BoriquaChicks.com Founders Talk Puerto Rican Cuisine and Afro-Latina Identity
Deep-fried alcapurria (mixed-vegetable and spiced beef fritters), steaming pots of bacalao (fish stew), richly flavored mofongo (fried plantain mashed with pork cracklings and seasoning) and sweet and savory piononos (croquettes or pastries with a meat filling) are Puerto Rican dishes that present a bevy of flavors but also a variety of tradition. This is something that the creators and chief bloggers of the Afro-Latina lifestyle site Boriqua Chicks, Rebecca Dailey-Wooley and Raquel Dailey-Parham, are well aware of.
Raised by their Puerto Rico-born mother and African-American father in a bilingual household, Dailey-Wooley and Dailey-Parham enjoyed traditional Puerto Rican dishes (such as arroz con pollo, pasteles, carne guisada, tostones and plátanos maduros) and spent many summers in Puerto Rico. An early introduction to rich flavors inspired Dailey-Parham to open the Puerto Rican restaurant Maracas in the heart of Chicago's south side Bronzeville neighborhood, an area that's predominately African-American, but not before she and her sister launched the Afro-Latina blog, BoriquaChicks.com
Introduced to the term "Afro-Latino" during adulthood, the two sisters identified as "African-American and Puerto Rican" or "Black Puerto Ricans" since youth, largely because of their parents, who encouraged cultural pride and appreciation, and ingrained self-awareness.
"In the United States, people often think that if you are black, you are African-American. However, there are black people all over the world, such as in Latin America, the Caribbean, etc., who have African roots, but aren't African-American. Many people are not familiar with black Latinos because the media doesn't typically recognize or celebrate black Latinos and Latinas," Dailey-Wooley told Latin Post during an interview.
Dailey-Wooley shared that her mother educating her on her African roots outside of her African-American father's genes and on travels to Oaxaca, Mexico, where she saw Afro-Mexicans populating Pueblos Negros (the Black Villages), introduced her to the connection between Latinos and Africa. If not for that, Dailey-Wooley admitted that she also wouldn't recognize the historic link between Latin American countries and Africa.
The general lack of awareness in the U.S. has promoted the invisibility and misunderstandings of Afro-Latinos. In Chicago, where communities are racially and ethnically divided, it's believed that if you live in a certain neighborhood, or you look a particular way, then "there was no way you could be Latina."
When growing up, chance discoveries that a particular black celebrity was Latino produced delight in the sisters, as there was little media acknowledgement or celebration of the Afro-Latino identity. Boriqua Chicks was launched as hobby to counter the absence of Afro-Latino voices but grew to become a meaningful platform that has inspired others.
"Since Boriqua Chicks launched, there has been a lot of editorial, documentaries, social media channels, and blogs to take on this topic. Some media outlets have openly acknowledged that they were inspired by our work," said Dailey-Parham, who covers the latest entertainment news, highlighting African-American and Latino celebrities, with a focus on Afro-Latinos and Latinas. Hot topic series, such as violence in Chicago, vegan diets and natural hair live alongside stories on entertainment, lifestyle, special events, entrepreneurship and beauty.
Dailey-Parham's restaurant, Maracas, also subtly promotes the idea of Afro-Latino identity by diversifying the restaurant options in an area that lacks Afro-Latino visibility. Authentic Puerto Rican cuisine is provided to patrons; they're offered a "refreshing twist to Caribbean fare," as well as access to workshops, special Caribbean cultural events, live musical performances and the artwork of local artists.
Chicken fricassee and arroz con gandules are favorites at Maracas and come directly from the sisters' cookbook, as it is Dailey-Parham's favorite as well. The restaurant actively combines "family recipes and fresh ingredients to create the best dishes," stated Dailey-Parham, who was a Chicago Public School teacher for seven years before leaving to launch BoriquaChicks.com and work on a business plan for Maracas.
When Dailey-Wooley isn't blogging with her sister, she's developing strategic communication plans, advertising campaigns and grassroots events for numerous brands. After working with Starcom MediaVest Group, Burrell Communications and Johnson Publishing Company, Dailey-Wooley launched Strategic PR Inc., a boutique strategic branding and communications firm that inspires entrepreneurs to maximize their brand's potential.
Additionally, she works with Chicago's youth and recently completed an anti-violence television project, "Taking the 'I' Out of Violence," which allowed inner-city youth to explore solutions to stopping the violence in Chicago. Over the course of one year, she interviewed 100 plus 6th to 9th grade students from the Bronzeville and Englewood communities, gauging their thoughts on stopping violence. Then, Dailey-Wooley led several media workshops on the topic.