rachel rojas
Rachel Rojas playing “tambores.” (Photo: Rojas Family dance group)

Philadelphia, PA – As Black History Month unfolds, it is crucial to shine a spotlight on the Afro-Latinx community, their invaluable contributions, and the challenges they face. Rachel Rojas, a resilient Afro-Puerto Rican Latina residing in Philadelphia for 36 years, graciously shares her journey, her experiences, and her passion for preserving her heritage.

Discovering Afro-Latinx Identity: A personal journey

Rachel Rojas’ understanding of her Afro-Latina identity was shaped by her family’s diverse background. Growing up in Puerto Rico, she encountered the term “trigueño,” which describes individuals who are neither entirely white nor black. Rachel vividly recalls moments when her family dynamics added layers to her identity. During visits to her paternal grandmother’s house, she and her siblings noticed that their skin color was darker than that of the other side of the family. This childhood experience laid the foundation for Rachel’s understanding of her Afro-Caribbean heritage, recognizing the blend of black, Spanish, and Taíno roots that define her Puerto Rican identity.

Rojas Family dance group after one of their performances. (Photo: Rojas Family dance group)

Navigating challenges with resilience

Despite facing challenges, Rachel Rojas chose resilience over defeat. She recounts an encounter with a teacher who, despite being racially different, accused her of thinking she was white. Rachel’s response reflects her unwavering strength: “I believe that external appearances don’t negate our shared black ancestry. I prefer to rise above societal expectations and showcase the inherent strength in embracing our roots.” Her determination to honor her heritage serves as an inspiration to others, emphasizing the importance of celebrating and preserving Afro-Latina identity.

Rojas Family dance group after one of their performances. (Photo: Rojas Family dance group)

Empowering the community: A journey of cultural preservation

Rachel’s commitment to preserving her culture and empowering her community is evident in her role as the director of the Rojas family group for 27 years. Traveling across the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico, the group focuses on bringing Afro-Latinx roots to diverse audiences. Rachel’s dedication to keeping children engaged in cultural activities served as a way to help young people resist negative influences. Through plays and performances, she instilled a sense of pride in her children, fostering unity within the community and providing an alternative to the pitfalls of the streets and drugs.

As the manager of Mis Viejos Restaurant, Rachel Rojas uses her platform to empower others, inviting women to take pride in their roots and pass on this legacy to their children. “I am proud of our culture and my Afro-Latina heritage,” she points out.

In celebrating Rachel Rojas, we celebrate the strength of embracing one’s heritage and the potential for positive change within communities.

This photo represents the first time that the Flower Show in Philadelphia dedicated the event to an island, specifically Puerto Rico, and to the town of Loiza. The Rojas Family dance group provided the music three times a day throughout the Flower Show. (Photo: Rojas Family dance group)


The 2020 census revealed a profound change in Puerto Rico’s perception of racial identity compared to 2010. The startling 80% decline in individuals identifying as «white» has sparked significant dialogue about identity and race within the 3.3 million-strong population. This dramatic shift has surprised many and ignited diverse theories and discussions. It reflects a broader change in awareness and acknowledgment of heritage, as Puerto Ricans increasingly embrace and celebrate their diverse roots. These census findings are catalyzing a reevaluation of identity across the island.


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