Afro-Latina under the "Moonlight"

Lemme tell you something, man.

They got Black people everywhere.

Remember that, OK?

No place in the world you can go ain’t got no black people.

We the first in this planet.

I have been here a long time, but I am from Cuba.

A lot of Black folks in Cuba; you wouldn’t know that from being here, though.

                                                -from “Moonlight”

 

Being Afro-Latina American, I sat on my couch confused by what I just heard while watching Moonlight. I was surprised by the historical lesson Juan gave from such an approachable angle, the representation that he so unintentional yet poignantly revealed. Juan became my father, my uncle, my grandfather, my cousins. I found myself questioning if I had heard what I just heard. He said all this to Little as a way to tell him to be who he was without letting anyone define him. Yet, when I heard Juan, I was celebrating, forgetting momentarily my rooting for Little. Although I had already known where I belonged ethnically, for the first time, I saw an individual in a media outlet telling my story. Juan gave me an elevated feeling of being seen.

The struggle of accepting my Latina-ness and Black-ness became the apple pie of my American-ness. For the last few years, I have written stories and poems about coming to terms with my identity. I interviewed my father and my aunt, to learn more about the Jamaican side of my heritage. I befriended Garifuna people, to know more of my mother’s side of my heritage. I have made a conscious effort to reconnect with my Honduran roots, through memories and conversations with other Hondurans. My stories reveal what is said to having to define myself ultimately as an Afro-Latina, from being Black and being Latina.

My stories show the struggle of not being accepted by other Black  people, the struggle of not being accepted by other Latinos, then ultimately claiming my ethnic independence on how to be identified. From being insulted on a beach by being told “esa negra,” to being told that I was not Black when wanting to join the African American club at my high school. Then, I have in-between incidents where I was reluctantly allowed to jump double dutch with a group of girls when they heard my lighter-complexioned mother speak Spanish to me or when I would talk Spanish to Spanish speaking cab drivers just to pay a decreased fare.

Today, being Afro-Latinx is celebrated and welcomed in a way that I had never imagined when I was child. I hope my stories can elevate the celebration the way Juan elevated my experience of being seen.