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Afro-Latino: a multidimensional identity

Often, the term Hispanic and Latino are used interchangeably, but they have entirely different meanings.

Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking individuals who have a background in a Spanish-speaking country. In contrast, Latino refers to those from or who have a background in a Latin American country. There is also a subcategory of Afro-Latinos, those with African ancestry among Latino identifying groups.

Milwaukee nonprofit Latino Arts recently brought together three local Afro-Latinos for a lunch and learn event to discuss their roots and how their identity affects their work.

“Being Afro-Latina is just learning my history and being confident in my Black and Latin skin,” said Añamarie Edwards. “It’s getting in tune with those traditions and learning why those things exist in my life.” 

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or African descent with roots in Latin America. They are characterized by their diverse views of racial identity, reflecting the complex and varied nature of race and identity among Latinos, according to the survey. Valencia Laws mother is Mexican and her father is African American. Growing up, Laws recalls feeling different than her Mexican cousins, citing her curly hair and being taller. 

“I always searched for how I would identify not only as a Black person who speaks Spanish but how does that look in my life,” said Laws. “As I got older and learned there was this huge African diaspora in Latin America, there were many people who felt it was the most fitting term.”

Afro-Latino isn’t a term that makes you pick sides; it’s a term explicitly created to recognize a complex identity.

Audio Storyteller | Radio Milwaukee