Photo Credit: Katlen Nascimento
What It's Like Being An Afro-Latina Living In Spain's Canary Islands
Katlen Xavier do Nascimento is a personal trainer and a fitness model who was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 32-year Afro-Latina currently lives in Spain’s Canary Islands, where she is working in the fitness industry.
She has lived there since 2014, after ending up in Tenerife— the largest and more populous island of the Canary Islands— after a tour around Europe as a professional dancer.
“In Brazil, I worked as a professional Samba dancer and I went to Spain with a group to promote Brazilian culture in Europe. I visited many places, but when I landed in Tenerife, I decided to live here after receiving an offer to work as a professional samba dancer at events. It wasn’t a choice, it was an opportunity that I saw could work, and I decided to take a risk,” she told Travel Noire.
Accepting this job offer made Nascimento start to feel at home, even though she had to battle with some language barriers and different aspects of local culture.
“I loved the food, the sun, the beaches and the people. Also, I wanted to have better professional opportunities that I didn’t have while I was in Brazil. Here in Spain, I met my husband and started a new career as a personal trainer.”
Katlen said she has grown as a person, and she’s been able to meet people from other countries and cultures.
“Spain is very multicultural. There are Africans, Latin Americans and people from other parts of Europe and Asia. This is the best thing about living abroad.”
She also said that meeting more people of African descent helped her increase her embrace her African roots and learn more about her ancestral origin.
“Thanks to my African friends here in Spain’s Canary Islands, I’m even prouder to be a Black woman because of these connections with the people from the African continent.”
But, being an Afro-Latina living in the Canary Islands is not that easy, as Nascimento attests. Although she was able to find a new career as a personal trainer, racism and sexism have also played a role against her in this European country.
“Even if you have citizenship and are eligible, getting a job is kind of complicated if you are an Afro-Latino woman here in Spain. There is a lot of racism and sexism as the country still keeps its conservative values high. I’ve had to face some humiliation here.”
Despite having to deal with those issues, Nascimento emphasizes that she is happy in Spain. Besides working as a personal trainer, which had a setback due to the pandemic, she is also an Instagram fitness model. She has 50,000 IG followers.
“Making my dreams come true, and working in a career that I love is awesome.”
Now, she said she is pursuing a dream of becoming a recognized name within the fitness industry in Europe.
“I am working to be recognized as an Afro-Brazilian fitness model competitor in Europe. I’m fighting against the invisibility that exists within the field here in Spain. This is my next challenge.”