Latin

Cuban Artist Aymee Nuviola on Embracing Her Black Identity Through Music: 'We Have So Much to Offer'

Aymée Nuviola
Enrique Tubio

Aymée Nuviola

Aymée Nuviola is a Grammy and Latin Grammy winner who’s keeping Cuban music at the forefront one song at a time. She’s a prolific singer, pianist, composer, and actress dubbed as "La Sonera del Mundo” who gained international recognition for portraying Celia Cruz in the Colombian telenovela Celia.

Currently, she’s nominated for best Latin jazz album at the 2021 Grammys with her Gonzalo Rubalcaba-assisted album Viento Y Tiempo (Live At Blue Note Tokyo). It's an album that she says is an homage to both of their late mothers, who were also longtime friends.

But besides her accolades, Nuviola's path to success hasn't been easy as a woman of color.

“There’s racism in Cuba,” she tells Billboard, referring to people in the industry who’d ask her to straighten her natural afro or say she would not succeed because she was not white.

“Sadly, the rejection comes from our own community,” she continues. “People would rather look elsewhere than look within their roots. I suffered a lot, but it only made me stronger. My self-esteem has always been very high and I have not been paranoid to believe that everything that happens to me or not is due to my skin color.”

Though she respects the term Afro-Latino, Nuviola feels more comfortable being called a Black woman. “I have always said that for me, saying 'Afro' is not as meaningful as saying Black, mulato, or mestizo. In Cuba, I’m often called mulata or negrita. It depends on the way it’s said to me, but I don’t see it as something offensive,” she says.

Migrating to Miami in June 2004, Nuviola got a sense of coexisting with the Latino community and it’s through her music -- which fuses timba, son, salsa, jazz, and other rhythms -- that Nuviola has managed to proudly take her Cuban roots to the masses.

“Our music has always had Afro elements present, whether it’s guaracha, chachacha, mambo -- it’s inevitable and it’s part of our culture. We are a mestizo island,” she notes. “Cuban music has influenced music around the world, and even though we’re a small island, we’ve exported more than 33 musical genres. We have so much to offer.”

With her Grammy-nominated set, Viento Y Tiempo, which includes innovative versions of “El Manisero” and “Bemba Colorá,” Nuviola continues to count her blessings.

“Being an immigrant and crossing the border was very difficult for me. I was in the immigration jail with other Latinas who told me very sad stories,” she recalls. “All that touched my heart and I left there with all the desire to move forward and create my own path. Until this day, I feel grateful for all of the opportunities.”