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File photo of two Afro-Latina models, an ethnic profile whose identity is given new visibility by two Afro-Latina bloggers, Ada Rojas and Rocio Mora, with their coast-to-coast tour "Rizos on the Roaz." EFE
File photo of two Afro-Latina models, an ethnic profile whose identity is given new visibility by two Afro-Latina bloggers, Ada Rojas and Rocio Mora, with their coast-to-coast tour "Rizos on the Road." EFE

Rizos On The Road: two bloggers use coily hair to talk about Afro-Latino identity

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Two Latina bloggers have just made a coast-to-coast tour of the United States, and with the excuse of talking about their coily hair, have brought Afro-Latino culture out of anonymity across the US.

Since April, Ada Rojas and Rocio Mora have traveled to six cities around the country - Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York - driving their Kia provided by the automaker sponsoring their tour dubbed "Rizos (Coily Hair) On The Road."

However, though the excuse for the tour had been to talk about the "problem" of tightly coiled hair, Rojas and Mora used it to expose the limited stereotypes that exist about what it means to be a Latina.

"In the United States there are many people with coily hair, but they don't appreciate it. Because when we were young there weren't many people with tightly coiled hair we could identify with," Mora told EFE.

"But the situation is changing and we wanted to go through with this project in order to talk about Afro-Latino culture in the United States," she said.

Her companion on the tour added that one of the main reasons for the tour was the lack of diversity in the Latino community as represented in the US media.

"One of our goals has been to speak more about the representation of Afro-Latinas because, as you can see on the news or in telenovelas, all the Latinas you ever see have straight hair. And we Latinas are not all the same," Rojas said.

"With the tour we were speaking to Latinas about their diversity," she said.

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Rojas y Mora repesent a growing movement to raise awareness in the Afro-Latino community about its role in society. And about its visibility.

The Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University, dedicated to the history and culture of descendents of Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean, says that "over 90 percent of the Africans forcibly imported into the Americas went to Latin America and the Caribbean, half of them to the Spanish and Portuguese colonies."

"During the last few decades, Afro-Latin Americans have created numerous civic, cultural, and community organizations to demand recognition, equality and resources," the institute says on its Web page.

Mora and Rojas also acknowledge that the voice of Afro-Latinos in general, and of Afro-Latinas in particular, is being heard more thanks to social networks.

They themselves are talked about in the community thanks to their blogs "All Things Ada" and "RisaRizos."

Rojas acknowledges that her family never spoke about their African origins.

"With my experience in the United States," she said, "I've been able to educate my family. We have African roots, I have caramel-colored skin. It's something my family doesn't talk about and some can even be a little embarrassed."

"But what Rocio and I are doing is to speak with pride about that part of our culture," Rojas said. jcr/cd

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