Philadelphia’s Afro Latino Compilations by Sandra Andino, Ph.D
By Donte Kirby
Along the walls of the Du Bois College house, a dormitory at The University of Pennsylvania, a photo gallery created by Sandra Andino, Ph.D., illustrates through audio storytelling and black and white portraits experiences of Afro Latinos living in Philadelphia. Highlighting the importance and beauty of being Afro Latino is a focus and personal mission of Andino.
Andino’s gallery at the University of Pennsylvania showcased ten individuals. For those who missed the exhibit (November 11, 2016 to December 12, 2016), the interviews can be heard and portraits viewed at Andino’s Negraluz site. It is a blog dedicated to showcasing visuals of Latinos of African descent, their heritage, and positive aspects of their ancestry as well as their contributions as change agents throughout the world.
Last December, the University of Pennsylvania was the third stop for the photo exhibit, “The Afro-Latinx Experience: Philadelphia Stories,” curated at North Philadelphia’s Taller Puertorriqueño and South Philadelphia’s Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial. Attendees walked through and listened to the audio interviews through their phones hosted at Andino’s Negraluz site. As portrait subjects speak their stories, attendees gaze at snapshots, possibly imagining the thoughts and experiences of each subject.
The project was originally inspired by a conversation with Andino’s good friend, who is also a subject in the exhibit, Evelyne Laurent-Perrault. As the two shared their experiences as Afro Latinas, Andino realized her story wasn’t unique. From that seed, she interviewed more of her friends about their experiences as Afro Latinos in an effort to highlight the similarities and complexities among Afro Latinos in Philadelphia.
According to Pew research a quarter of Hispanics in the U.S. identify as Afro Latino. Of the 1.5 million people living in Philadelphia 14% are Hispanic according to the U.S. Census. That means there are close to 53 thousand Afro Latinos experiences, providing Andino with a vast pool of untold stories to showcase, which are likely not to be told elsewhere.
By claiming and highlighting being Afro Latino, Andino hopes to break some of the stereotypes and people’s preconceived notions about not only Afro Latinos but also of the humanity of the entire African Diaspora, especially in the Americas (a number totaling 165 million with Latin America, North America and the Caribbean according to the World Bank projections.)
Andino speaks with optimism and authority,
When people see the exhibit she wants them to appreciate and understand the breath of the Afro Latino experience. “There are so many different aspects about being Afro Latino. Each one of these stories has something different to say about culture, about being identified as black in the U.S, and also identifying as Latino. I think that’s a great feeling when you feel like part of what you’ve gone through in your life is validated because you see there are others that think or feel the same way.
“I felt like [The Afro-Latinx Experience: Philadelphia Stories] was important because it also validated my story and the story of being Afro Latina in Latin America, the Caribbean, and also here in the U.S. It’s about trying to find the commonality, through the exhibit. In this case the commonality is our African heritage, ancestry and claiming that ancestry.”