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Embracing Black Latina Identity: A Personal Journey

Interview with our Director of Operations, Gina Andrade.

In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with the Director of Operations at the Latino Action Network Foundation (LANF) to delve into her personal journey of racial identity. She shares her experience of identifying as a Black Latina, navigating societal perceptions both in her native Colombia and since immigrating to the USA. From early childhood memories to encounters with misconceptions, she opens up about the complexities of being Black and Latina. Join us as she sheds light on the importance of embracing her Afro-Latina heritage and challenging stereotypes in a global context.

Tell us how you identify yourself racially.

“I identify myself as a Black Latina. I sometimes switch between identifying as Black or Black Latina based on the situation.”

Before coming to the USA, how did you identify yourself racially in your native country?

“In my native country of Colombia, I always knew that I am Black and, especially in a negative light. I was always reminded of my Blackness growing up. I have a vivid core memory at the age of 5. I remember a White girl my age in Colombia saying to me that she would play with me because the inside of my palms are White and, because of that, we could hold hands and play.

It was one of my core memories where I saw the difference between White and Black. I was a smart little girl and I could see colors but I didn’t think it would affect me as a core memory that being Black is not always a good thing.

Also, at home, I was always reminded about being Black and what it meant to be Black woman out in society. My grandmother always told me, “make sure you go to school and get educated because men out there only like Black women for cooking and sex. As I got older, I realized that these stereotypies are a form of denigrating my self worth as a Black woman.” 

How do you think people see you racially based on your experiences since you came to the USA

“When people see me here in the US, they see a Black woman. When I start speaking and they hear an accent, their tone changes and then I get asked if I am African. I often get confused as Haitian or from the Caribbean. I typically have to clarify that I am from South America, specifically Colombia. When they learn this, people’s tones and behavior change to be more friendly and they will say “oh so you're not Black.” So, then I have to explain that I am Black and my parents are Black and they are from Colombia. It's a lack of knowledge that Black people live all over the globe.”

Have others rejected how you identify racially? 

“People have rejected my claim of Black identity and have told me that I am a Latina or Hispanic. At first, I used to go with it because of my core memory from early experiences that being Black was a bad thing. But, now that I understand that, I realize that I do struggle because I am Black because it is what you see physically but I am of Afro descent in Latin America and I love my Latin roots. It is a struggle sometimes because I am not denying that I am physically Black but also want to speak Spanish and love my Latino flavors and food which is rooted back to Mama Africa.”

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