Melania-Luisa Marte – “Afro-Latina”

During the 1970s,
the term Latina was invented to describe a woman
of Latin American ancestry living in Latin America
or the United States. Merriam-Webster, however,
does not consider the term “Afro-Latina” a word. To them, America’s most trusted dictionary, Latin American people
of African ancestry do not exist. It is merely hearsay, a term attributed to those
who have felt the noose, but have only loosely
been hung by the tree. Or maybe she is the tree, the way her roots always got their foot
on the necks of all cultures. Thank a Black woman for always giving you
something to be micro-aggressive about. Latina, an adjective
that behooves to be seen. Afro-Latina, a myth, a folktale, a thing she becomes
after the search party leaves, like she hadn’t been
standing there all along, clearing the forest while you grind
her bones to fertilize the soil. This isn’t a metaphor
for Black girl magic or anger, this is me, no longer flat-ironing my fro
to fit within the margins of a term dependent on my proximity to whiteness. I am not Black and Latina,
I am a Black Latina. I am anomaly– I am anomaly stranger’s
whisper about in disbelief, confident my tongue
don’t conjugate like theirs. I am creating my own narrative
before they write me out the wrong story. Contort my surviving into their savior,
build me a shrine to die on. And haven’t we always been damaged goods? Sold at a bargain price. Carbon copy us into ash. Snap their fingers and blow us into dust. Her silhouette, the standard. Her Afro, a wig they take on and off. Her melanin, packaged
and sold at leisure. Her culture, a billion-dollar commodity. Meringue, Bachata, Salsa,
Rumba, Tango, Samba, name a beat her hips ain’t formed
and twerked into baile, into ritmo, into música. When Celia says, La negra tiene tumba’o she’s speaking for millions
of Afro-Latinas who go missing in history books, in movies,
in television, in conversations
about their own identities. In real life, in real life, Afro-Latinas,
Black women, poor women, marginalized women are dying, are targets, and those who love her culture
won’t attend her funeral, will not speak of her life. Instead, tape up her house,
ready to thrift and shop her culture away. Buy up heirlooms and call them spicy, bloody red with passion. Do you see it? How easily Black girl becomes wallpaper
to the building of her own identity. A mime always in front of her
to edifice a movement. My culture is not your cash crop. My mother’s country is not your paradise. My bilingual tongue is not
your inquisition to crusade over. Dicen que soy Latina… Until I start talking about colorism, until I check them on erasure, until I choose to speak on my own behalf, until I remind them
my Afro comes before Latina. Thank you! (cheers and applause) Yas!

12 thoughts on “Melania-Luisa Marte – “Afro-Latina”

  1. I am a black latina. Always hated how papers said Hispanic but not black. As if my mixed ancestry doesn't exist.

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