Photo via alyciadelsol/Instagram

In the past, Hollywood hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to portraying Afro-Latinos onscreen. Typically, Afro-Latino actors must check one box: African-American or Latino. But now, thanks to actors like Alycia Pascual-Peña, all that is changing.

Alycia Pascual-Peña is not a household name yet. But chances are, you’ve seen her pop up on your screen during in the past year.

Alycia Pascual-Peña starred in 2020’s “Saved By the Bell” reboot as the fun-loving Aisha Garcia. Now, she’s starring in the hit Netflix movie, “Moxie”.

A quick Google search of Alycia Pascual-Peña will return a list of auto-filled questions. “What is Alycia Pascual-Peña’s ethnicity?” “What is Alycia Pascual-Peña’s age?” Obviously, people are curious about the 21-year-old actress of Dominican descent. And with good reason. Alycia Pascual-Peña is different.

The two major roles that Alycia has starred in in the last year have been Afro-Latina characters. But the writers didn’t originally create the roles that way. In fact, her “Saved by the Bell” character was re-written to be Latina when producers overheard her speaking Spanish on set.

“[The roles] simply became that because I was a part of projects that really respected my voice and committed themselves to portraying diverse multi-dimensional women,” she recently told PopSugar.

Yes Alycia’s presence in Hollywood has created more Afro-Latina characters on screen. But there is still work to do.

Alycia Pascual-Peña is blunt about how few roles there are out there specifically written for people like her. “Typically as an Afro-Latina, I can still firmly say within my years acting…I’ve only seen about two roles that specifically asked for an Afro-Latina,” she revealed to PopSugar.

This phenomenon is frustrating. And because of this reality, many Afro-Latina actresses like Zoë Saldaña, Rosario Dawson, and Gina Torres have their Latino identities erased on screen. Often, Hollywood forces Afro-Latina actresses to play stereotypes of what they believe Black women are.

As an Afro-Latina in Hollywood, Alycia knows how harmful these generalizations are.

“For so long, people [have] wanted me to pick what I ‘truly’ am because they want me to fit in one box,” she told Teen Vogue.

“I’ve had to be resilient. There have been moments where I felt like there is no space for me in this industry, because, still to this day, there are no roles written for Afro-Latinos.”

Alycia Pascual-Peña hopes that she’ll be able to nudge the entertainment industry towards more inclusive storytelling.

“I’m praying to see more stories that include Afro-Latinas and be respected for our complexity and our community,” she recently said.

And in her Teen Vogue interview, she revealed that she has bigger plans that transcend acting. “It’s always been a goal to write and produce because, at the end of the day, they’re the ones who have the jurisdiction of really navigating where the stories go,” she said.

“I want to tell nuanced stories about Afro-Latina women. We have to make a way for ourselves.”