12 Historic Afro-Latina Figures You Didn’t Learn About In History Class

Sylvia del Villard, February 28, 1928 – February 28, 1990

An outspoken activist, actress and dancer, Sylvia del Villard became the first and only director of the office of the Afro-Puerto Rican affairs of the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, she studied at Fisk University in Tennessee, where she encountered the discrimination and anti-Blackness of the south, later returning to Puerto Rico. Upon her return to New York City, the artist connected with her roots, joining a ballet group called the Africa House and tracing her roots to the Yoruba people of Nigeria. She went on to establish the Afro-Boricua El Coqui Theater, which the Panamerican Association of the New World Festival named “as the most important authority of Black Puerto Rican culture.” del Villard fought for equal rights for Afro-Puerto Rican artists.

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