Afro Latina

Episode Overview

In the U.S., many people do not recognize the diverse and varied experiences of Latinx women — from stereotypes, colorism and a blended American identity to the cultural traditions and unique indigenous/diasporic histories each Latinx woman navigates. On this episode, Amber sits down with journalist and founder of the popular site, Ain’t I Latina?, Janel Martinez, to talk about how the layers of heritage and culture shape Latinx women’s identities.
Listen in on:

Topics Covered

Afro-Latina: Janel shares her experiences as an Afro-Latina, growing up in the Bronx. She speaks to her awareness through different lenses –– what blackness means as an African American, and how she experienced blackness at home, rooted in her Latin heritage.

It wasn’t until she went to college and traveled abroad that Janel realized blackness isn’t monolithic. During a trip, she stumbled across the term Afro-Latina. The fact that she’d never been exposed to it before struck her. She recognized then how much brands were missing the mark when it came to media representation. People who looked like her weren’t represented anywhere — in mainstream nor Spanish-langauge media.

Learning more about her family’s past: Janel began to research and learn more about her heritage and her ancestors’ journey. The Garifuna people are African survivors of shipwrecked human cargo ships. They were redirected to the Carribean (in 1635) and settled in St. Vincent, where the French and British attempted to colonize. After decades of resistance, the Garifuna people were forced to surrender. Those placed on British ships were sent to an island in the Carribean to die. Only a handful (approximately 2,000) survived. Today, the descendants exist across the world in places like Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Bronx, New York City, which has the largest population of Garifuna people outside of South America.

Slavery in Latin America: Many Americans view slavery as a very difficult period in U.S. history with lasting effects on African-American life, but colonization has worldwide impacts –– the majority of enslaved African people were brought to the Caribbean and South America, first.

Colorism in the Latinx community: Media is often behind the times when it comes to fair representation of women and people of color. This is definitely the case when it comes to Afro-Latinas –– light-skinned women grace the front pages of news articles and star in T.V. shows while women with darker skin and kinky hair are rarely represented on either English or Spanish speaking publications. Like African Americans, Afro-Latinas represent a spectrum of skin tones. Janel shares her story about launching the award-winning blog to confront the truth and stereotypes about who is considered Latina.

Ain’t I Latina?: Guided by the need to create an authentic space to tell the stories of Afro-Latinas’ lived experiences, Janel developed Ain’t I Latina?. Amber and Janel discuss the meaning behind the name, derived from Sojourner Truth famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” as a way for people to question their views and stereotypes.

Dual identities: Amber and Janel discuss dual identities and how the scope of blackness spans across the world. The digital landscape requires people to recognize that Latina identity is broad and diverse.

The numbers: According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter (24%) of hispanics identify as Afro-Latinos. Janel shares how biased survey questions may be skewing the numbers. Being more conscious about how surveys are created and the various ways that people identify themselves is important.

Misconceptions + Mistakes: Janel shares that one of the biggest mistakes brands make today is assuming that Latinas only speak Spanish when in reality, there are a variety of languages spoken in Latin countries. While the Afro-Latina narrative may be new to America, blackness is evident throughout the world and will become more and more a part of the conversation moving forward.

Janel Martinez

Janel Martinez is an entrepreneur and multimedia journalist. She's the founder of award-winning blog, Ain't I Latina?, an online destination celebrating Afro-Latinx womanhood.

The Bronx, NY native is a frequent public speaker discussing media, tech, entrepreneurship, culture and identity, as well as diversity at conferences and events for Bloomberg, NBCU, SXSW, Harvard University and more. She’s appeared as a featured guest on national shows and outlets, such as BuzzFeed, ESSENCE, NPR and Sirius XM, and her work has appeared in Adweek, Univision Communications, Oprah Magazine, Remezcla and The New York Times.

You can connect with Janel on LinkedIn Instagram and Facebook.


Produced by: Kai-Saun Anderson
Music by: Podington Bear - Soft Driver and Rope Swing
Photo by: Pawan Sharma

Community voices: Sophia Campello, Aida Maria Johnson

About the host

Amber Anderson

Co-Founder + Head of Strategy
Amber Anderson is the co-founder of T+P where she specializes in strategy, marketing and product management.

Want more?
Subscribe to and rate the show.

Stay connected via email through the Tote + Pears newsletter.