She is the first Latina gymnast for the U.S. in more than 10 years. That’s just the beginning.
Laurie Hernandez has proven to be a total powerhouse in gymnastics during the Rio Olympics. But she is more than just a gymnast; to so many people she is an inspiration. The 16-year-old Puerto Rican is the youngest member of the women’s gymnastics team and helped the team secure a gold medal for the second year in a row. Not to mention that she is the first Latina to represent the U.S. in gymnastics in more than 10 years and the fourth in 80 years.
“I feel I could be a role model to other Hispanic gymnasts interested in the sport,” Hernandez told The Guardian. “But I also want them to understand the importance of being focused, determined, and not giving up, despite all the struggles.”
Ricky Martin has long been an international superstar – even long before ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ took over virtually every airway in the world. But it’s hard to deny that with that song, the Puerto Rican singer entered the global mainstream and ever since he’s been a pop icon.
From being one of the first major pop stars to publicly come out as gay, to acting in popular TV series, and getting married and becoming a father of four, Ricky Martin has always been a very busy man.
And despite a global pandemic that has forced all of us to stay at home and find a ‘new normal,’ Martin has forged a path forward. He recently sat down for an interview with Billboard to discuss everything from new music, the global Coronavirus pandemic, and his identity as an out and proud gay Latino.
Considering we’re all still living amid a global pandemic, the Billboard interview started on this very relevant topic.
Billboard points out that Martin and his family live in a very big and beautiful house in Beverly Hills, which likely makes staying at home a bit easier compared to the rest of us. However, Martin points out that he has a very loud home – with four kids and his mom all living under one roof. But he admits, “…I am very lucky. I am in a comfortable home where my kids can play.”
Ricky Martin is also working on new music. He released Pausa in May, and now as he works on new music the world is a very different place. He told Billboard: “I started working on my music maybe nine months ago. In my mind, the album was going to be called Movimiento, which means movement. But with all this [pandemic], it just told me… “The way it was, was not working. Let’s do it differently.” I have music with rhythm, but I was not going to tell people to move! So I named it Pausa.”
He also speaks about his close relationship with fellow Puerto Rican, El Conejo Malo.
Shortly after Billboard released its history-making cover with Bad Bunny on the the cover, Martin described San Benito as a “Latin queer icon.” Many people – of all backgrounds – took issue with that. But Ricky Martin tells Billboard that “allies are so important. Without them, our fight for equality is impossible. It really tickles me to see Bad Bunny as a gay icon — just like Cher could be. Why not?”
The Puerto Rican singer shared what his coming out experience was like and reveals he never tires of sharing it.
In the interview, Martin is very open about his coming out as gay. The singer came out as gay in 2010, married husband Jwan Yosef in 2017, and together the couple is raising four children.
Rolling Stone asked Martin, 48, what it was like to remain closeted during “the most public, exposed period” of his life.
“I had moments of extreme positivity, and not so positive [moments],” Martin answered. “Life was a bit on steroids in those days. Everything was really intense, but I could take it! I come from a school of military discipline when it comes to training for music, dance, and acting. I started when I was 12. So for me, it was about not being ready to open [up]. When you open an egg from the outside, what comes out is death. But when the egg opens from the inside, what comes out is life. It’s something that needs to come from within. Every time someone forces someone to come out, what you’re doing is you’re destroying the natural flow of the self-discovery.”
When asked what motivated him to come out publicly, Martin said that a kid somewhere in America needs to see positive headlines about coming out.
“Today I woke up to this beautiful headline that I know someone out there is in need of. The headline was something like, ‘I came out. And ever since I’ve been the happiest.’ Something like that, something… My heart is beating faster because I know today a kid somewhere in America woke up needing to hear those words. A lot of people say they get tired of talking about the same thing. Why would I? Are you kidding me? For so many years I had to keep it inside. And then the effect of someone… What people are getting from it in their healing process?”
Billboard also asked Martin his feelings on how the media is profiting and accepting Puerto Rican and Latinx culture.
When asked if he feels that the American media has gotten better or more open to understanding Puerto Rican culture, Martin responded: “We certainly have a long way to go, but the important thing is that we see that there’s an audience that is interested. And it’s up to us to bring [the] education.”
And he’s absolutely right. This year has seen several Latino artists rise to the top of all sorts of charts. Bad Bunny and J Balvin are among the most streamed artists globally and Bad Bunny is one of the most streamed artists on YouTube as well.
Meanwhile, Maluma and Jennifer Lopez are working on a film that will be out early next year. The Emmy’s, VMAs, and other award shows finally had decent representation of artists of color – particularly among the Latinx community.
People of all sorts of racial identities and backgrounds exist all over the world. However, many people remain ignorant to the ways in which different cultures and races change and take on new identities – especially as mixed race individuals are so often forced to walk a thin line between their identities.
Now, a popular Tik Toker from Puerto Rico is being forced to defend her identity as a Puerto Rican because trolls are accusing her of cultural appropriation. Although she might not look like what many expect a Puerto Rican woman to look like, Keishla is all about educating her followers and giving a voice to mixed race Puerto Ricans.
TikToker Keishla is being forced to defend her identity as a Boricua simply because she also has Asian heritage.
Mixed race communities and cultures exist everywhere. Facts are facts. But it’s obvious that not everyone is willing to accept these facts. Case in point: Keishla – a very popular TikToker, who is being forced to defend her own identity.
Keishla, who was born and raised on the island in the town of Borikén is obviously of Asian descent but she also claims her Puerto Rican identity with pride. Videos addressing the topic have gone viral and the comments that followed show a widespread lack of understanding about the diversity of race in Puerto Rico and beyond.
Keishla’s parents were born in China and later migrated to Puerto Rico, she explains in several videos. Some users, however, refused to accept the facts.
Keishla has had to deal with many ignorant comments across social media, but she’s got thousands of supporters also.
Ever since she launched her TikTok channel, users have come for Keishla and her identity and many have accused her of cultural appropriation.
While apparently trying to invalidate Keishla’s identity as a Boricua, one user wrote, “Lol u may consider her Puerto Rican but I don’t. Blood is more important than how she acts to me she can copy us but will never be us.”
And in typical Keishla fashion, she had the best response: “I respect your opinion, even though it’s a shitty opinion.”
Despite all the ignorance and trolls, Keishla has also seen an outpouring of support from fellow Boricuas, Latinos, and others among her more than 53,000 TikTok followers. The conversation has even moved over to Twitter, where many are supporting her identity while also addressing the hate from others.
“There’s a whole ass history of Asians in Caribbean culture,” one user wrote.
“Asians worked next to the slaves in the sugar cane fields in Cuba. Cuba has one of the oldest China towns in the Caribbean. So many Caribbean people have Chinese descent. Y’all don’t know how colonization work.”
Keishla is not alone: the Chinese have a long history on the island of Puerto Rico.
Much like the mainland United States, Puerto Rico is a diverse community of cultures and races from all over the world. Anyone in the island or anyone who visits will notice right away that there is a major Asian community. Although it’s particularly conspicuous in the restaurant industry – with the traditional comida criolla – that’s not all. The Chinese community has contributed to Puerto Rico’s culture and economy in many significant ways.
Today, there are tens of thousands of Chinese Puerto Rican’s on the island. And although the most recent Census data only reports Asians as making up 0.2% of the population, many academics believe the count to be much higher.
Chinese migration has a long and varied history in Puerto Rico, with it reaching its peak in the late 1850s to 1880s. Many were fleeing war and economic devastation, and hundreds of thousands made their way to the U.S. – including Puerto Rico.
Some of these Chinese immigrants went instead to the Caribbean, though—some first to Cuba, where they were incarcerated due to labor revolts, then to Puerto Rico, where they served their sentence in what was essentially slave labor, working on major infrastructure projects.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with Keishla? Let us know in the comments.