Talking about identity and diversity in the Latinx community has become a thorny issue over the months. Afro-Latinidad and endogenous racism in our community have brought to the table a long-overdue debate about anti-blackness and the refusal of many to accept it as a reality.
There is no better way to address this issue for Afro-Latinx comedian Aida Rodriguez than with honesty and humor.
“I didn’t know I was half Dominican until I got older,” the comedian Aida Rodriguez said from the stage at the Stateside Theater. “They broke it to me like it was bad news.”
Amidst laughter from the audience and the silences that only good comedians know how to spin, Aida Rodriguez, tackled the identity crisis of our community through autobiography.
The daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father, Rodriguez arrived in Miami at the age of 3 from Santo Domingo after her mother left her father. As the New York Times recounts, she grew up with her Puerto Rican side of the family, thinking she was just Puerto Rican. It wasn’t until this year, when she reunited with her father for the first time, reconnecting with her Dominican roots.
“It’s hard to see things that are a part of you that you don’t remember that well,” Rodríguez told the NY Times before the opening of her new comedy special at the Moontower Comedy Festival in September 22.
The special “Fighting Words” is now airing on HBO Max and is described as a “hilarious, no-holds-barred exploration of identity and family.”
Nothing closer to what we Latinos live 24/7. For Rodriguez, however, the genesis of her new special had to do with a collision of circumstances.
“I got this special before COVID. I had gotten my deal with HBO Max in 2019, and then COVID hit,” she told The Grio. “But you know, when it’s like for us, this collective trauma that we experienced and specifically people of color, Black people in this country, we were dealing with COVID. We were dealing with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor. The list goes on.”
“All of these things were happening at one time and watching our communities being ravaged by this pandemic, this virus, in the worst way…and me figuring out how I can show up in the world as a stand-up comedian at this moment and try to offer some healing and use what I have to try to sort some of this stuff out,” she continued.
Rodriguez shared that the special was “cathartic” for her as she was told time and again in her career that this would “never happen” for her.
“I get my first comedy special. People told me that would never happen because of my gender, my or my ethnicity, and my age, and I get it,” she said. “And then coronavirus hit, and we all sat down, and the future looks so bleak. I [didn’t] know when this was going to happen. And so I just made a decision to start writing and documenting what was happening at the moment.”
The actress and comedian’s resilience led her on a journey toward acknowledging her Afro-Indian roots, reclaiming her origins, and healing from the generational trauma that comes with it.
Needless to say, “Fighting Words” is a must-see show, and you can watch it streaming on HBO Max.