Celebrating Latino Leaders: Addys Maria Castillo, M.S., M.P.A.
“I hope that my legacy shows how valuable it is to have a commitment to ensuring that all children have a nurturing and safe forever home.”
Addys Maria Castillo, M.S., M.P.A.
Executive Director, Citywide Youth Coalition, Inc.
Hometown: Carolina, Puerto Rico
As early as the age of seven, Addys Castillo questioned her racial identity, despite growing up in Puerto Rico.
“I was told that I was too dark to be Latina,” Addys remembers. “So for me, I learned to embrace my blackness more so than my Latinidad until my twenties.”
However, Addys has been able to embrace the African diaspora that is being Latino and to forgive the fair-skinned Latinos who she felt rejected her.
“I recognize that even in this day and age, there's a certain level of anti-blackness within the Latino community,” Addys explains. “Most of the time Latinos that look like me won't identify as Latino. They will identify with their blackness before they identify with their ethnicity. I, on the other hand, I can't be one without the other and nor do I feel like I need to choose.”
Addys says the conversations around being Afro-Latino are just starting to come to the surface.
“When you have conversations about even recognizing your blackness, most Latinos will deny it because they equate blackness with being an African-American,” Addys explains. “We were all assimilated on the island, Manifest Destiny was real for us. We were told when you come to the mainland, the last thing you want to be considered is ‘black’. So, it's not by accident that the Latino community and the Black community, even here in the city of New Haven feels very splintered.”
Addys works in New Haven as the Executive Director of the Citywide Youth Coalition, Inc. (CWYC) by day. By night, she is an Anti-Racist Community Organizer. She is also a Core Trainer for The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond who facilitates Undoing Racism/Community Organizing Workshop locally and around the country.
“I came into CWYC specifically with the desire to organize,” Addys says. “I didn't know that the coalition was founded under the idea of grassroots organizing. It was done by people in the community who wanted to make sure that the city was doing its due diligence to provide services for young people.”
With Addys’ background, she is excited that the Progreso Latino Fund is starting to examine what Latinidad is and feels that those conversations are necessary.
“I want the Progreso Latino Fund to thrive,” Addys says. “We have a legacy of service and we are quick to take care of our own. I just want us to start thinking about who are the people that are our own and be a little more inclusive of people who look like me.”
Despite her identity struggles growing up, she has learned to embrace both cultures wholeheartedly.
“In order to tell my story, I have to tell it from a place of honesty and for me, it's always been a love-hate relationship,” says Addys. “I love my Latinidad. I love it. I love the fact that English is my second language and I can still speak Spanish and to me, Puerto Rico will always be home.”