When my play The Stories of Us was chosen for the Teatro Vivo’s annual Austin Latino Play Festival 2015, I was shocked to say the least. My play was Black—Blacker than Black. It called out African Americans, Latin@s, and Afro-Latin@s for the broken bonds between us, racism, and many things that we fail to say in normal conversations. I confided in a colleague about my nervousness about work being in that space and he told me, “It’s needed there.” Although I am not Afro-Latin@, I identify with Afro-Latin@ experiences. Being a Black American and speaking Spanish in Texas, I am often met with the question “You know Spanish?” or “How did you learn Spanish?” These questions reflect the lack of exposure to Afro-Latinidad and the hidden erasure of these stories. Why is my language ability even a question?
Navigating Latin@ theatre spaces as a Black American has been an awesome experience for the most part. My work has had a significant amount of support by Latin@ artists. In 2013, I attended the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies conference at the then University of Texas Pan American (now Rio Grande) with UT Professor Roxanne Schroeder-Arce. I was a part of an outstanding group of student artists from both Pan-American and UT Austin that devised a bilingual performance piece on culture and identity. I felt empowered in the space and made sure that my identity as was visible. Each actor in the piece came up with a line that represented their identity. My line “I am La Negra que Tiene Tumbao from the famous Celia Cruz song” sparked a conversation amongst my peers about Afrolatin@ identity. In artistic spaces, I feel at home, but it’s the everyday erasure of Blackness in Latin@ theatre that I strive to fight against.
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© Black Girl, Latin World