Diasporic Realness: Telling Our Stories- The First Ever Guest Writers Month


Diasporic Realness: Telling Our Stories is here! What is it you ask?  It is Black Girl, Latin World’s first ever guest writers month!  A whole month of new voices, fresh perspectives and a lot of Blackness.

Want to be apart of it? Hit up BGLW in the contact box below with a brief pitch on what you want to write.  In addition to articles, creative submissions like poetry, essays, video content, reflections and the like are great. Please make sure the content is your own.



Tienes que hacer cayo



I was talking about life as a 20-something year old with one of my friends, Rebecca. I was filling her in on the good, the bad, the ugly.  Lamenting about how life is turning out a bit different than I envisioned 10 years ago.  In mid-sentence, my friend asked me if I had seen a guitar player’s fingers.

I said, “yes”.  Although, I was a bit confused as to why she asked me about a guitar player’s’ fingers.

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My play The Stories of Us at the Austin Latino New Play Festival



A few months ago, I got the news of my life.  The Austin Latino New Play Festival called and they wanted to do a staged reading of my play The Stories of Us .  This piece has come a long way since a small workshop in 2013.  But more on the process later.  If you are in the Austin-area, check out the festival.  My play is May 16th at 8pm.

The Stories of Us is a collection of stories that dig deep into the intercultural conflict between African Americans and Latinos, African diaspora identity, and Afrolatinidad. This scrapbook of experiences, histories, and feelings takes its audience through African roots in Mexico, the time you told your brother you were dating a “black girl,” and that moment you were proud of your heritage, combining to reveal people of color trying to navigate each other’s worlds and build one together.

May 14-16 3 nights, 3 great new Latino plays Austin Latino New Play Festival with ScriptWorks at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center Get your tixs on line – http://latinoplayfestival.bpt.me


Teaching My African American Brothers Spanish


“I think music is a good way to learn Spanish,” he said after he completed a lesson on Jeremih and Pitbull’s “Don’t Tell Em’/No le diga”. My youngest brother hit the nail on the head with that one. Music can take anyone’s language learning from 10 to 100 real quick. It was only after listening to “No Tengo Dinero” by Los Kumbia Kings that I understood the “yo” form of “tener”. Music and media are great ways to make a language come alive.

My younger brothers and my mom sit at the dining room table that doubles as a classroom desk and we learn together. We discuss colors, numbers, phrases and everyday terms. Terms that will not only help them to chat with neighbors down the street but learn about a new culture. I love to teach the language but it is our talks about Afro-Latinidad that inspire me the most.

The dominant narrative on Blackness may be African American but this is my little way to counter it. For one class project, I had my family research and present Latinegr@ figures to the class. My mother showed us singer Maxwell. One of my brothers presented actor Laz Alonso. I was stoked that they were recognizing that the Black diaspora is diverse.

When I was a teenager in Spanish class, I learned nothing of Latinegr@ histories. That is why my goal is for them to see how learning Spanish relates to them. In addition to talking about Latinegr@s, we talk about African Americans who travel. We recite phrases like “Yo soy inteligente” because they are Black excellence. Spanish class is a memory for the laughs, jokes and moments we share. But most importantly, it is something they can take with them. A skill that will lead to jobs in the future and cross-cultural connections.

A skill that will become a part of their being and experience.

A moment that we will cherish forever.

This was originally published on the LatiNegr@s Project.

“Adios Felicia”: the Spanish Speaking “African American” Part 2


A few months ago, I walked into a local Mexican restaurant. The waitress, named Felicia, asked for my friends Jorge and Juan’s order in Spanish.  I was excited because when I go to Mexican restaurants, I usually get the opportunity to practice my second language.  When Felicia gets to me, she asks in English “What can I get you?”  I took no offense and gave her my order in Spanish.  Her next words continued to be English.

I could feel my face getting hot.  I was frustrated, embarrassed and if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t drive there, I would have left then and there.   Maybe that is me being over dramatic, but that is the way I felt at the time.  What I wanted to say was “Adios Felicia”, but instead I ordered my torta.  I get it. If you see a person that looks like me: Brown skinned, curly locs, it’s obvious that they only speak one language. English. Right? Jorge and Juan’s olive skin and straight Black hair read Spanish-speaking.  This is Texas and the majority of folks who can rattle off at the mouth like Telenovela stars look nothing like me.

While I am not Afro-Latin@, I am aware that my experience with Felicia is very similar to many of my friends who identify as Latinegr@. The color of their skin and African features causes both non-Black Latin@s and African Americans to question their Latinidad.   They are frequently responded to in English and asked “Why do you speak Spanish so well?”   Many want to scream to the roof tops that they are Black and Latin@; both at once.  Many people don’t know that Blackness, Latinidad and Africanness are important parts of Latin@ history, culture and experiences.

In the African American community, speaking Spanish results in questions that deal with essentializing Blackness. When I was working on a political campaign, there was another African American Spanish speaker and I overheard an African American colleague ask if he was a “real” Black person because he spoke Spanish so well. Since when does speaking Spanish make you less Black?

Let’s be honest, in Texas the amount of exposure to Afro-Latin@ history is low but steadily growing. Institutions like the University of Texas at Austin have been exploring Latinegr@ experiences through research, seminars and other forms of community engagement.  Public figures like Houston Fox 26’s anchorman Jose Grinan and Houston-based poet Jasminne Mendez serve as great examples of people disrupting the narrative that Black always equals African American. There are also teachers like my colleague Olivia who taught a segment on Afro-Mexican history and my colleague Jorge, who informed his class about Celia Cruz.  These experiences are needed in both our Black and Latin@ community based organizations, arts establishments and schools around Texas.

I am here for African Americans recognizing that this whole finding connections with diaspora, African American Spanish speaker thing is nothing new. African Americans have been using Spanish to connect, travel and survive since the 1900’s.   Langston Hughes traveled to Cuba and Mexico and connected with Nicolás Guillén .   Phylicia Rashad used her bilingual ability in her Cosby show audition.  The man who inspired me to learn Spanish, my Dad, is an African American. It’s nothing new.  It’s just not talked about.

As I write this piece with Tego Calderon playing in the background, I reflect on the conversations I have had with my Latinegr@ friends and recognize that ignorance of Afro-latinidad is rooted in the erasure of Afro-latinidad in our history books and imperial Blackness where the African American English speaking experience is held as the definition of Blackness. That’s why I love The Latinegr@s Project, Ain’t I Latina, Boriqua Chicks, African American Latino World and other spaces like these so much.   They open our mind and allow us to see the stories of Blackness and Latinidad that we hardly see in the mainstream media.

We are a part of the diaspora. I hope we can continue to have more discussions on how Afro-American and Latinegr@ history is intertwined. I hope to see more Latinegr@s rising up and pushing for representation.  More Afrodiaspora allies.  More progress and roads to self-love.  Let Spanish, Portuguese, English, Haitian Creole or any other language you speak roll off our tongue. Let our Blackness be what unites us.

The Spanish Speaking “African American” Part I

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This piece is also published on the LatiNegr@s Project Website that I write for.

GUEST POST: The Broken Spanish Speaker Radar in New York

PHOTO CREDIT: wikipedia.commons

Written by: Dallas Rico

I often wonder how Nuyoricans (a popular term for Puerto Ricans living in New York) and Dominicans determine whether or not someone speaks Spanish. Is it like a gaydar, but for Spanish-speakers. A year before I moved to New York, my cousin, who lived in Williamsburg at the time and who doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, mentioned people would approach her almost every day and start speaking Spanish to her. It was so overbearing to the point where she’d avoid eye contact with anyone who looked Dominican or Puerto Rican, lest they strike a conversation. That’s one of the many things that got me excited about moving to the Big Apple. I’m a Spanish teacher and love to speak the language outside the classroom. The prospect of speaking Spanish every day was thrilling.

Unfortunately, when I got here I quickly learned that would not be the case. The moment I walk into an establishment, I’m immediately pegged as a non-Spanish speaker. For instance, I remember the look I got when I went to a Dominican barbershop last year. When I sat in an open chair, the barber asked one of his colleagues to translate for him. He didn’t even ask me if I spoke Spanish. He just assumed I didn’t. Even when he realized that I did he still tried to speak his broken English to me. What I don’t get is why the guy who was as black as midnight gets a pass, but I don’t. When he walked everyone greeted him in Spanish like they were homeboys. I just don’t understand. Is it my hair? The shape of my head? The way I walk? My breath? Can someone please explain this to me?!

Some people look entirely African American but they speak Spanish. It’s curious that the Nuyorican and Dominican communities feel so aggressively non-black. I believe they use language as a way to segregate themselves from the black community, as a way of saying, “you are not us,”despite our similar heritage. That’s right. Many Dominicans and Puerto Ricans are indeed black or mixed with black though they refuse to acknowledge it. They had slaves on those islands. Do your research. At any rate, language may serve as a comfortable barrier to deny blackness. Hey, I can’t be black. I speak Spanish. Black people don’t speak Spanish.

I miss the brotherhood I felt with my fellow Mexicans in Texas and California. Things were different there. The Mexican community felt so much more welcoming even though I definitely didn’t look like them. Though I’m black by blood, I also culturally identify as Mexican due to my intimacy with that community. It’s a part of who I am. It’s ironic because I can understand why they’d assume I don’t speak Spanish. Pretty much the majority of Spanish-speakers there are either Mexican or Salvadorian. So, it’s a shock when a person with African features speaks Spanish. Yet, when I spoke there people just went with it. I miss those days, man.

I had hoped the diversity of Latin American countries represented in New York would give people an open mind. We’ve got folks from places like Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and the Caribbean islands. (Did you know there are huge Afro-Latino communities all over South America? I watched a fascinating documentary on that subject) Spanish speakers come in all colors here. So, one shouldn’t assume someone’s linguistic ability. Alas, in a form of linguistic chauvinism, it seems I’ll forever be pegged as a non-Spanish speaker.

So, if you are a black Spanish speaker who plans to visit New York, curb you enthusiasm if you hope to practice Spanish. You may or may not get that opportunity. There’s really no way to tell. If you don’t happen to get accepted into the Spanish-Speakers Club, please hook me up with a recommendation.

Now, where will I get to speak Spanish if not NYC? Even when I visit Puerto Rico they speak to me in English. Also, many of my Latino friends here prefer to speak in English, so that’s a bust. I guess I’ll have to keep my Spanish in the classroom and during Skype sessions with friends abroad. I could always move to Mexico. ¡Qué lástima!



Dallas, who’s actually from Dallas, is a high school Spanish teacher and an aspriring novelist living in Brooklyn.  Look for his name on the New York Times Best-Sellers list one day.  Maybe. Hopefully.  Follow his (mis)adventures at @scandallas.


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