Cultural Wealth and Embracing Afro-Latinidad for Career Success 

According to a 2022 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 6,000,000 Afro-Latinos in the United States. According to Pew, “Afro-Latino identity is a distinct one, with deep roots in colonial Latin America. As a result, it can often exist alongside a person’s Hispanic, racial or national origin identities. The life experiences of Afro-Latinos are shaped by race, skin tone and other factors, in ways that differ from other Hispanics. And though most Afro-Latinos identify as Hispanic or Latino, not all do.” 

The intersectionality of the Afro-Latine identity can lead to challenges in the workplace. Intersectionality, as coined by Kimberlee Crenshaw, is defined as “the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects.”  

However, the intersectionality inherent to Afro-Latinidad is also an asset. It allows you access to cultural wealth and capital, which can be leveraged to create success in the workplace. In 2005, Dr. Tara Yosso created the Cultural Wealth model, defining it as, “an array of knowledge, skills, strengths and experiences that are learned and shared by people of color and marginalized groups; the values and behaviors that are nurtured through culture work together to create a way of knowing and being.” The Cultural Wealth Model features Six Forms of Cultural Capital that students of color have earned to counter the narratives of “cultural deficit,” and to reduce feelings of imposter syndrome in both a collegiate and a professional setting.   

The Afro-Latine identity uniquely positions you with access to forms of cultural capital that will help them succeed in the workplace. While all six forms of cultural wealth are accessible to Afro-Latines, I have identified four forms that directly relate to career success:  

Linguistic Capital: The ability for students to develop communication skills through various experiences as well as to utilize language(s).  

In today’s highly globalized world, bilingualism is an increasingly valuable asset recognized both inside and outside of the workplace. As an Afro-Latine individual, it is common to grow up in bilingual or multilingual environments, where switching between languages becomes second nature. Fluency in multiple languages is a distinct advantage, whether it’s Spanish, Portuguese, English, African dialects, or indigenous languages. Moreover, the ability to code-switch and move effortlessly between languages and dialects enhances adaptability and relatability, essential traits in both personal and professional spheres. Bilingual and multilingual individuals can communicate effectively across barriers that may exist because of language and cultural differences. Speaking multiple languages is a wonderful asset to highlight to prospective companies and employers.  

Navigational Capital: The ability to navigate “social institutions”, where “navigational capital empowers them to maneuver within unsupportive or hostile environments” 

For individuals with multicultural and intersectional identities, navigating social institutions can be particularly challenging. According to Dr. Yosso, “navigational capital is possessing the skills and knowledge necessary to maneuver within unsupportive or hostile environments,” equipping Afro-Latines with the necessary skills. By leveraging understanding of different cultural norms and expectations along with lived experiences, students can effectively navigate complex landscapes and advocate for their needs. Through embracing these multifaceted identities, Afro-Latines defy societal limitations and create pathways to success, challenging barriers and fostering inclusion along the way. Navigational capital can assist you in your workplace environments and help in your career journey. 

Resistant Capital: the ability for marginalized populations to persist and resist in the face of oppression and opposition to become empowered 

There is resilience inherent to the Afro-Latine experience and to Afro-Latinidad. Faced with historical injustices and ongoing challenges, Afro-Latines draw strength from a collective resistance experience. Whether confronting systemic racism, colorism, or socioeconomic disparities, Afro-Latinidad is the persistence in the pursuit of empowerment and social justice. Through acts of resistance, Afro-Latines harness resistant capital to transform adversity into opportunity and change, both in the workplace, in careers, and beyond. 

Social Capital: the network of people and community resources that provide both emotional and advice on how to navigate institutions of oppression 

Afro-Latine individuals access social capital through vibrant networks of community support and solidarity, nurturing spaces of belonging and empowerment. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and other workplace organizations play a pivotal role in providing Afro-Latines with the emotional support and practical resources needed to navigate institutions of oppression. By coming together in social groups, Afro-Latine individuals amplify their voices, advocate for change, and uplift each other in times of need. Through these networks of solidarity, you can harness social capital to dismantle systemic barriers and create pathways to collective liberation and community. 

Afro-Latine identities are unique and intersectional and allow you to stand out in the workplace. Through a better understanding of your cultural capital, you can harness these strengths to thrive within any environment. We celebrate the richness of Afro-Latinidad, affirming the important role of cultural wealth in creating pathways to equity, justice, and liberation for Afro-Latine communities. For career development support, schedule an appointment with our career coaches. For Afro-Latine Students, visit our Latine Affinity Community page and our Black Affinity Community page for more information and resources! 

By Ellenese Espaillat
Ellenese Espaillat