Earlier this month, Afro-Cuban/Dominican singer, writer, and social media maven Juliana Pache was tired of black history only being limited to the United States. There’s no doubt that the accomplishments of African Americans deserve to be celebrated, however Pache felt that Afro-Latinx’s (‘x’ being gender neutral) tend to be left out of the celebration. So she took to twitter and created the hashtag #BlackLatinxHistory where she tweeted about influential Afro-Latinxs. What she didn’t expect was for the hashtag to go viral and for hundreds to join in on the conversation.
Here’s some of what we learned:
Rafael “Chocolat” Padilla
Born in Havana, Cuba into an African family that was enslaved and later abandoned. Padilla then was sold to well-to-do French merchant as a servant. After arriving in France, young Padilla eventually ran away from the merchant and made ends meet by performing in the streets. He was discovered by a British clown performer who took him on as his assistant. Later, another British entertainer known as Footit was impressed by his comic persona and proposed a partnership, which landed them a residency at the world famous Nouveau Cirque.
Francisca da Silva de Olviveira aka “Xica da Silva”
Xica was born in Brazil from a Portuguese man Antônio Caetano de Sá and his enslaved African lover Maria da Costa. After being enslaved by two master’s, she was later sold to diamond mine owner and mining Governor of Arraial do Tijuco, Joao de Oliveira; one of the richest men in Colonial Brazil. The two began a romance and was later freed. They lived together and had 13 children. She became one of the most powerful women in Brazil and colonial America.
Miles Morales “Spider Man”
Created by Marvel Comics in 2011, Miles Morales is a young Afro-Boricua who became the second Spider Man following the death of Peter Parker. He was featured in the Ultimate Comics: Spider Man comic book series.
Celestina & Rafael Cordero
The Cordero’s were brother and sister of three born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to former enslaved African parents who bought their freedom. Although they had little money, their parents instilled the importance of education and taught them how to read and write. Inspired by their parents, the Cordero’s developed a love for teaching and began their mission to educate. Celestina founded the first school for women in San Juan for those who could afford schooling no matter what the race. Rafael opened a free school for all children in his own home.
Rosa “La Bayamesa” Castellanos
Castellanos was born to African enslaved parents in Bayamo, Cuba. In 1868, her family and many other slaves were freed by major cuban land owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes who was fed up with the system. This started The 10 Years War against Spain. At 34 years old, Castellanos joined the Liberation Army to help aid the wounded and sick with knowledge in traditional herbs, as well as sewing together tattered uniforms. She was known to be fierce fighter, participating in battles with guns and her trademark machete to protect her patients. She founded several blood banks in the Camagüey region and eventually opened up the largest Military hospital in Cuba.
Impressed by her medical knowledge and battle skills, General Maximo Gomez appointed her as one of the Captains of the Liberation Army.
Hernandez was born into a poor family in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. He began his music training at the early age of 12 in San Juan. Under the guidance of music professors Jose Ruellán Lequerica and Jesus Figueroa, he learned how to play various instruments such as the violin, piano, and trombone. At 14, he officially moved to San Juan to play in the Municipal Orchestra. After serving in WWI, Hernandez moved to New York City and started a music group. Following a brief success, the group broke up and he went to Cuba to direct the Orchestra of the Faustus Theater in Havana. Three years later he moved back to New York City to start the most successful band of his career, Cuarteto Victoria.
Between the 1956 to the 1959 Hernandez served as Honorary President of the Association of Composers and Authors of Puerto Rico. He was also active in various civic causes and helped to found baseball Little Leagues for Puerto Rican youths.
Gaspar “Nyanga” Yanga
Nyanga was a member of the royal family in Gabon until he was captured and sold into slavery in Mexico. In 1570 he led a band of slaves in escaping and built a small isolated colony in the highlands of Vercruz that remained protected for more than 30 years. Many other run-away slaves also found their way to the colony. They survived by raiding the caravans of goods on the Royal Road. The Spanish later led a group of 550 soldiers to regain control of their territory. Nyanga and his troops had superior knowledge of the terrain and were able to defeat the Spanish. They eventually agreed to Nyanga’s terms, one being that he and his family rule the Veracruz province which is known today as Yanga.
Juan “Jan” Rodriguez
Rodriguez was the first non-Native American to live on Manhattan Island and settle in what is today’s New York City; seven years before the Dutch arrived. He was born in the Dominican Republic to an African mother and Portuguese sailor. Because of his linguistic talents, he was hired by a Dutch captain as a translator when trading with Native American’s on the island of Mannahatta. Rodriguez picked up on the Lenape people’s language and married into the community. He stayed behind with his new family and set up his own trading post. Rodriguez is considered to be the first immigrant all around to settle in Manhattan.
María Elana Moyana
Moyana was an Afro-Peruvian born in the shanty-town on the out skirts of Lima. She was a community organizer who began her activism in her early teens. She gave a voice for the poor who wanted a better life and future. She and others helped create organizations that turned these shanty-towns into livable new cities. Moyana also raised awareness for the exclusion of women and was elected as the president of Federación Popular de Mujeres de Villa El Salvador (federation of women from Villa El Salvador). During her leadership she managed to create public kitchens, health committees, the Vaso de Leche program (which supplied children with milk), income-generating projects, and committees for basic education. Four years later she left her position and was elected as deputy mayor of the municipality of Villa El Salvador. At the age of 34 she was assassinated by the rebel group Shining Path.
Cruz was known as “The Queen of Salsa” and was the most popular Latin artist of the 20th century. She was born in the poor neighborhood of Havana, Cuba and of African descent. Her mother, being a religious woman, was against Cruz starting music career however her aunt would sneak her into cabarets to perform. After winning many local talent shows her mother later encourage her to pursue her career. Cruz gained popularity in Cuba but later moved to the U.S. after the Communist takeover. She made her mark in the U.S. once she joined the Tito Puente Orchestra. Since then she’s had 23 gold albums and is a recipient of the National Medal of Art.
Victoria Santa Cruz
Cruz was an Afro-Peruvian folklorist and musician born in Lima, Peru. She was raised in an intellectually and artistically inclined household. Her mother only spoke Spanish and was a marinera dancer; her father spoke both English and Spanish and was into classical opera and Shakespeare. At a very young age Cruz learned about discrimination due to her dark skin, which made her want to become more in tune with her African roots. She took after her parents in her interest in dance and theater and directed it towards African music and folklore. Eventually she, along with her brother Nicomedes, became the leaders of reviving the Black Arts in Peru. They opened an Afro-Peruvian theater company and Victoria was later known as “the mother of Afro Peruvian dance and theatre.”
Ruth “La Negra de Ponce” Fernandez
Singer and politician Ruth Fernandez was Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. She was the first successful Afro-Puerto Rican female singer and broke many racial barriers and stereotypes. At fourteen she began her professional musical career and was signed to Columbia Records by the age of 22. She bravely challenged the intergration rules at some of the venues she performed at by simply not following them. Fernandez had many “firsts”: she was the first to participate in the first ever televised musical show in Puerto Rico, the first woman to sing in a Puerto Rican orchestra, and the first to sing pop music at the Met Opera House in NYC to name a few. She served in the Senate for the district of Ponce from 1973–1981, and sought reforms for better working conditions, as well as looking out for Puerto Ricans in the U.S.
Florinda “Mamá Tingó” Soriano Muñoz
Mamá Tingó was an African militant leader who fought for the rural farming community in Dominican Republic. Born in Villa Mella, Dominican Republic, she married a farm-worker at the age of 30 and worked on their farm for decades. In 1974 a landowner by the name of Pablo Diaz Hernandez claimed he bought the land of Hato Viejo that she and 350 other poor families had occupied for half a century. Of course he lied but no one was there to represent these families, so Mamá Tingó, at 50 years old stood up to lead the farm-worker’s movement. On the day of the trial, Pablo Diaz Hernandez did not show up and Mamá Tingó was killed later that night. Her legacy won the rights for many families to own their lands.
Mena was born in the village of Quibdo, Choco, Columbia. She started off as the Special Commissioner for Chocó, creating organizations and legally representing African communities in land rights. With out any political background or campaign funding, she became the first woman of African descent elected into congress. During her time in office, she helped implement laws that provided aid for displaced workers in Choco, as well as fighting for women’s rights. In 2011 she was elected Mayor of Quibdo.
In 1843, Yoruba-Cuban abolitionist La Carlota, along with two other leaders, fought for the emancipation of the Triumvirato sugar mill plantation slaves. They communicated with drums which coined the term “the talking drums.” The slave owners assumed the slaves were paying tribute to their African ancestors but they were in for a surprise.
Carlota, a slave woman herself, went up in arms with a machete in hand to battle the oppressor face to face. They burned down the Spanish houses, estates, both the coffee and sugar fields. The rebellion caught on in neighboring counties and Carlota helped break the chains of many slaves. Eventually Carlota was hunted and suffered a horrific execution by the Spanish government.
There’s no doubt that what Juliana Pache did was #blacklatinxhistory of its own. It’s time we educate the masses on the black diaspora. We are global.