Let’s stop talking about how “Latina” I am or am not
So for a long time, I was self-conscious about my skin color. Everyone pointed it out all the time. Teenage years were especially rough when people would deny my looks as “latina” because of my skin color. The first thing people would say is
"You look more _(fill in the blank)_ than latina" (I.e. Philippine, Indian)
I also had latina friends on the opposite spectrum telling me they “wish they were darker” because they also didn’t feel “latina”. While I recognize these sentiments to be true and real, I also know the experiences to be slightly different, seeing as the portrayal of latinos in spanish-speaking television/soap operas or telenovelas are that of light-skinned individuals where dark-skinned characters are sexualized and/or seen as extreme. But that’s a subject for discussion on a different post! My point is, I felt offended almost and isolated but I now know I am not alone.
So what’s the problem?
Being called “exotic” in high school. Even in college.
What does that mean? Was that meant as a complement? How can my skin color tell someone I’m “exotic”? At some point during my freshman year of college, some boy even said “You speak English really well…for a foreigner…”
I was born and raised in LA. My first language was Spanish but I was forced to immerse into an English-Only discourse in kindergarten, causing English to be my dominant language up until high school. What was he talking about?
So I wasn’t Latina enough. And I wasn’t automatically recognized as American? So what am I?
I know classicism is alive and well within Latin American countries (courtesy of the caste system, thanks Spain!) but am I going to let this mark me for the rest of my life in diverse & majority-latino LA?
Up until high school, I had a hard time accepting myself and my skin color. Now, I am extremely proud of my identity. The intersecting voices I represent. I am happy to come from a Guatamalan and a Salvadoran parent. I had to read and write numerous works on Gloria Anzaldúa, Estela Portillo Trambley, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, and Sor Juana to really put my experience into perspective. I am a Sor Juanista, Cervantista, Noam Chomsky disciple, and Latina. Whether or not someone accepts these labels for me is irrelevant, because Iabels are just labels and I don’t want to get involved into the politics of skin color any longer.
So can we stop pointing out how Latina I am or not when in conversation?
Cos I already know I am. Yo sé quién soy.