Naima Alvarado, the First Latina Author, Tells People She’s Latina

For one award-winning Black L.A. author, light skin was no refuge. “People were surprised when I started telling people I was Latina,” says Naima Alvarado. “They didn’t know, before then, that I have a…

Naima Alvarado, the First Latina Author, Tells People She’s Latina

For one award-winning Black L.A. author, light skin was no refuge.

“People were surprised when I started telling people I was Latina,” says Naima Alvarado. “They didn’t know, before then, that I have a Latina grandmother, as well as all my grandmothers. My husband was the first one who told everyone I was Latina. They didn’t realize it, but I was already telling all the people I love that I am Latina, and that my mother is Mexican, and my father is African, and my great-grandmother was Spanish.”

“I never heard anything about what I was,” she says. “I didn’t hear until I was already married and I had children. And then I went to a different school system, and I started to feel like I wasn’t. My friends didn’t call me ‘Latina’ because I could read, and they were already in their teens and never learned to speak Spanish at home. If there was a Spanish word for a part of the body I might as well have grown it on my own. It never felt like I was a woman, it never felt like I was able to be anything.”

When she was 16, Alvarado became the first person of color to be published in the Spanish-language edition of the magazine she had penned.

That’s more than a decade after the first Latina author, Latina writer and poet Octavio Paz, sent around her first typewritten manuscript, called “In Search of Myself,” to the publishers of La Voz, the magazine that he had written for for nearly 25 years, in the pages of New York City in the 1970s.

The publishing industry was still a male-driven world.

Paz, who was born in Cuba in 1928, and worked as an editor for the English, Spanish and Portuguese editions of the magazine, would publish her poem in La Voz, and then later, her book, “Latino in America,”

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