Black History Month is a celebration of Black American achievement in the United States. Since 1976, February has been designated by every U.S. president as Black History Month, and other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, have also devoted months to recognize Black history as well.

We want to honor Black History by recognizing a few Afro-Latino trailblazers who have broken barriers in the U.S. and across the world.

Celia Cruz – Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso was a Cuban Afro-Latina known as the “Queen of Salsa.” Her career spanned over six decades and was one of the few women to dominate in the male-dominated salsa world. She has recorded over 80 albums and songs, earned 23 golden records, won five Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Billboards Latin Music hall of Fame in 1994. Her legacy lives on through her music and trailblazing triumphs, serving as an inspiration for all.
Dr. José Celso Barbosa – A physician and politician, Dr. José Celso Barbosa was one of the first people of Puerto Rican and African-descent to receive a medical degree in the U.S. Before medical school, he began his education at a prestigious Jesuit seminary school and upon graduating, Dr. Barbosa would help tutor students in private to help save them money for college. He founded the Republican Party in Puerto Rico and advocated for statehood, making him known within Puerto Rico as the “father of Statehood for Puerto Rico movement.” He served as a member of the Executive Cabinet and Senate until his passing. He also established Puerto Rico’s first bilingual newspaper, El Tiempo.
Gwen Ifill – Television journalist, news anchor, and author, Gwen Ifill was born of Panamanian and Barbados descent, serving as the first Black Afro-Latina to moderate a vice presidential debate. She was one of the first Black Afro-Latinas to host nationwide television affairs and worked for The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC, and PBS. She has won many awards, including the George Foster Peabody Award and the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award. Before her passing, she published The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama in 2009.

Ariana DeBose – Actress, singer, and dancer, Ariana DeBose, is a triple-threat Broadway star, making history as a queer Afro-Latina Oscar Nominee for her performance as “Anita” in West Side Story. Following in the footsteps of Rita Moreno, she has won the Golden Globe for her role as “Anita,” with a promising Oscar future ahead of her. She is a Tony-nominated actress, having played Donna Summer in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” and featured in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix Movie, “The Prom,” alongside Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. She continues to make history and showcase Afro-Latino pride across the country.

There is no one way to be Latino, Black, Afro-Latino, or any race—for this reason, we must lift each other’s voices and recognize the greatness we bring together as a community. We are grateful to our community of trailblazers and choose to celebrate Black History Month today and every day.

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Brenda Nicole Peña
Brenda Nicole Peña is a Latin Babbler Team Contributor. Her career has revolved around nonprofit communications work. She is a first-generation college graduate—Alumna of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas at Austin. Brenda has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in public relations and Book Author of “The Adventures of Jack Jupiter in ‘Where’s Rocket?” and “Three,” a coming-of-age novel.