8 Afro-Latinas Past and Present Who’ve Broken Down Barriers

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8 Afro Latinas Past and Present Who’ve Broken Down Barriers

By now most of us have seen Amara La Negra’s Breakfast Club interview where she’s defending her Latin heritage as host Charlamagne pretends like he can’t comprehend how someone can be both Black and Latino. And surprise, surprise there is yet another 2016 interview of him feigning ignorance in an interview with Orange Is The New Black’s Dascha Polanco (skip to 7:25). I bring this up because even with stars like Amara, Polanco, and Cardi B saying “Hey, I’m both!” it still seems like people across the board are set on willingly ignoring, misunderstanding, and minimizing a cultural identity that exists in every Latin American country and includes millions of people.

The fact is, being Black in a Latin American country isn’t new or something that was just “discovered” in the Columbus sense. Afro-Latinos have always been here and have been pushing both Black and Latino culture forward in every way imaginable despite facing immense inequality, racism, and overall prejudice. It’s safe to say that Afro-Latinidad is national topic of debate and curiosity – and since Black history includes more than just the United States, here are eight Afro-Latinas who have broken down barriers in the past and present. 

María Elena Moyano

Maria Elena Moyano sometimes called “Mother Courage” was a Peruvian social activist who stood up against the militant guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path), that sought to replace the “bourgeois democracy” with “New Democracy” and eventually pure communism. They terrorized, murdered and disappeared thousands of Peruvians in their quest to take over the government. And even though they were known for killing the people who spoke out against them, Moyano made it her mission to organize and speak out against them. At 25 she was elected sub-secretary general of the newly-created Federación Popular de Mujeres de Villa El Salvador, and two years later was elected its president. The group operated 800 communal kitchens across Peru and distributed powdered milk as a part of their Vaso de Leche program. She also mobilized community units to protect “pueblos jóvenes” (shanty towns) against Shining Path attacks. In 1990 she ran for deputy mayor of Villa El Salvador and won, but her position was short lived. On February 15, 1992 Shining Path forces marched into the town, shot her dead and then blew up her body with dynamite. But you can’t kill the revolution, Moyano’s legacy lives on and she remains a stunning example of the impact one woman can make.

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