“I am not my hair” : How I learned to love my “pelo malo”

IMG_4747

With the recent controversy over Giuliana Ranic’s very inappropriate comment over Zendaya’s hair, I felt a need to write on this topic. Our society values appearance very much, so much that something like your hairstyle can lead to stereotypes and prejudice. You see it was not until recently that I have truly learned to love and appreciate my hair as it is. After applying straightening chemicals such as relaxers and keratin treatments since the age of 6, I decided to stop and embrace my natural hair as is. Growing up I always had a complex about my hair; in fact for a long time I hated my hair.

My whole life I would hear comments such as, “Oh you’re pretty with light skin and blue eyes, so how do you have bad hair?” Thinking back I should’ve answered well I’m not sure what you mean by bad hair because that doesn’t exist. Our society has labeled kinky and more coarse hair as being bad, so how could I not feel bad about my “pelo malo.”  But as I grew older I learned this is not true. My hair light brown hair may be hard to manage at times, but I love it because it makes me different and I can also manage to pull of different hairstyles with it. Every time I look in the mirror my hair is an indicator of my roots, it reminds me that as a Latina I have African, Indigenous and European roots that have created this beautiful “ethnic” hair I have. As the India Arie song goes, “I am not my hair. I am not this skin.I am the soul that lives within.” Let us all remember hair does not and will never define who someone is as a person. And let us also be clear there is no such thing as good or bad hair, there is just hair and many different kinds of it. Hair comes in all different colors and texture and that’s what makes you beautiful and unique. Whether its curly, kinky, wavy, straight long or short , embrace your hair and rock it however you like.

“You don’t look Latina”

IMG_4249

Before we begin, take a look at the image above. Which one looks Latina? Well to help you out the correct answer is all of them, because they all are.  It’s the age old question, I’ve heard too many times. “What are you?’ Now the inner sarcasm in me would automatically love to respond, “Well I am human.” Nonetheless I am Latina. I am a blue-eyed, white skinned Latina, with kinky light brown hair, and proudly curvy. However no matter how well I speak Spanish or how well I can dance salsa, I just don’t look Latina enough to society.

This has always made me wonder,  well what does a Latina look like. Truth is there is no one way to look Latina and I think it’s time for society to understand that.  Most importantly I think it’s time for Latinos to understand that as well. I fully acknowledge that as a Latina I come from a mixture of Indigenous, European and African backgrounds. Which means there are many many different traits and features to inherit, thus making it impossible to have one specific look. Quite frankly I love the fact that as Latinos we all look very different. It makes us unique and allows us to be able to love many different types of beauty. It is time for people to accept there is no right or wrong way to look Latina. The pride I have for my culture goes beyond my curves and hair type. Being Latina is in my sangre and it courses though my veins. It should not be measured by the length of my hair, the fullness of my hips, or the color of my skin. Other than try to categorize what a Latina is supposed to look like, we should embrace and celebrate our diverse make up. So next time you tell someone they “don’t look Latina,” remember that Latinos come in all beautiful, shapes, sizes and colors.

The Millennial Latina

514_400x400_NoPeel

Four years ago I opened a bright book called, The New Latina Bible by Sandra Guzman. As I turned page after page I remember thinking to myself, “Por fin! Someone who understands my struggles.” It was not until college that I was fully able to understand my identity as this new millennial Latina. Growing up as a first generation Latina in NYC, it was very easy to see the differing factors in comparison to some of my mother’s views. Of course growing up in a Latino household I always respected mami’s rules and traditions. However as a very independent, strong-minded Latina I realized as I grew up some of my views differed from my mothers. Who is this new Latina you might ask? The new Latina is a woman who continues to uphold her family traditions but has evolved some of those traditions and is starting some of her own.

Many of us are first generation college graduates, thanks to mami and papi’s sacrifices. The modern day Latina has strong opinions on topics such as birth control whose very catholic mothers may have a heart attack at the thought. The modern day Latina isn’t rushing into marriage and kids anytime soon, and instead is focused on building her career. The truth of the matter is there is a new generation of Latinas and we’re ready to take over. According to Geoscape, in 2015 close to one million Latinos will be turning 18 in the U.S, which means more Latinas will be voting, attending colleges and transitioning into strong, independent women. Although the millennial Latina will continue to evolve one thing is for certain, no matter where life takes us the new Latina always holds her culture near and dear to her heart.

giphy