11 Times Latina Celebs Have Defended Their Afro-Latina Identity

Roughly 48% of Latin America is black

Photo: Instagram/joansmalls

Photo: Instagram/joansmalls

Roughly 48% of Latin America is black. According to a Pew Research Center survey, “one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.” Yet, Afro-Latinx identity is constantly being questioned. There’s this sense that you can’t be Black and Latino, when that’s entirely incorrect. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you can be of any race and also be Latino. We all know this by now, right?

Then there’s also the huge issue of colorism within the community.  And these are things that many Afro-Latinos continually try to force others to understand — including these 11 Latina celebrities who have, time and time again, found themselves having to defend their Afro-Latina identity.

La La Anthony


When coming across new people throughout her life:

“A lot of people don’t realize that I’m Puerto Rican or when they do, they think that means I can’t be Black. I identify as an Afro-Puerto Rican woman, and my Puerto Rican culture is in my blood and ingrained into my life,” she wrote in an essay for POPSUGAR. “I speak Spanish fluently! Both my parents are Nuyorican, born in New York, and they raised my brother and me there too and later in New Jersey and Atlanta, where we grew up eating arroz con gandules, plátanos and pasteles.”


Amara La Negra


When explaining Afro-Latinidad after her interaction with Young Hollywood on Love & Hip Hop Miami:

“Not all Latinas look like J.Lo or Sofia Vergara or Shakira, so where are the women that look like myself?” she questioned. “A lot of people like to box me in because of my look or because I’m dark-skinned, but that doesn’t make me less Latina! I’m 100% Latina and proud of it.”


Cardi B


When people say she doesn’t look like a Black woman:

“One thing that always bothers me is that people know so little about my culture. We are Caribbean people. And a lot of people be attacking me because they feel like I don’t be saying that I’m Black. Some people want to decide if you’re Black or not, depending on your skin complexion, because they don’t understand Caribbean people or our culture,” Cardi explained to Zendaya in an interview.

“I feel like people need to understand or get a passport and travel. I don’t got to tell you that I’m Black. I expect you to know it. When my father taught me about Caribbean countries, he told me that these Europeans took over our lands. That’s why we all speak different languages. I expect people to understand that just because we’re not African American, we are still Black. It’s still in our culture.

I hate when people try to take my roots from me. Because we know that there’s African roots inside of us. I really just want people to understand that the color that I have and features that I have are not from two white people f**king.”


Gina Torres

When she first made her way to Hollywood:

“When I became an actress, I quickly realized that ‘the world’ liked their Latinas to look Italian. Not like me,” she said in Mun2’s Black and Latino. “So I wasn’t going up for Latina parts…Regardless of the fact that I spoke the language and understood the culture better, those weren’t the parts that I could take seriously. Suddenly I had to explain why I look the way I look.”


Dascha Polanco


When schooling Charlamagne Tha God on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club:

“I consider myself an Afro-Latina. We’re very Black. “I consider myself to be a Black woman, and I think a lot of Dominicans should, because from what I see that’s what we are,” Polanco stated, before Charlamagne then questioned why consider herself a Black and not just say she’s Dominican.

“Because I’m from the Dominican Republic but I am a … we’re talking about where you’re from, your country, and you’re talking about race/ethnicity, right? So I am Afro-Latina.”


Zoe Saldana

When discussing the backlash over her portraying Nina Simone:

“There’s no one way to be Black,” she told Allure magazine. “I’m Black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am Black. I’m raising Black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”


Christina Milian

When growing up:

“Since early, it’d be like, I’m Cuban but [people] didn’t get it because I was also brown-skinned, and you usually see a fair-skinned Latino, so it was just like, ‘Oh, what are you? Are you Black? Are you white?’” Milian explained. “I didn’t feel like I had to make a choice. I am what I am.”



When people claim she’s lying about her heritage:

“It’s weird because it’s like you’re stuck in the middle of this weird place. It’s like, you’re too Black to be Hispanic and too Hispanic to be Black, and you’re always in this crisscross,” the Love & Hip Hop star told Wetpaint.“If I embrace that I’m Afro-Cuban, people say that I’m saying I’m not Black, and that’s not what I’m saying at all…I’ll get a lot of flak, like ‘you just want to be exotic, you just want to be different,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not different!’

Juju continued, “I speak full Spanish and my parents barely speak English and they’ve been here since 1980. I’m very much Cuban and I’m very proud of that, but that doesn’t take away from my African roots either.”


Joan Smalls


When a fan said she isn’t Black because she never sees her stand up or speak in honor of Black people:

“Sweetie. Do me a favor please and don’t assume my beliefs or value. I am pro human. I’m a mixed child embracing ALL of my background and cultures,” she replied to a fan on Instagram. “I know it’s confusing for some people to understand. You don’t know me or my family history. Don’t assume, that’s all. All love”


Massy Arias

When explaining her roots:

“It’s crazy to hear Dominicans, dark-skinned Dominicans, say ‘oh I’m not Black.’ At the end of the day, your color, this beautiful color you have, has to come from somewhere,” Arias said on MSNBC’s Cafecito. “Yes, I was born in the Dominican Republic, but I do have African descent. I identify myself not only as a Black woman, but also as a Latina.”


Judy Reyes

When going to auditions early in her career:

“I would get positive reactions at auditions for both African-American and Latino parts. But I didn’t look Latino enough, because of the curly hair, and the freckles, and the nose,” she said. “It bothered me because what I look like and what I am, it doesn’t change that I’m Latina.”

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