Black History Month may be coming to a close but we always love to celebrate the many black Latinas who are out there making us proud.
Ilia Calderón is the first Afro-Latina anchor to regularly appear on the weekday evening news for a major broadcast network in the U.S. Although the historic announcement made headlines in November, she officially took over for María Elena Salinas on Noticiero Univision in December and has been reporting alongside the legendary Jorge Ramos since.
The transition from late-night to prime-time marks an important milestone for the visibility of Afro-Latinos in television. She says to NBC, "I’m not gonna lie, I think it is hard. We are a minority within a minority, so the representation is not there." The Colombiana also hopes that Univision sets the standard for other media companies in placing Black Hispanics in positions where they can succeed.
A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that Afro-Latinos make up about a quarter of Hispanics in the United States, yet these numbers have not translated into proportional representation on-air at Spanish language television stations. An example of this is when the then-called Fusion Channel premiered in 2013 and was aimed at young Latinos but was criticized for being "too white."
Apart from the lack of representation, both Latin American and American society send conflicting messages about Afro-Latino identity and race. Pew reported that, when asked directly about their race, only 18 percent of Afro-Latinos identified as black. Higher percentages of Afro-Latinos identified themselves as white or as Hispanic. Nine percent of Afro-Latinos identified as mixed-race. Experts believe that these seemingly paradoxical figures show that Afro-Latinos are still struggling with gaining acceptance from African-Americans, Latinos, and themselves.
Calderón has not shied from venturing into controversial situations. Last year, in an interview with a KKK leader in North Carolina, the bold journalist was called the N-word, a “mongrel,” among other racial slurs and directly threatened. The KKK leader then told her she was the first black person “or whatever you want to call yourself” to step on his property in over 20 years.
On the other hand, Calderón believes that Afro-Latinos in broadcasting will have many more opportunities. “This is not about me,” she tells NBC. “This is about doors that can open for others… The most important thing would be for me to see others hired for what I am doing. I hope it happens for others, and I hope I am not the only one for long.”