Recently, a friend posted this video (see link above) on Facebook and it really touched home with me. As a woman of both Black and Puerto Rican descent, I undoubtedly identify as a Black Latina or an Afro-Latina. As a result, I’ve experienced a lot of love and a lot of rejection. The pale color of my skin makes me not Black enough, but the shape of my nose and lips, the curls and thickness of my hair make me just Black enough. My less than perfect Spanish, shape of my nose and lips, and curls and thickness of my hair make me not Latina enough. My ability to cook a full course Puerto Rican meal from scratch, and the pale color of my skin makes me just Latina enough. It caused me to crawl my way through a whirlwind of confusion about where I belong, who I am and where I come from.
To be honest with you I’m SO tired of the question, “Where are you from? Are you mixed or something?” I especially love the looks I get when I walk into a carnicería and ask the meat man for “cuarto libras de pechuga de pollito…” and he looks astounded that this Black girl knows his language.
This brings to mind a lovely personal experience. I was waiting in line at Walmart to get a money order. Right behind me were two Latina women. They fit the description of what many would call the “typical” Latina. Dark, straight hair, dark eyes, thin nose. They were talking trash about me in “their language (i.e. Spanish lol)” because I was taking a long time to figure out which amount I was supposed to get for my money orders. Suddenly my phone rang and my Frankie Ruiz salsa ringtone was blasting (back in the day when ringtones were cool)… I was pissed at what they were saying, but all I could do was turn around, smile at then and answer the phone. The looks on their faces were priceless.
The reality of the fact is that close to 50% of all Latinos are Black. And probably more if you count those who REFUSE to own up to the fact that they are Black. So why do we refuse to adopt the idea that Latinos can be Black AND Latino? Why do we fantasize about an archetype of what is means to “look Latino?” That phrase doesn’t even make sense to me. One time a fellow Latino, ten times darker than me, told me he was happy he could identify as White Latino because his fine “European” looking hair and frail facial features “saved him.” The thought of that disgusts me…
I am not saying that all Latinos need to join the Black Latino movement and grow afros even if they have straight hair…But I am asking that we try to be a little more tolerant of each other and accept the fact that we all look different. It is rude, degrading and ignorant to assume that all Latinos fit a certain physical mold.
We try to act like our society does not make a big deal out of race. In my opinion it is the BIGGEST deal that people make. Skin color defines everything. Instead of identifying Suzette as the tall woman with dark eyes and curly hair, she becomes La Negra con el pelo malo…We will never be able to see past race but in the mean time we can all attempt to accept, love and embrace the beauty that is Black AND Latino