Good morning, paid members of The Black Sportswoman community!
It's been a long, exhausting weekend and I'm sorry I wasn't in your inbox yesterday instead of today. But, today for the paid member exclusive, I wanted to share the behind-the-scenes process of how "The Black history of Peru women's volleyball" story came to be.
As you know, my goal is to share one highly researched and reported piece a month, and May's article is now one of my favorite stories. I wonder what I could write next to challenge it?
Anyway, it all started when I decided I wanted to get serious about studying Spanish late last year, in either November or December. I ended up joining a program called iTalki to have conversations with tutors, and my teacher is from/and lives Peru. Eventually, she started talking more about the country and naturally I ended up searching "Black people in Peru" and "Afro Peruvians." I'm not sure which video popped up first – Me Gritaron Negra by Victoria Santa Cruz or Freedom is Mine's History of Black People in Peru. Both are worth watching, but I was really moved by Victoria Santa Cruz's poem. I got the same feeling as I do when I listen or watch Nina Simone performances.
I looked at the Black Peruvians Wikipedia page multiple times, and I'm almost certain that's how I learned about Luisa "Lucha" Fuentes the first time. And that's how I got connected to Peru women's volleyball.
Then, I started my general research (aka Googling) of more players to know, past and present, and watched more videos (mostly in Spanish with the captions on).
I reached out to Javier Wallace for a general conversation because I saw his thread on Black women and Cuban volleyball. It wasn't until I was on a call with him, a FAMU graduate, that we both realized that there was a connection with Peru and the Tallahassee-based HBCU. As I mentioned in the article, six Peruvian players were on the team in 2010. Turns out according to a former player, the coach was married to a Peruvian woman, so that was his connection.
More on the interviews that made the story and why.
Liliana Michelena wrote about Peru women's soccer ahead of the World Cup in 2019 (I cannot remember why I never forgot about that story) and has good info on Peru women’s sports. She also told me about Sharún Gonzales Matute's thesis about Afro-Peruvian congresswomen. Wallace connected me with a Peruvian player to chat with who played at FAMU and now is a pro in France.
The actual Afro-Peruvian volleyball player I talked to – Pamela Barrera – I was able to find on LinkedIn, and I got no message back there. But, I noticed she worked as a translator for a YouTube channel I began to watch a month or two before, An Afro-Peruvian Girl/Una Chica Afroperuana and reached out to Natalia, who runs the accounts and she connected me. (Oh, turns out, Pamela and Natalia are sisters).
Also during this time, I attended a workshop called "La Primavera Negra" about race/Blackness in Latin America, run by Javier Wallace and Dash Harris, which was kind of for the story but also for my general interest and knowledge. I still haven't been able to process all I've learned, even though I don't feel I used much for the story. It did change my perspective on a lot of things though.
Throughout this time, I ordered maybe one book on the topic. I also talked with my tutor occasionally about it. The story took me about two months from idea to publication.
It's likely the longest I've ever worked on an article, but I was able to research, report, write and publish a piece that I'm extremely proud of.
I hope you liked this update, and I hope you find the background on how story came to be was even a little bit interesting.
See you in your inbox on Thursday!