10 Famous Afro-Latino Singers and Celebrities You Can’t Miss
Looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month?
This article highlights the historic achievements and remarkable stories of Afro-Latino figures.
Today, we’re focusing on creative Afro Latinas like Celia Cruz and black Spanish singers such as Rafael Bou Lemus who transformed the world through their artistic expressions.
Keep reading to discover 10 famous Afro-Latino singers and celebrities you won’t want to miss!
What Does Afro-Latino Mean?
Afro-Latinos are people from Latin American countries with African ancestry.
Oftentimes, people refer to Afro-Latinos as just “African” or “Latino.” However, this simplification does not entirely explain their unique cultural and ethnic background.
Luckily, the Afro-Latino identity is swiftly gaining strength. Recently, the University of Puerto Rico created the first Afro-descendant program on the island!
Black History in Latin America
Between 1502 and 1866, European colonists brought millions of slaves from Africa to the New World.
One of the few things that these slaves could take with them was their culture. They tried to preserve their traditional music, dance, and religion as their way of life molded with those around them.
Latin American countries quickly found themselves becoming a melting pot of indigenous peoples, European colonists, and African slaves. In fact, Brazil now has the largest population of African people outside of the African continent.
West African music diffused itself into indigenous and Spanish melodies to create the rhythms we know today.
There are tons of famous Afro-Latino singers who mastered this type of music. Cumbia, bachata, mambo, and son jarocho are just a few examples of Afro-Latino music and dance that they uncovered!
10 Famous Afro-Latinos Who Made History
There are thousands of incredible Hispanic musicians, famous Latin American singers, and talented Latino visual artists who have African ancestry.
Here are 10 black Latinos who made waves across the world in the name of justice, diversity, and art!
Female Latina Singers With African Ancestry
1. Celia Cruz
It’s no surprise that fans refer to Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz as the “Queen of Salsa Music.”
The three-time Grammy Award winner shocked audiences with her soulful songs and electrifying style. Cruz painted herself with bright sequined dresses, colorful wigs, and high heels. Her flamboyant style is so famous that the Smithsonian Institution acquired a pair of her shoes!
From being the first black lead singer in the La Sonora Matancera orchestra to singing with the Latin opera at Carnegie Hall, this bright personality made her mark on history.
Surprisingly, however, young Cruz never dreamed of becoming a performing singer. One of the top Latin singers actually wanted to be a literature teacher! Yet, after winning a talent show for her musical talent, Cruz left her educational quest to pursue a new passion for music.
2. Jhené Aiko
Love and hip hop Afro Latina star Jhené Aiko recently came to fame for her head-turning vocals in the music group B2K.
This young Afro-Dominican artist is now a six-time Grammy nominee and a top R&B star. Aiko sold over 2,000,000 copies of her songs “Sativa,” “The Worst,” and “While We’re Young.”
In an interview with Byrdie, the singer-songwriter explained, “I’m motivated by life. And when my fans come up to me and say how my music or poetry has helped them, or that they can relate. It just makes me feel like I have people who are listening and that my work is really helping.”
Afro-Latino Male Singers
3. Aloe Blacc
Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, better known as Aloe Blacc, is a songwriter, musician, and philanthropist!
Meringue and salsa are in Blacc’s blood thanks to his Panamanian parents. His musical childhood set him on the path to create successful singles like “The Man” and “I Need a Dollar.”
This African-Panamanian performer does more than sing! Blacc received his degree in linguistics and psychology from the University of Southern California. Undoubtedly, these cultural and behaviorism studies are what inspired him to use his dynamic platform to push for positive social and legislative change.
Besides being a most famous Latino singer, Blacc actively promotes the charity Malaria No More. This deadly disease is one of the most severe public health problems worldwide. Thankfully, the work and dedication of people like Blacc have cut the number of deaths from malaria in half in the last decade.
4. Rafael Bou Lemus
Singer Rafael Bou Lemus usually goes by his stage name: El Individuo.
This Afro-Cuban artist uses his mixed heritage for artistic inspiration. His Cuban side encourages him to explore styles like reggae and dancehall while his African ancestry sparks topics of race and self-love.
African American and Afro-Cuban icons greatly shaped Rafael’s unique Caribbean music style. History makers like Malcom X and Cuba’s Partido Independiente de Color enabled Lemus to create a deeper connection with his blackness.
The lyrics of “Mi Raza” explore El Individuo’s personal ethnic history. Listen to this potent song along with his other AfroRazones hip-hop and R&B tracks to discover the flow of underground Latin American rhythm mixed with the beats of Havana.
5. Laz Alonso
The career of previous Wall Street banker Laz Alonso took a sharp turn into the acting industry.
Now, you can watch him perform on the big screen in popular movies like Avatar and Fast and Furious. But, Alsonso does a lot more than act. This activist also proudly advocates for more diverse storytelling in Hollywood.
This Afro-Cuban explained to Revolt that “When we have Black people writing the stories, producing the stories, directing the stories, acting in the stories, you’re gonna get a more culturally relevant take.”
Giving narrative to a diverse representation of Black culture puts African-Americans in the driver’s seat of the Hollywood car.
6. Skai Jackson
Disney actress Skai Jackson began her acting career at just five years old!
This Afro-Honduran’s debut novel, Reach for the Skai, inspires its readers to follow their dreams.
7. Victor Cruz
Former NFL wide receiver Victor Cruz made a name for himself in football.
Before playing for the New York Giants, this Afro-Puerto Rican had a hard time staying on his college football team. Between getting redshirted from the team and kicked out of university for poor test scores, Cruz struggled to combine college and football. Nevertheless, he persisted.
He took classes at a local community school to boost his grades. He got back into university and not only played football, but also got his BA in Afro-American Studies.
In 2011, Victor Cruz went on to have his first full year with the New York Giants. During this same year, he helped the Giants achieve victory in the Super Bowl!
8. Mariah Carey
If you enjoy the Christmas season, chances are you know a song or two by Mariah Carey!
This Queen of Christmas is famous for her holiday hits like “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Oh Santa!”. Don’t wait for the holidays—listen to one of Carey’s magical melodies today!
Afro Artists with Hispanic Heritage
9. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Throughout his short life, Basquiat managed to create approximately 1,000 paintings and more than 2,000 drawings. He was also a linguist who spoke Spanish, French, and English!
This artistic advocate portrayed Black experiences and history through his art. While many of his paintings carry heavy topics and sad stories, they also celebrate Black art, poetry, tradition, and music.
A recurring symbol in his artwork, Basquiat used a crown to adorn Black characters. This golden emblem was a metaphoric way to raise historically disenfranchised artists to a royal status.
10. Josefina Báez
Dominican artist Josefina Báez is an actress, writer, director, and educator.
Báez left the Dominican Republic at age 12 to move to New York with her parents. Her bicultural and multilingual experiences greatly influence her artistic work and festival performances.
For example, she describes home to SX Salon 29 as, “that is that is always present. I prefer to dwell in not what I have lost but what I have gained—what it has given me. Migration is not a burden, I am a builder.”
Speaking of building, this Afro-Latina even created her own theater troupe! This globally conducted theater troupe, Ay Ombe, performs in multiple theater festivals and workshops throughout the year.
You can learn more about Báez by studying her insightful collection in the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute.
The Far-Reaching Impact of Afro-Latino People
Clearly, there is no shortage of talented Afro-Latinos. Famous Afro-Latino singers and artists continue to bring diversity and culture to the world’s front page.
Despite the challenges that racism and injustice pose, these celebrities made waves in their industries. From winning the Superbowl to combating deadly diseases, these black Spanish singers and celebrities let nothing stand in the way of their dreams.
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