Today’s post is to set the record straight on several items that have been rattling in my brain for a longtime — my Latinaness, essentially my identity as a writer and a person.
When I started this journey three years ago to find out who I was, I should have known that part of that journey would dispel some of the theories I was conditioned accept. These theories I accepted as fact for so long.
So what’s the theory? All Latinos are created equal. Truth? They aren’t.
We are all bound by language and customs. We have the same values. Most of us are Catholics. Most of us know the sting of a chancelta.
But that is where it all ends my friends because I am AfroLatina. My skin is darker, my hair coarser, my hips wider. I am made of different stuff and that makes me different. And that has taken me more than 30 years to accept, painfully.
When it comes to other racial or ethnic groups demeaning my fellow Latinos, such as the folks at Top Gear or the folks who developed these marvels of modern technology, they are poking fun at Mexicans and their diaspora here in the U.S. Appalling since no other group is superior to another and has no right to take their viewpoints this far. Are they jokes? Yes they are but don’t jokes turn into stereotypes which makes it harder for that group to overcome once they achieve levels of affluence?
Despite these deplorable examples of modern racism, I can’t help but feel a detachment. That’s because the same folks who are being demoralized are the same ones that give me “the look” that’s suppose to put me in my place. They are from the same country that not only doesn’t recognize that it INDEED has black people but also allows them to ONLY be housemaids on their novelas and looks at interracial marriage with disdain.
At one point in my life, I would have been outraged about the Top Gear situation as if it was about me. After all, I grew up in Houston and am considered by most folks more Mexican than Mexicans, though I am of Cuban and Guatemalan heritage. But now, I am outraged not because I am Latina but because I am a person.
You see, not all Latinos are created equal. One of our own magazines, Latina, features lighter skinned Latinas on its cover 95 percent of the time. When it does have an Afro Latina, it’s because Zoe Saldana or Christina Millian is promoting their latest project. (Zoe who plays primarily African American roles and Christina who sings pop and, if you didn’t know she was Latina, is claimed by African Americans as “one of ours.”)
How can we as a people expect folks to not make game applications about border crossings if we can’t even acknowledge our own brown folks as brown? How do you expect AfroLatinos like me to fight the good right along with our fellow brown sisters and brothers when we’re only claimed for the purposes of numbers? When times are good, we’re made fun for our accents, our hair, and the fact that we speak with our hands by the very people who want company in rallies and marches. We are looked at as the exotic Latinos, the exceptions not the rule. We’re Latino by circumstance and not really regarded by most as an actual brown person.
What does this have to do with writing? Tons. Part of writing is learning and figuring out who you are. Identity has fueled writers for centuries. It’s why we write what we write and sometimes the how of writing.
So yes, all Latinos are not created equal. We are barely labeled the same. I may get some negative backlash from this but I don’t care. It needed to be said and acknowledged. Sometimes ignoring the issue for the greater cause creates another cause later on.
So I want to hear from y’all. What do you think? Who disagrees? Let’s have an open discussion about this. I think it’s about time.