Growing up Afro-Latina, and learning to embrace both identities

by Jasmine Mouzon, Staff Writer

According to the 2017 U.S. Census, more than 9 million people in our country identify as multiracial. I am one of those 9 million people. I am black and Mexican.  my mother is Mexican American and my dad is African American. My parents did a great job of making sure that I acknowledged both cultures and embraced both identities.. For that reason, I never really put much thought into the idea of being “mixed.” I guess you could say that I was naive and color blind, because I was never really forced to recognize one identity over the other.

I am originally from Southeast San Diego, but I moved to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico at the age of five in the quest for financial stability. I commuted to San Diego for school, but other than that I was always in T.J.My first culture shock was when I moved there, almost everything changed in a matter of minutes. When I was introduced to the neighborhood kids, I was given odd looks and it was as if everyone around me was whispering about how different I was. I remember my stepdad getting defensive and saying to my neighbors, “Ella es morena, pero habla español,” which translates to “yes, she is black, but she speaks spanish,” I was dumbfounded because up until that day, no one had ever spoken negatively about my skin color. It was then that I was forced to prove my identity as a Latina and explain to those who were curious why I was much darker than the average Mexican.

After living in Tijuana for a couple of years, I felt like I was going through an identity crisis. People would always ask which side I identified with more and I genuinely had no idea what to say. I was being raised in a Mexican household, yet I had an Afrocentric father who reminded me about the importance of black identity and remaining “woke.” I also had a Mexican mother who said I needed to learn more about my Hispanic roots. Going to school I typically hung around my black friends, and when I went back home, I hung out with my Mexican neighbors. It was as if I was living two separate lives. I just wanted to be me without being questioned as to why I was the way I was.

Being a part of both the Latin and black community, I deal with a lot. It’s no secret that both cultures clash. Both cultures are guilty of perpetuating stigmas about the other. For example, I’ve had some Mexican family members tell me not to date black men because they don’t want me to make the family worse by by having dark children. I’ve had Mexican friends who refuse to believe that Afro Latinos are actually Latinos, (even though there is evidence that they exist), because they don’t want to acknowledge that part of history and desperately want to distance themselves from blackness. On the other hand, my Black family members have made jokes about Mexicans only being good for domestic work. They’ve also cracked jokes about how Mexicans are overly fertile and have “way too many kids.” Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle when  I hear both cultures I love, speaking negative about one another.

Therefore, rather than picking one side as I got older I decided to educate both sides of my family on the issues that both communities have in common. I educate my Mexican family and friends on the beauty of black culture and all it has contributed to society. I educate my black family on Mexican culture and how diverse Latin America is. I also go out of my way to educate both sides of the systemic oppression, and obstacles that we both face. I was taught to love being a nubian and appreciate my Latin roots, now I just want both of my cultures to love and appreciate one another. In the words of the great Nipsey Hussle, “black love, brown pride.”