When discussing Black history throughout the Americas, Afro-Latino’s impact on Black American culture and history runs deep.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), we’re celebrating Afro-Latino pop culture icons, public figures, and historical figures who’ve left their mark on the country.
The “WAP” wrapper has been catching eyeballs since she broke out on the scene years ago. With her real name being Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, Cardi B has been very open about her Dominican and Trinidadian heritage. “Some people want to decide if you’re Black or not, depending on your skin complexion, because they don’t understand Caribbean people or our culture,” she pointed out in a 2018 interview.
José Celso Barbosa
This physician and politician was quite a trailblazer back in the day. José Celso Barbosa was one of the first Puerto Ricans and people of African descent to get a medical degree in the United States. He also served on the executive cabinet of Puerto Rican Governor Charles H. Allen in 1900 and was part of the country’s first Senate.
David Ortiz is a Dominican Republic native and even adopted his name on the island, “Papi,” as his baseball title — “Big Papi.” The three-time World Series champ started a foundation in both Boston and his home country to help children receive lifesaving cardiac treatments.
Arturo Schomburg was a leading historian who dedicated his life to documenting important contributions from the African Diaspora. He founded what’s known today as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 1925, which preserves “materials focused on African-American, African Diaspora, and African experiences.” The award-winning institution is located in the Harlem area of New York.
This legendary singer has been pretty vocal about her Irish heritage, but she also has Latino roots, as well! Mariah Carey revealed in a TV interview that her father is Black and Venezuelan. “[My grandfather]’s last name was Nuñez,” she told the TV host. “My grandfather made up the name ‘Carey,’ when he came to America to be more accepted, I guess.”
This news anchor paved the way for journalists of color in the field. Gwen Ifill‘s father was of Panamanian and Barbardian descent. She has worked for major news brands, including NBC, BBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She’s also the first Black woman to moderate a vice-presidential debate, and one of the first to host a nationwide televised public affairs program in the U.S.
Tessa Thompson starred in some high-profile projects over the last year, including popular Marvel movies, the Creed series, and HBO’s hit show Westworld. Did you also know that she has an Afro-Panamanian father and mother of Mexican descent? “Even though she is not a Black woman, throughout my life, she filled me with such pride of being one,” she said at the 11th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood.
Sylvia del Villard
There are many titles attached to Sylvia del Villard: dancer, actress, and activist. Known for her vigorous work in the field of dance, she also campaigned against discrimination throughout her life. She also spoke about the racism against Black artists in Puerto Rican media in the 1970s.
This upcoming Los Angeles Lakers player loves to represent Puerto Rico, so much so that he has a flag of the island on his right hand. Three-time Olympical gold medalist Carmelo Anthony says his late father is from Boriqua. He’s also supporting the country through the Carmelo Anthony Foundation and a professional soccer club (Puerto Rico FC).
Miriam Jiménez Román
Miriam Jiménez Román was a prolific chronicler of the Afro-Latina experience. An Afro-Puerto Rican scholar, Román was one of the leaders in programming and cultural studies around Afro-Latino people. Her most famous contribution was to The Afro-Latin@ Reader, which dives into the intersectional lives of Latin American and Caribbean people of African descent.