Struggles Along My Journey as an Afro-Latina Travel Blogger
I am an American Afro-Latina travel blogger
I am also a runner. Happy with where I am in life now, but still - no doubt - sometimes a runner. I run from drama. I run from stress. And admittedly, I sometimes run from my passions.
I love my passions so much that I want nothing to do with them. I don't want to eventually hate them. I don't want to ruin them. I don't want to make them feel like work. I don't want to fail.
Quitting my job in 2014 was the first time I stopped running. Yes, sitting still in unfulfilling complacency can also count as running.
Committing to a serious relationship after a ten-year failed one was the second time I stopped running.
2015 was the year of "Me"
It was the year I accepted that some failure was inevitable; that I needed to learn how to deal with and learn from fear.
Taking my blog seriously was one of my passion goals for 2015. Since then, I've worked with over 100 companies and brands, and have inspired tens of thousands of people around the world.
Compared to bigger travel blogs, that might not be much — but my goal wasn't numbers.
My goal was to reach out to people everywhere - especially those with illness and from underserved communities - and show them possibility.
I Battled Diversity in Blogging
I admit, I got caught up. I started (excitedly) writing for top publications that despite claims to want to diversify their content, continued to edit out anything I wrote that pertained to being a person of color. From photos to clickbait titles to the content itself, they were always trying to generalize my work.
I was starting to hate writing…
My inbox filled with concerned emails from minorities upset at the obvious censorship. My battle became a matter of making money vs. making a statement. I soon decided to stop writing for them and temporarily "suffer", financially.
It felt like a continuous fight trying to match the level of pretty blonde girls talking about how they keep up with fashion while they travel, and their challenges traveling while being "so hot".
Or the privileged, "OMG my two days volunteering with little poor brown children changed MY life".
Or the “single and ready to mingle” travelers who had nothing else to talk about but their latest "lust at first sight" / party story (no judgement).
Can we talk about anything else as travel bloggers?
I also Battled Being Afro-Latina
I initially got caught up in the struggle of being Latina within the Black travel blogger community. I hate that I had to seek out this community to begin with (it is 2018 y’all — why is diversity still an issue?), but as I often joked to my friends: it seems there can only be a few travel bloggers of color making it big in the mainstream (white) community at a time so we need to seek out a more welcoming community and create our own spaces.
So I sought new outlets, particularly Black network groups. This was a difficult feat, as I am a Latina who seems to be accepted as Black arbitrarily while other times cursed for being too "light skinned" or “Spanish” to be Black. This was frustrating for many reasons:
Race and ethnicity are two different things yet Afro Latinos are often judged for identifying with their ethnicity. My blackness and culture are not mutually exclusive.
The notion that I’m too light skinned to be Black but too dark skinned to be Latina feeds into colorism and I refuse to be part of it.
Example: I once stressed over a popular Black travel Instagram account that (accidentally) featured "me" on their account using a darker, African-American woman’s photo. Yes, they actually posted a feature about my blog using her photo — you read that right. (Looking back, it could’ve been an honest mistake but was amplified by my insecurity.)
If I had any suspicion about not being “black enough” this confirmed it. I either wasn't dark enough or pissed someone off for referring to myself as Latina/Afro-Latina instead of Black (if you didn't know - yes, that also is an issue).
Why is calling ourselves Latino / Afro-Latino an issue?
For some POC, it is considered a rejection of our Blackness to call ourselves Latino. This understandably stems from the overwhelming number of Latinos who refuse to identify with their "Blackness" due to colorism and internalized racism (that's a whole 'nother article). But I use Black, Latina, Afro-Latina, Puerto Rican, New Yorker, and American interchangeably.
I love my blackness, brownness, and splashes of turquoise and coral.
One is a race. The other, ethnicity.
I'm Black. I am Latina. I am American. And I'm awesome.
Why did I feel like I needed my Blackness validated by other people of color?
I understand the need to feature women with darker skin tones over me — it is necessary because they are often ignored. And I am happy to be a part of a movement that continues to push POC forward.
For years (and still today) Black roles in the media (especially black women) are played by mixed race and fair skinned brown women. Their coarse and kinky hair texture is hardly represented in its natural state and forget about roles where Black women are in a healthy, loving relationship.
I get it. Anti-blackness is heavy in the Latin media industry as well; white Latinos from magazine covers to our TV screens continue to give the impression that Latino Blackness doesn’t exist.
But that left me in a weird middle ground. Too dark, yet also, too light.
So why did I want my blackness validated by other POC? Because as an Afro-Latina, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.
Lessons Learned being an Afro Latina Blogger
Eventually I stopped trying to match my peers. I stopped judging my image and work just because I wasn't the right shade or topic for a particular brand. I came to understand, that in just being me I was empowering other women of color to share their own journey and be proud in their own identity.
Someone gave me the best advice of my life in 2015. He said, "Why are you giving your best content away to other brands when you could build your own brand?"
He was referring to me wanting to be a writer for top digital and print publications. My response at the time was simple: money. Not honor. Not pride. Just money.
That moment helped me realize I didn't want to be driven by money or social media success. That I didn’t want to question my identity simply because I was featured incorrectly on an Instagram account.
I want to inspire my family. Drive my friends. And give hope to those who have none.
And that is what I’ll do.
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