Afro Latin sisters now have a home on the Net thanks to enterprising Panamanian, Mahogany Kinell. Mahogany set up website Revista Caoba to cater for Spanish-speaking women of African descent like herself who, while embracing their blackness on a universal scale needed something specific to their own unique needs.

“I always searched for a medium in which I could identify,”

Mahogany says. “Conventional magazines have very little or nothing for us when it comes to hair care or beauty. I found magazines catered for black women in English, French and even Portuguese but none in Spanish. So I decided to do it myself since I was sure that many women out there felt left out, just like me, especially in our countries where we are considered a minority.”

Caoba was launched in 2006 and today receives thousands of visitors a month from all over the world including Spain, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina. On the site there are articles about fashion, beauty and hair care but there’s also a section dedicated to embracing African heritage in every corner of Latin America through art, dance, music and history. It’s about empowerment as much as anything else. “The web is a fantastic way to reach people globally. Many readers send messages thanking us for the initiative, for remembering them, for existing. It’s been a beautiful journey so far, and we are just starting.”

Clutch: Why did you decide to set up Revista Caoba?
Mahogany: Revista Caoba was created based on my own need. I was always searching for a magazine where I could find beauty and hair care tips for me. I managed to find several in English, French and even Portuguese but none in Spanish. I could imagine that there were many black Hispanic women out there who also wanted to feel included and empowered, women who wanted to learn about hair and skin care, how to wear make up, but also how to develop their careers and to look forward to a bright future. I also wanted Caoba to be a connecting point for the Afro Latin community where we could interact and learn from each other. After 3 years I’m convinced this goal has been achieved.

Clutch: What does Revista Caoba mean and why did you decide to call it that?
Mahogany: Revista Caoba is Spanish, “Revista” meaning Magazine and “Caoba” meaning Mahogany. I chose the name because of its meaning. Mahogany is a very fine wood and our slogan is “Color con clase,” which means “Classy color.” I wanted Caoba to represent our community in the most positive way, to end the stereotypes that have been assigned to us by society. Our team work hard to provide interesting articles in a professional format, while always keeping the essence and values of our community.

Clutch: Who is your main readership? Where do they come from?
Mahogany: Caoba readers are mainly women between 18 and 35 years old, but teenagers as well as women over 50 are also part of our family. We have readers from all over the world. The majority come from Spain, or are Spanish immigrants from Colombia, Mexico, Panama and the US. But we’ve received messages from people from so many places: Ecuador, Curacao, Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, China, Argentina, Bolivia, Zaire… We truly feel that Caoba caters for the Afro Latin community on a global scale. Since Caoba is not only about beauty and fashion, but also about culture and empowerment, many men are also part of our circle of readers. That is why we have created a Men Zone where we also give them tips about grooming, fashion and how to be a gentleman!

Clutch: What are the main features of the site?
Mahogany: Caoba consists of four main sections. Chic y Guapa features articles about beauty and skin care, hair care, make up and fashion. In Culture Club you’ll find articles about cultural expressions of our community in the form of art, literature, dance, music, film as well as history. Estilo de Vida (Lifestyle) is all about health and fitness, but it also includes a very popular section called “Mente Positiva” (think positive), which has many inspirational articles. Mundo Actual covers topics such as news reports, tips on how to boost your career and be on top of your finances, as well as information about the different Afro descendant communities in Latin America.

Clutch: What kind of feedback have you had from readers?
Mahogany: The feedback has been favorable from the beginning, especially since we added the option to add comments on each article. We’ve received hundreds of “thank you” messages from men and women around the world. They are happy that we exist, that we care about them and they love the format. They feel truly identified and also part of the family. Everyday we receive motivating words from our readers and it feels great. It’s good to know that your hard work is appreciated. They send us ideas and suggestions and always encourage us to keep on going since we make them proud.

Clutch: What direction would you like to take the site in in the coming year?
Mahogany: We would like to launch a printed version, a real magazine that our readers can look forward to receiving and exploring. Many readers have asked us for it so we want to give it a try. We hope to receive enough support from advertisers and investors who believe in our cause and who will visualize the potential of this project. Also, we would love to feature Caoba in other languages.

Clutch: Tell us about the Afro Latin community. What would you like people to know?
Mahogany: The Afro Latin Community is huge and quite unknown by many people. Afro descendants of the Latin American countries have always been considered a minority and, therefore, have been subject to poverty, poor education and many limitations. Additionally, we live with the stigma of slavery as, unfortunately, our history books only talk about the negative events. This makes many people live in denial of their roots, of their identity. However, the spirit of battle of our ancestors remains and little by little we’ve gained the respect and inclusion in society that we deserve. Today we are an important part of the diversity of our countries, as the majority of the Latin American nations have strong African roots in their culture. Many people would never imagine that in countries like Argentina, Mexico or Uruguay there is an Afro Latin population. The truth is that there isn’t a country in America that doesn’t have a black presence and a story behind it. Through Caoba we want to bring Afro Latinos together, to help them learn about each other, but most of all, to make them feel proud about who they are and to regard the future with vision and hope.

Clutch: Tell me about yourself.
Mahogany: I am Panamanian with Jamaican roots. I lived my whole life in sunny Panama until I obtained a scholarship to study for a Masters in Marketing in Madrid, Spain. There I met my husband who is Swiss, that’s why I say that love brought me to Switzerland! He encourages me to pursue my dreams and supports all my projects, especially Revista Caoba. I’ve been living here for 4 years now and have worked as an Internet Sales and Marketing Manager for a Global Swedish company in the International Education industry. I am currently working on improving my German, leveraging Revista Caoba and looking into becoming a freelancer in Offline and Online Marketing. Living in Europe has been amazing so far. I’ve learned about so many cultures, traveled around the world and met incredible people. In my free time I like to write songs and sing. You can listen to my songs here: www.facebook.com/pages/Mahogany/35407907227

I also miss Panama truly. My family, my friends, the noise, the lively atmosphere…the Latino spirit! There’s no place like home.

For more information about Mahogany and Revista Caoba please visit es.caoba.org/index.html.

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