Walter Thompson-Hernandez first heard the term “Blaxican” in the sixth grade. The South Los Angeles native was listening to a popular hip-hop station when a radio personality threw out the word.“That completely blew my mind. At that point, I didn’t have a way to describe who I was and how I identified,” Thompson-Hernandez recalled. “Since that moment, I started to self identify in that way and I’m not alone.”

This newfound identity helped shape the son of Kerry Thompson, an African American man, and Eleuteria Hernandez, a Mexican woman.

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More than a decade has passed since and with the passing time the faces of L.A. have changed. Thompson-Hernandez’s fascination with this subject inspired him to start Blaxicans of LA, an Instagram project featuring individuals with Mexican and African-American parents (and other multiracial people) and their personal stories of living in their dual identities.



Walter Thompson-Hernandez, Blaxicans of LA

Walter Thompson-Hernandez

photo: Walter Thompson-Hernandez

“The project started when I was at Stanford, as part of my thesis and research,” the 30-year-old told Vivala. “I was interested in trying to understand the demographic change of South L.A., but I also wanted to understand how Blaxicans are understanding these changes.”

Thompson-Hernandez, who described growing up in a very Mexican household with winter trips to his mother’s hometown in Jalisco, said his own family went through a process of learning about African American culture and experiences.

“L.A. is very segregated by race. It’s spread out, so it really magnifies racial divisions,” Thompson-Hernandez said. “A lot of folks who are Blaxican, we grew up with a different understanding of race as something that’s divided and very narrow.”

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In Thompson-Hernandez’s eyes, media often paints this picture that blacks and Mexicans are at odds, but he says that’s not always the case.

“Blaxicans are an example of union and understanding and love,” he said. “That really goes a long way.”

Thompson-Hernandez gave Vivala the behind-the-scenes stories of a few portraits he shot for his project. Check them out below:



Amanda

The daughter of a single Mexican parent said she always felt like people were trying to put her down, including her own family.

Thompson-Hernandez said Amanda’s story was really intriguing. “Her story is fascinating because she is the child of a black parent and she grew up in Boyle Heights… which is almost 98 percent Latino,” he said. “Like me, she was in a predominantly Latino community and so she spoke to me about being the only black person throughout her life. She said she had to navigate anti-blackness racism alone because she didn’t have any black people around her."

Memo

Memo talks about identifying with Mexicans more when he was younger. “And it took a long time to love who I was — to love who I was, the whole me,” he says in the story.

Thompson-Hernandez described Memo as an amazing individual who is really involved in the East L.A. Chicano movement. “That’s how he sees the world,” Thompson-Hernandez said. “He self-identifies with his indigenous roots. We learned from each other and it was a memorable shoot.”


Akura

To be a Blaxican woman in LA is like being in the unknown majority, Akura says. Thompson-Hernandez loved Akura because she was born and raised in Stockton – in the northern part of California. “Her story, to me, was really interesting because it appears that she is very balanced in how she sees the world,” he said. “She self-identifies equally as black and Mexican."