I am Afro-Latinx, don’t shorten my identity

A student explains why she identifies as Afro-Latinx.

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by second- and third-generation Latinxs. 

We danced merengue and used Spanish slang that didn’t have proper English translations. We spoke English, not Spanish, but nonetheless shared the culture our parents taught us. 

We were not Hispanics, but Latinx — members of an ethnic group from the Caribbean and Central and South America. 

A person who is Hispanic has ancestors from a Spanish-speaking country while a person who is Latinx has ancestors from Latin America, Bustle and YouTube personality Kat Lazo reported in 2015. 

Not every Hispanic person is Latinx, and not every Latinx person is Hispanic. This assumption is akin to calling every white person “English.” 

When I hear the word “Hispanic,” I feel I and other non-Spanish speaking people are being erased of our own ethnicities. Third-generation Latinxs like me live with a culture that has been encouraged not to speak Spanish to better adapt to America.

In my Dominican household, I ate food from my culture, used its products and listened to its music. But I and many of my friends were told not to learn Spanish because we would gain an accent and face harassment. 

Many people, myself included, have started identifying as Afro-Latinx. 

The suffix, “x,” is a non-binary alternative to Latina or Latino. I like to compare the pronunciation of Latinx to “The Matrix,” and call it “Latin-EX.” The “Afro” represents the Blackness in me.

In my youth, I felt I had to deny this Blackness. Most of my family members claimed to be mostly native or white, despite physical features that gave away their African heritage. I remember crying in elementary school because I wanted to be white. But even as a child, I understood that every detail of my heritage was integral to my identity.

I took on this prefix after moving to Philadelphia in 2016. People who did not know my ethnicity already perceived me as Black, so I decided to display this side of me publicly. 

I am third-generation Afro-Latinx and I’m proud of it. I find strength in it. I have pushed beyond what the mainstream told me to look and act like. To change or shorten this label would over-simplify who I am. 

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