Now That I Have Found Myself I Have Also Found My Voice.
Here lately I have been talking a lot about the AfroLatina experience. Not just any experience. My experience. Someone from my past asked me when did I become an Afro-Latina?
Was that a real question? Did they really expect an answer?
We moved to Arkansas when I was in the 5th grade. Throughout most of my youth I felt like I was having some sort of identity crisis. Before then I never really had to explain why we were black and spoke Spanish. What kind of question is that for a kid? Everyone In my family speaks Spanish so how was I supposed to know how to answer that? I got to a point where I felt like I was living a double life. I was one person when I left my house and another person when I came home.
My mother is very superstitious so if I ever came home after midnight I had to walk in the house backwards or else evil spirits would follow me in. I remember the first time someone noticed what I was doing. I was so embarrassed I didn’t want to explain why I was doing it. So I told them “I just wanted to make sure you got out okay.” Once I got in my house I was greeted by a kid size statue of Jesus with a picture of La Virgen Maria on the wall. My mom would blast salsa music so loud when she was cleaning the neighbors would knock on the door and ask her to turn it down.
I felt like I was losing myself. It’s not like I knew anybody else who had parents who believed in “duendes.” I couldn’t ask them if they heard that new Luis Miguel. I didn’t have anybody I could talk to about what it meant to be an Afro-Latina let alone an Afro-Latina in Arkansas. It also didn’t help that I wasn’t even referring to myself as an Afro-Latina at that time. I was just Panamanian.
It’s not until I reached adulthood where I actually started meeting other black latinos that I actually felt I could discuss certain things with other people. I was more proud of who I was. I was excited, because I actually belonged. I felt like I had finally found myself. Now that I have I want to make sure we are represented.
We don’t all look like Jennifer Lopez or Salma Hayek. We don’t all have accents. We aren’t any less Latino.
I didn’t just become an Afro-Latina, but I have finally found my voice.
– Kisha Gulley