My Identity As An Afro-Latina

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By Jaya

Panamanian CultureMy family is very diverse. On my mom’s side of the family is Panamanian and Creole, and my dads side is African American and Ethiopian. Nothing about my identity I found to be an issue until I was in the 7th grade. I went to a mostly Latino populated school and it made me feel like a fish out of water. I identify as an Afro-Latina but going to a school where I was judged about my physical features, I didn’t want to claim to be Latina at all. I have brown skin and kinky curly hair physically appearing to be a black girl. I didn’t think much of being “Latina” until I started going to that school. I would be called names that insulted my skin and hair.  Being called those names would make me feel like other Latin people couldn’t accept me if I didn’t look like them. One day a Panamanian rap duo called “los Rakas” came to my school for a musical orientation about the African influence in many Latin countries, and how slavery affected the mix of the original indigenous people. One of the members of the duo was afro-Latino and consider himself as “el Negrito” to stand a point out about the African influence that strongly appeared in his features. They rapped powerful songs in Spanish that gave me a since of pride and joy for my Panamanian people.  After that day I never felt bad about myself or thought it was weird that I looked the way I did because in my family everybody looks different. Some of my family members look like the stereotypical Latino and others look like me. I used to feel awkward when other black people would ask me what my ethnicity was and they couldn’t understand when I told them. I used to feel even worse when some of the Latinos at my school would make racial hate statements towards black people. Over the years, I realized that I had no reason to feel bad for they way I was because it was what made me different. I enjoyed the fact that my family comes from many beautiful cultures and it would be wrong if I didn’t love my heritage. The fact that I don’t come across a lot of people like me on a daily bases is pretty and now I cant help but to embrace every part of what makes me who I am.

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