surprise me like journalist Gwendolyn Ifill, who is from Panama, Oprah Winfrey Network president Christina Norman, and the singer Kelis.

But it's past time for us to acknowledge that some of our beautiful sistahs are just as proud of their Latina heritage as they are of their African roots and not trip about it..

And I'm just as proud to claim them as well.