The Bannan Controversy of Latina Identity and Appropriation

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan Controversy BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of the NY Post.

Identifying as Latino can mean a variety of cultures, countries, and colors. People ask who is a real Latino, and, to be completely honest, there is no right or wrong answer. 

In America, Latinos are the largest ethnic population, which equates to millions of people.

Many people have taken on the task of describing what makes up Latin American descent. In a 2020 report by the Pew Research Center, people said it is a matter of personal choice. However, a new controversy unveils problems with identifying as Latino and being accused of appropriating an ethnic/racial community. 

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan was a well-known Latina civil rights activist attorney in New York City. She was involved with advocacy group LatinoJustice PRLDEF as a senior counsel and the National Lawyers Guild president. She partook in anthologies of Latina writers and published articles on a Latin base website in 2017, as well as in a video for Voice Latina where she said she was a ‘cultural mix of Puerto Rican, Colombian, Italian, and some other.”

After all that, a news website called Prism Reports said that Bannan was not Latina. Records shown by senior reporter Tina Vazquez from Prism Reports said Bannan was raised in Georgia and had Italian, Irish and Russian heritage, with no Latin descent in sight. 

On January 10, Bannan made a statement to her Facebook page saying, “I was exposed to and raised in the Latino culture starting at the age of five years old when my Colombian stepfather came into my life. … From that point forward, my family and culture shaped my identity.”

She explained it was what she grew up with, though she had no biological trace to Latin American roots, and offered apologies. 

Since then, LatinJustice PRLDEF president and general counsel, Juan Cartagena, said, “We cannot accept actions that displace Latinos and Latinas, including within our own movement. Ms. Bannan’s actions, regardless of intent, have caused harm not only to those who were displaced by her role in the movement but also to those who have been her allies and collaborators.”

In a different statement by Cartagena, he said her work was reassigned to other counsel. Her membership to the National Lawyers Guild was suspended and is pending an accountability review. 

All this to say, be clear to the public of where you come from and why. Because passing off as a certain race for clout is just not acceptable these days, especially when you’ll most likely get caught.