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1st Afro-Latino Festival of New York: Bringing people together

Seeking to unite the diverse Afro-Latino populations, Tania Molina, a proud Garifuna, reached out to her friend Mai-Elka Prado, an Afro-Panamanian. Together, the two Afro-Latinas created the 1st Afro-Latino Festival of New York held Saturday, June 29 at Brooklyn’s Parkside Train Station Plaza.p1070970

In the United States of America, there are an estimated 4 million Afro Latinos; the great majority of whom reside in the New York City area. From countries as different as Andean Peru and tropical Cuba, to the Garifuna population of Central America and to the innumerable descendants of Afro-Latinos who may have never set foot in their parents or grandparents homeland, this mega city of 8 million is home to Latin America’s African Diaspora.

Despite the diversity of Afro-Latinos in New York City, when there are gatherings and events, the focus is often on one particular group, nationality or concern like an Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba Performance or an Afro Colombian Land Rights Symposium. Rarely are there events focusing on Afro Latinos as an entire group.

Tania is very clear about her inspiration for the festival, “I used to go to festivals and events but I never saw a representation fully of us. Either the Afro-Cubans were doing something or the Afro-Panamanians were doing something and it was nothing like a collaboration.”

Working my way through the crowds and talking with festival attendees, there was one single sentiment commonly shared. Karen Robergeau, an Afro-Latina from Puerto Limón, Costa Rica echoed the thoughts of many, “I came out because growing up in Brooklyn, unfortunately, I think people are familiar with the images of Latinos that they see in the media which tend to be of a lighter hue, of Caucasian descent. And so for me, growing up, it was always a challenge explaining to people that there is such a thing as an Afro-Latino. So, when I heard there was going to be a festival actually celebrating that, there was no way I could miss it. My heart was overjoyed. Finally, we are being recognized. We are going to get some acknowledgment and a sense of pride. We are here.”

During the Festival’s six hours, hundreds of Afro-Latinos and people of African descent delighted in a performance by Hijos de Agueybana, a Bomba/Plena performance group, savored curry chicken and rice and beans prepared by Afro-Panamanian cook Raquel and were fascinated by Chief Joseph Chatoyer’s Gariguna Folkloric Ballet (the group’s dancers are Garifunas from Honduras & Guatemala). Festival performers, vendors and attendees represented the vast diversity of Afro-Latino cultures, realizing Tania’s vision bringing Afro-Latinos together.

Kim Haas and Tania Molina

Kim Haas and Tania Molina

Acknowledging the Festival’s success, Tania looks forward to next year’s event. Like so many Garifuna, she’s exceptionally proud of her culture and traditions. And in true Garifuna style, she looks forward to sharing the treasures of her culture, especially with Afro-Latino youth. “I’m so blessed that the universe gave me to the womb of my mother. Because being a Garifuna is being a true Afro descendiente. We have our culture, we have our language, the essence of the diaspora. We carry that with a of pride. The drums, the ancestors. We pay a lot of homage to our ancestors. I’m so blessed to be Garifuna. …. We want to have a platform for all the youth, all the kids that are Afro descendiente here in New York, to know and be proud of their African heritage….proud to be Afro-Latino.”


From our Partners at Los Afro-Latinos

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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