A native of Puerto Rico, Yomaira was raised in Hoboken, NJ, and is a first-generation high school and college graduate. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Figueroa works on 20th century U.S. Latinx Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Afro-Hispanic literature and culture. Her current book project, Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature, focuses on diasporic and exilic Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, and Equatoguinean texts in contact.
On her literary upbringing and the concept of faithful witnessing 3:15-8:40
This cross-genre essay examines how Afro-Latinas in general, and Afro- Puerto Rican women in the diaspora in particular, negotiate race, sex, and belonging within Latinx families and communities. Blending fiction with prose to discuss literary poetics, faithful witnessing, and world-traveling, this piece enumerates historical and contemporary practices of relating across differences that are part and parcel of women of color feminisms, decolonial feminist politics, and anti-colonial histories of struggle and resistance.
Faithful witnessing is a political act and an ethical strategy through which oppressed peoples form coalitions in order to combat systematic oppression. Faithful witnessing is likewise a part of the practice of engaging in relations across difference. (Page 3)
“Let us instead be faithful witnesses to the intimate folds of Afro-Latina becomings and take on the labor of seeing, knowing, and feeling the aches and beauties of Blackness for ourselves and with one another.” (Page 6)
Based on our previous discussions about the colonial history of Puerto Rico, Anti-Blackness within the U.S., how do you interpret Figueroa’s poem?
I was born black and woman and desterrada.
A colonial subject hundreds of years in the making, rebelling and fugitive at every turn.
*Select one person to report back to the group.*
In conversation with scholar Angela Jorge and The Black Latinas Know Collective (BLKC) Figueroa contends that Afro-Latinas face manifold oppressions, and the Black Puerto Rican woman is triply “oppressed because of her sex, cultural identity, and color” and “is further oppressed by the act of omission or absence of literature addressing her needs […] the racialized and gendered dimensions of Afro-Latina life include experiences ranging from “having our Latinidad and Blackness questioned, to dealing with white Latinx standards of beauty that exclude us, to being invisibilized, to being designated as incapable of occupying our places as students, professors, intellectuals, and knowledge producers.” (Page 2)
Have you experienced or have witnessed these dilemmas of Afro-Latinas?