10 inspiring Afro-Latinas you should be following

·5 min read

These artists, journalists, and entrepreneurs are contributing greatly to the culture.

It’s the last week of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month which began on September 15 and ends on Friday, but definitely not the last week we’re celebrating Afro-Latinx culture and its importance and contributions. 

From artists, journalists, authors, and entrepreneurs, here are 10 Afro-Latinas who are absolutely — cómo se dice — killing it. 

1. Cristina Martinez’s Instagram feed is a woman’s celebration of blooming — a sea of her vibrantly hued renderings. Martinez paints women as flowers — heads looming and drooping over the stems, petals stretching across their faces, into their eyes, and surrounding their heads.    

“Forever a work in progress. Water me,” reads one of her captions, paired with a painting of a woman whose body is a single, potted yellow flower. 

Martinez, who is Black and Mexican, has always felt an urgency to illuminate the experiences of hyphenated American womanhood, of Black and brown people — communities who have to work harder for visibility. So she created her own avenue to feel seen, and her artwork represents the challenges she navigated growing up in a Mexican family, with her 15-year-old mother. 

Her work has been featured at the World Trade Center, Nordstrom, and much more.


2
. Carolina Contreras, like most Afro-Latinas, was taught that her curly hair was pelo malo. Now, she’s teaching girls and women that their natural hair is beautiful. 

After graduating college, Contreras moved to her birth country, Dominican Republic, originally to backpack the country for 4 months and reconnect with her roots. Those four months turned into 11 years, and the process of reconnecting with her roots led her to fully part with her straight, relaxed hair. 

A lifelong activist, Contreras started hosting workshops for Dominican women on how to embrace their natural curls, leading the charge in DR’s natural hair movement. 

She founded her own business, Miss Rizos Salon, in Santo Domingo, DR, with a second location in Washington Heights, NY. Her salon is a haven for women reconnecting, maintaining, or meeting their natural curls for the first time.

3.
Maria Brown-Spence lost her grandmother and significant other to cancer, six years apart, and her world was wracked with grief. She sought solace in sharing her journey, in knowing that others were experiencing the same.

Her lived experiences with grief and loss now guide her mission as founder and CEO of Hearts2Heal, a wellness support platform providing mental health resources and access to Black, brown and military communities. 


4.
Luz Argentina Chiriboga is an Afro-Ecuadorian poet, essayist, and novelist, and one of the first writers to address the duality in African and Hispanic identity. In her work, she explores topics of race, sexual identity, sexual violence, birth control, and navigating Afro-Latinx identity in a culture that celebrates mestizaje. 

She’s an award-winning writer, honored for her 1986 short story, “El Cristo de la mirada baja.” Many of her works have been translated into English, French, Italian, and Quechua.


5. Ilia Calderon
is an Emmy Award-winning Colombian journalist, the co-anchor for Univision’s flagship evening newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” and the first Afro-Latina anchoring an evening newscast for a major broadcast network in the U.S. 

In her memoir, “My Time to Speak: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race”, Calderon discusses racism and colorism in-depth, and candidly shares how it’s shaped her life.  


6.
Reyna Noriega is after the glimmers of joy in her life, and she captures them in her art. She partners cool, muted tones and bold, warm colors in her illustrations, which center women of color as powerful, graceful, and beautiful. 

Her pieces serve as artistic advocacy–speaking for the trauma of sexual assault survivors, immigrants, and marginalized communities.

Her career has taken off this past year, as she’s been a cover artist for both the New Yorker and Science Magazine.

7. Amanda Pericles is your average Afro-Latina, hence her blog name. She founded the Instagram page “Beautifully Black Latinas”, @afrolatinas_, to highlight the diversity and beauty in Latin women of African descent.

She also runs “The Black Speechie”, @theblackspeechie, where she posts content for Black speech pathologists like her. 

8. Antoinette Thomas is an illustrator, woodburner and painter, known for her comic strips on Instagram. 

Thomas’ creations shift from meditations on her daily struggles to direct social commentary that addresses race, womanhood, and challenges in the workplace packaged in whimsical, lighthearted humor. In some of her comics, she uses herself as a character within scenarios. 


9. Isha Gutierrez-Sumner is Honduran and Garifuna — an Afro-Indigenous culture spread across Central America. 

The Garifuna, collectively known as the Garinagu, face increasing challenges in the U.S. and in their home countries. Gutierrez-Sumner, currently based in New York City, hopes to amplify the Garifuna struggle and protect their cultural legacy by collecting Garifuna recipes in a cookbook — the first Garifuna cookbook in history. 

Her signature dish? Coconut rice and beans, stir-fried in garlic-infused coconut oil and finished in coconut milk.

10. A week before her 25th birthday, Janel Martinez created “Ain’t I Latina”, an online destination for the Afro-Latinx community, and sisterhood hub for Afro-Latinas. She grew up consuming all sorts of media, but realized there wasn’t a space for Black Latina voices in mainstream or Latinx media. So she made her own.

Through this hub, which will be running for seven years in December, she quickly forged a community through lifestyle coverage, career advice, and telling the stories of everyday women with hyphenated identities. 

These Afro-Latinas, despite coming from distinct backgrounds and fields, are all bonded by the complexity of the Afro-Latinx experience. In exploring their hyphenated cultural identities, they’ve arrived at the same commitment: illuminating the challenges, beauty, joy, and successes of Afro-Latinx people — creating beautiful avenues for visibility in the process. 

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Natalia M. Pérez-Gonzalez is a freelance journalist covering culture, identity, and mental/emotional health. Her work is featured in Elite Daily, Verywell Health, The Stand, Chattanooga Times Free Press, and more. She is currently pursuing a master’s in magazine journalism at Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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