Photo by Ana Ramos Contreras (Instagram: @arrcx)
Amara La Negra, reality tv star and singer, advocated for the recognition of Afro-latinos and the struggles they face inside and outside of their community.
“I feel like we had to show students on this campus that latinos and latinx people in general are very different. We had to bring in somebody that embodied that and showed other people on campus what the diversity looks like for us,” said Xiomara Castaneda-Cerda, member of Latinx Heritage Month Planning committee.
On Oct. 25, Amara La Negra, the keynote speaker for Latinx Heritage Month, took the stage of Shannon Hall in Memorial Union to address an intimate crowd of students and faculty, anxiously awaiting her responses to the on-stage interview questions and the performance that followed.
The term Afro-latino refers to Latin Americans of significant African ancestry. 25 percent of hispanics in the United States identify as Afro-latino, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
During Latin America’s colonial period, about 15 times as many African slaves were taken to Spanish and Portuguese colonies than to the United States. About 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America, according to estimates from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America at Princeton University.
This means Afro-latinos makeup approximately 25 percent of the population of Latin America. Yet, they are still not portrayed in the media industry of Latin America very often.
“The possibilities of you seeing woman like myself are almost to none, which is why I fight so hard for it,” said La Negra. “The truth of the matter is colorism does exist. It’s currently happening, it has always happened, the difference is that now people have phones to expose it on social media for people to see.”
As Amara La Negra tackled the music industry and media in Latin America and the United States, she noticed a lack of Afro-latino pride.
“They’re just latinas, they never really express the afro side of it. I think it’s important to uplift that side that is always in the shadows,” La Negra said.
Despite the hate she received for her looks and large afro, she encourages others to not seek validation and to embrace their respective identities, especially women.
“Don’t feel that you need to change who you are to satisfy society’s standards of beauty. Your natural texture – learn to embrace that. If you want to modify it, feel free to do that, but not because that makes you more beautiful. No, it doesn’t,” La Negra said.
Amara La Negra aims to send this message of the importance of representation and self-love to young kids through her children’s book, “Amarita’s Way,” as she continues to tell her story when visiting university campuses.
All photos by Ana Ramos Contreras, photographer and UW-Madison student