Hola a todos, it’s Layla!
September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. We are delighted to share this platform with the Latinx community, especially during a time where our country is facing systemic racism head on and reimagining race relations.
For the next several weeks, we will be reflecting on Latinx identity through the experiences of Latinx individuals! The views and experiences shared reflect the diversity of the community and will expand on what it means to be Latinx.
We hope that their perspectives and calls to action will create conversation as to what you can do to better support the Latinx community and what those within the Latinx community can do in the field of racial justice as well.
Today Andrés Ramos starts us off with an inspiring message, and Gabriela Martinez concludes with a tangible call to action that’s worth reading to the end.
Let’s dive in!
I’m Andrés Ramos, also known as Laino Beto. As a rapper from south central Pennsylvania and a graduate from Shippensburg University in communications and journalism, I currently work as an ambassador for COOL Ave Music Group.
Although I am Puerto Rican, born and raised for half of my childhood in Puerto Rico, many do not guess that when they first see me. It amazes me how different contexts lead individuals to put me in certain boxes. The issue is that I do not fit in just one box.
Being Latino means being a compilation of boxes, if you will. Being Latino means understanding that you are 100% of each of those boxes and have the right to identify with each in its entirety. You cannot be half of something; you either are or you are not.
That goes for everyone, as we are multifaceted. The struggle at times is identifying with all of the moving parts.
We want to see where we fit, and that is where my artist persona “Laino Beto” comes in.
There was once a time where only my siblings would call out, “Beto!” I have learned that people will see you how they want to see you until you direct their vision, and now an audience has joined the chant.
As Laino Beto, I am a rapper who uses my art to make sense of the world. It is my balance.
Laino was a name created strictly out of the imagination during a conversation with my close friend Donovan, but “Beto” was special. It was my nickname while I grew up. It is the essence of who I am.
Laino Beto is my form of immortality. While I may not be around forever, my craft will leave an everlasting legacy. How I view myself and who I am is portrayed in my music. I advise everyone to find the art that allows you to express yourself. With time, people will see the image that you paint for them.
As I continue to find myself, I have incorporated more of me inside my music. My songs vary from English to Spanish because of that. Songs like “Under 25,” “I Dream,” and “Cycle” represent different aspects of what defines me.
Find your own songs. Write your own tunes! It may take time for those around you to accept the lyrics in your story, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick up a pen.
So move forward, and make sure to move with intention. There is little room for hesitation. There is no room to blink.
I’m Gabriela Martinez, an Afro-Dominican from North Jersey who relocated to the Midwest. I’m a proud community college graduate who transferred to a 4-year college to receive a Bachelor’s in sociology. Currently, I work as a mentor and career coach for students at a high school on the Southwest side of Chicago.
I have always been passionate about increasing access to educational and economic opportunities for marginalized communities, celebrating diversity, and assisting others in discovering and exploring their full potential.
For me, being Latina means having cultural roots in Latin America either by birth or by blood. It’s something you are no matter what. You can’t become it, and you can’t untie yourself from it.
However, being Latina in the United States has meant turning to the Spanish TV channels to hear my native tongue but having to watch American TV shows to see anyone who looks remotely like me. In my earliest memories, I remember being puzzled when my kindergarten teacher asked me not to speak in Spanish.
I’ve wondered, “Why am I so late to discussions about race?” and “Where is my place in this often Black and white dialogue?” Being Latina in the U.S. meant believing I was race-less because I got to check a box that allowed me to bypass racial questions.
That is, until I was made aware of my race.
Being a light-skinned Afro-Latina in particular meant having a “coming to Blackness” moment where I was made aware of my Blackness by others. It means I’m constantly questioned about and have to explain my identity to everyone. It’s having both Black and Latino people looking at me wondering how I’m going to respond to what they say about the other group.
During the early stages of the pandemic, violence broke out in Little Village, Chicago, against Black individuals from the Latino community. I attended a “Black and Brown” unity rally to show solidarity and address the issue but was sorely disappointed and left early.
One of the speakers exclaimed, “There’s been ‘rumors’ that Black people have been getting harassed in our neighborhood.” They simply blamed it on the media. I know for a fact that there was violence and know of three Black individuals who were fearful of the violence they were hearing about.
The blasé words at the unity rally should have not been the response, however. As Latinos we need to do a few things:
- Realize that although Latino and Black struggles are similar, they are not the same. There is a racial hierarchy in the United States, and we Latinos are not at the bottom. We should not hold a kumbaya moment with others from different racial groups without acknowledging the discrimination and prejudice that exists within and between our communities.
- We need to understand our racial context and educate ourselves about Black, Asian, and Arab Latinos. Their stories have been historically underrepresented and have gone unheard. Reading Being Latino in Christ by Orlando Crespo helped me begin thinking about how Latinos see race and gave me a framework to expand on Latino racial identity.
- Perhaps most importantly, we can disrupt racism in our conversations with family, friends, lovers, and colleagues.
Tomorrow, September 15, begins a month of celebration for us Latinos. Being Latina means enjoying the beautiful diversity that exists within. It’s amazing to be able to connect with individuals from so many different countries who share the same language. In places where there aren’t many Latinos, it’s like finding a long lost family member and having a warm embrace. The food and music are also a plus. As a mentor to college-bound students, I especially enjoy being able to speak Spanish and connect culturally with my Latino students.
As we celebrate our cultural identity, let’s remember to be inclusive within our communities and to stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors facing oppression as well.
Thanks for spending time with us this week at Intersected. We look forward to seeing you next week as we continue celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Don’t forget to click the “follow” button to receive new posts each Monday, and like and share this article with your friends! We appreciate your encouragement in the fight for racial justice and equity.
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