Kinky Hair and the Pursuit of Latin-ness

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All “real” Latinas have straight hair. That’s what I believed when I was growing up. My beautiful mother and sisters were all fair-skinned Costa Ricans; their long hair had no twists or turns in it but was just bone straight, like the models I saw in Latina or Vanidades. But when I looked in the mirror, I saw a honey brown half-Costa Rican, half-Dominican child with a blossom of coarse kinks on my head. I ate platanos, cried to Juan Luis Guerra’s songs, spoke Spanish to my parents and danced my bachata and merengue, but with this hair and this skin, I wondered: how could I be Latina too?

There was nothing I could do about my complexion—we don’t bleach our skin. But if I could straightened my hair, I was in. Of course, no one told me this directly. They didn’t have to. I saw the proof at the bodega when the guy behind the counter would see my coiling roots and speak to me in English and then speak about me to his friends in Spanish. I saw the proof at the Dominican hair salon when only darker-skinned Dominican women and girls were getting their hair processed. And I saw it at school when the boys would rate the light-skinned, straight-haired Latinas as better because the boys could run their fingers through those girls’ hair. It was a no-brainer: If kinky equaled Black, straight equaled Latina and Latina equaled beautiful, I could straighten my hair and become a beautiful Latina.

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/kinky-hair-and-the-pursuit-of-latin-ness-978#ixzz2rz6YOi00
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