The quote, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change… We need not to wait to see what others do ” by Ghandi; could not be more fitting for journalist, Janel Martinez. A Honduran New York native, Martinez realized early on that Afro-Latinas lacked proper representation in the mainstream media. After being fed up with not seeing women who looked like her in Latina Magazine and Spanish language broadcast television network, Univision, Martinez took initiative and launched ‘Ain’t I Latina?’ In December 2013. A website devoted to the celebration and education of the Afro-Latino heritage, ‘Ain’t I Latina?’ has succeeded in instilling a sense of pride among Afro-Latinas across the country.
“If I could change the perception of one Afro-Latina who didn’t feel as if she had a place, and for her to feel loved after viewing the site, then that’s enough for me,”
Originally a Public Relations major at Syracuse University, Martinez began writing for ‘The Black Voice’. The thrill of writing for her school’s newspaper led Martinez to switch her major to Magazine Journalism. As Syracuse University is a predominantly white institution, Martinez found solace in amplifying the voices of the minority students. “I enjoyed telling the stories that were not being told,” she explains. In 2010, Martinez graduated as a Magazine Journalism and Sociology double major with a minor in African American Studies. Six months after graduating, she landed her first full-time job as a content producer for Black Enterprise. After being promoted to a tech writer position, Martinez began to understand the world of entrepreneurship. Little did she know that this newfound knowledge would indicate her future plans.
In an attempt to promote Afro-Latino representation, Martinez landed an internship the summer after graduating with the digital team of Latina Magazine. She made it a point to stress the importance of diversity among Latinos to the editors but didn’t quite receive the response she was hoping for. Realizing the need for immediate change, Martinez launched ‘Ain’t I Latina?’. Much to her surprise, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “I really believe in what I am doing and the impact this could have,” she says. Although balancing entrepreneurship and a full-time day job takes a lot of work and energy, Martinez is inspired by the women in her family to keep moving forward with her vision. The late Salsa singer, Celia Cruz, also motivates Martinez to continue to fight for the Afro-Latino community. “Celia Cruz was one of the first Latina women who looked like me that I saw on television. I always admired how she was one hundred percent confident in who she was.”
The future of ‘Ain’t I Latina?’ looks very promising, with plans of expanding the team and producing more content, Martinez says the ultimate goal for the website is to change lives. “If I could change the perception of one Afro-Latina who didn’t feel as if she had a place, and for her to feel loved after viewing the site, then that’s enough for me,” she explains. Martinez encourages all M-Lifestyle readers to always believe in the respect you deserve and to just be yourself. “Always stay true to who you are. People resonate with authenticity.”
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