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  • Writer's pictureVânia Penha-Lopes


Afro-Latinos are the descendants of those who, through their unpaid labor, built the Americas. Yet, to this day, the contributions of our ancestors are scoffed at, and our very presence in our own societies is threatened by racism and socioeconomic inequality.

My dream for Afro-Latina communities is that they come to live in a world that recognizes their differences without equating those differences to inequality. That would be the meaning of diversity: differentiation on equal footing. It makes no sense, for example, to promote Puerto Rico Day parades and then, for the rest of the year, hold on to the stereotype of Puerto Ricans as loud underachievers. Nor is it fair to celebrate the "colorfulness" of Latinos on the one hand and curtail their entry into institutions of power on the other. When it comes to Afro-Latina women, I pray for the day when we are no longer seen as caricatures of "sensual" and "hot" women and are viewed, instead, as the whole, thinking, worthy and, yes, sensual omen that we really are. In sum, my vision for Afro-Latina communities is that they come to be treated with the respect that they deserve in all of the societies in which they exist, that their members be recognized as full-fledged human beings with a rich past, a powerful present and a promising future.

Excerpted from "Where the Heart Is: Family, Work and my Binational Life as a Black Brazilian Scholar," by Vânia Penha-Lopes. Pp. 97-117 in Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora, edited by Marta Moreno Vega, Marinieves Alba, and Yvette Modestin. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2012.

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