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.
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.
“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.”
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: