In 2016, a Pew Research Center study revealed that nearly a quarter of U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino. It’s a reality that likely flies under the radar for America’s average media consumer. And it’s no wonder why considering that today’s most popular examples of American Latino representation on screen come in the forms of Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Becky G, and Selena Gomez, and U.K born non-Latina, Catherine Zeta-Jones. (whose various roles as Latina characters are evidence of the fact that major industries are more inclined to hire Latinos for projects when they look only a shade darker than white.)
Noticero Univision’s Ilia Calderón is one example of how, even in the age of 2018, the inclusion of Afro-Latinos on screen remains a problem.
In November of last year, the long-time journalist broke headlines when her role of co-anchor for Univision’s evening television news program was announced. As the flagship’s newest anchor the Colombiana had broken a major barrier in Spanish and English-language TV when, by taking the position, she simultaneously became the first Afro-Latina to anchor an evening newscast show for a major U.S. broadcast network.
In a recent interview with NBC News, the Emmy award-winning anchor explained how Afro-Latinos have it even harder when it comes to carving out a career path.
“I’m not gonna lie, I think it is hard. We are a minority within a minority, so the representation is not there,” Calderón explained. “However, Univision is showing other companies that Black Hispanics can be successful too, and hopefully the company sets an example for other companies, in the media and elsewhere.”
Calderón and the emerging faces of other Afro-Latinas like Zoe Saldana, Cardi B, and Amara La Negra have steadily begun to smash the Black and white only lens society sees through.
There is an onslaught of problems in the Latino community when it comes to embracing and accepting the minority groups that make up its identity. Afro-Latinos, Taínos, and Asians are just a few of the groups typically disregarded in national conversations about the Latino populations in the United States. Still, in spite of the fact that we come in many different shades and colors, the media continues to persistently favor those of us are lighter in color. It’s a tactic that primes audiences to lean into ideals that favor Euro-centric ancestry over the many other aspects of our genetic makeup.
Fortunately, the uptick of hip-hop artists like Amara La Negra and Cardi B, and actresses like Zoe Saldana and Lupita Nyong’o are beginning to challenge societal notions of Latino appearances. Slowly but surely, these Afro-Latinas are dismissing Latino stereotypes and beauty ideals and paving a way for their success on their own.