latinas sharing their stories

CLICK FOR HOPE | STRONG, COURAGEOUS, STUBBORN

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

It means taking pride in my culture and values. It means that I will have to fight two times harder than most people to be successful in this life. It means having to deal with racism and standing up for myself. Being Latina means your decisions in life are always based around your family and how can your family be impacted or helped. Being Latina means I am strong, courageous, stubborn and I fight for what's right! Being Latina is who I am!

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

Well I consider myself Afro-Latina because of the color of my skin, and that is the struggle I face everyday. Even within my own family, they don't understand the struggles and racism I sometimes face when I am in certain areas. Many people question if I am black or Indian or assume I am "mixed" until they ask. Usually my struggles are at its highest when I am in white areas. There are places that I go to and the white women hold their purses when I walk into the room. My daughter does gymnastics in a white neighborhood, and the only mom that talks to me is a mom from Ecuador. Then you have those white people who say stupid comments like "So where are you from,” or "Wow, is that like your real hair"? Its not much of what they say, but their tone and body language. If I go into a Mexican restaurant the people will start to talk to me in English when they were talking Spanish two minutes ago.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love everything about being Puerto Rican. The food, the culture, our heritage! I love that being Puerto Rican comes with being raised with respect. Our people are very strong people. Look what our people have endured from our land being stolen and ripped apart, natural disasters, poverty and much more! Yet, we are still here and strong and growing. We are very strong people. I love that I get to teach my daughter that she is Afro-Latina and teach her about our culture.

What do you identify as? Boricua Baby!! Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc.

Yes! I just want to make something clear, even if I was born in Puerto Rico I am not an immigrant!

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your american nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?

I really don't consider myself to celebrate American nationality. America is not a place that celebrates my people, especially with our current administration. I am sure that people who know me may say that I am American, but I am Puerto Rican, period. I try to hold onto my heritage and my culture as much as possible. I educate myself and ask questions about culture. In order to understand who you are, you need to know where you come from. Its really sad that as more generations begin, our traditions and culture are slowly drifting away.

Do you speak spanish? Yes, but broken.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community?

Ugh YES!!!! This is something that I totally hate and despise with all my heart. I am too Black for my Hispanic friends and family and too Hispanic for my Black friends and family. Then I am just the crazy loud Hispanic to my white friends. Its ridiculous how some of my own family members will tell me that I am not Puerto Rican enough because I was not born on the Island like them. Its ridiculous! I remember my aunt saying she had her children purposely in Puerto Rico so no one can say her children are not Puerto Rican. How terrible that such horrible thinking can dictate someone's life.

Is there something else you'd like to say or add?

Puerto Ricans come from 3 different blood lines. We are a mix of Taíno Indians, Spaniards and Africans. That is why you can find Puerto Ricans to be different shades, sizes and some even have colored eyes. You can see how the Island of Puerto Rico represents these three different bloodlines in different areas of this beautiful Island. Even our language represents these three bloodlines. Not all Spanish is the same.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BECOME A CITIZEN

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

It means embracing and being proud of my culture and traditions, having strong family values

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Growing up in California I was mostly surrounded by Latinos and never really noticed what being a minority was - because I wasn’t. Then as soon as I moved to the suburbs of Illinois in a majority white community, I finally felt like I stood out. For people like me who struggled with the idea of standing out by things I couldn’t choose, it was uncomfortable. I felt as if I had to catch up and assimilate just to feel “normal”.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love my culture, our traditions and food

What do you identify as? (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadorian, etc.): Mexican

Where you born in the states? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc. (Share only what you are comfortable with):

I was born in Mexico and was taken across the border by my parents when I was only 1. I never felt like an immigrant or understood what being an immigrant was until I was faced with becoming a resident. I was so young when I came to the states. Years later, I was fortunate enough to become a citizen of this country. It was one of the proudest moments, which was also met with a bit of sadness because I realized how precious and delicate this imaginary title was. The title of "Citizenship" seems imaginary, but the consequences of being an “illegal” immigrant are very real. I’m grateful and the climate today, has only made me more cognizant of it.

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your american nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?:

I celebrate both Latino and American holidays. I celebrate Halloween but I also celebrate Dia de Los Muertos.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, fluently.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc. Please share anything you'd like to share!:

Personally, I haven’t experienced it. But it still cuts me deep because my little sister is a completely different darker shade than me and growing up people would always point that out. Seeing your little sister trying to wash the color off her skin as a little girl because she thought it was “dirt” or wondering why she is always identified by our own culture as “dark” broke my heart. She wanted my skin color because I was lighter. As her older sister, I would teach her that she was beautiful no matter what people had to say. As she got older she learned to embrace and love herself completely. It hurts to know that we have that standard, and I know it happens outside of the U.S. and Mexico. It’s a fundamentally wrong categorization process we have and it can be changed.

CLICK FOR HOPE | MY CURLS REPRESENT MY ETHNIC ANCESTRY

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being Latina means being proud of my heritage. It means adding sofrito in even the non-latino recipes. It means imagining how the next American pop song on the radio would sound like in bachata, salsa or reggaeton. It means preferring my homemade Bustelo cafe con leche over the trendy coffee. It means yelling “OH MY GOD “ when I hear the song “Suavemente” get played at an event for the 1,000th time and I still get up and dance like it’s the first time. It means being able to recite some novela songs that my mom and aunts used to watch, like “Tres Mujeres Un Camino” or “Mari Mari Mar.” I love being a Latina.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Allow me to share a couple of struggles: As an urban Latina millennial, it’s hard to fit in. I’m too hipster for the Latinos too Latina for the hipsters. Also, I am currently going through a curly hair journey. Which means I am learning to take proper care of my curls and love them. And let’s be honest, the beauty market hasn’t always been curly hair friendly until recently, partially because curly hair is trending. There are more hair products available for eliminating curls. Since I was a child I was taught to hide my curls because they’re hard to manage. My mom put a relaxer in my hair at 13, just when my hair was getting more curly with puberty. She relaxes her hair. I don’t recall ever seeing my mom go outside with her curls. My maternal grandmother had beautiful curly hair but always styled it in a bun. I want to break the generational curse of anti-curl habits. Why? Because it is part of my families DNA, our heritage that continues to appear in every generation of my family. My curls represent my ethnic ancestry; Spanish, African and Taino. My daughters have curly to wavy hair and I want to make sure I teach them to maintain and love their natural hair.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love being a Latina because I can communicate, connect and relate with other Latinos across Latin America. I love being a part of a passionate community with a rich and lively culture.

What do you identify as?: Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc. (Share only what you are comfortable with): Yes!

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your American nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?:

I’ve had the honor to participate in many Puerto Rican cultural shows displaying dance, stories and music. I am currently acting in “There’s a Coqui in my Shoe” a theatrical adaptation based on an award winning children’s book. It will premiere at The Miracle Center during Hispanic Heritage month starting Sept. 21. Audiences will learn about the importance of the Coqui on the island, learn about different places and enjoy live music and dance. This show is extra special to me because I’m performing along side my husband, who plays Carlito the Coqui. My daughters, ages 1 and 4, get to see mommy and daddy perform and they will learn more about their heritage. I have also written poems and short stories about my experience living in the hills of Puerto Rico as a child, that I hope to have published someday. I’ve also taught and choreographed Plena, a Puerto Rican folkloric dance form, to younger generations.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, somewhere in-between fluent, and broken.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc. Please share anything you'd like to share!:

Growing up I was very insecure about myself. Living in a Latino community, curves and caramel skin are celebrated and if you have colored eyes it’s a major bonus, at least this was my perspective and experience. My thin physique, along with my “pale” skin, and European/Mediterranean features didn’t quite fit the Latina beauty ideal. People around me were always trying to over feed me. I experienced a lot of body shaming and still do. This led me to have an over eating disorder in my teens, not sure if there’s a proper term for it. I was obsessed with gaining weight.

As for my skin color, I always wanted to have my skin described as something delicious. Some Latinos describe skin color by food or sweets. We have “cafe con leche,” “caramelo” “chocolate” or what I was described as “Blanca,” which isn’t a food. One day a sweet friend of mine said “Your skin is like milk and honey.” YEESSS! I accept that! While living amongst a community with Latina beauty ideals, I also grew up watching shows like Full House and Alex Mack. All mainly Caucasian actors. I would’ve given anything to have blonde or red hair and colored eyes so I could fit into the American idea of beauty, and I sure tried and damaged my hair and probably my eyesight with those cheap colored contacts I used to buy from the Mega Mall as a teen. I wasn’t curvy enough, or blonde enough. The road to self acceptance has been long and painful. Unfortunately, it took years to come to the realization that I am beautiful as I am and that I am handcrafted beautifully by God.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I HATED THE STIGMA

Photo: Authentic Adventure

Photo: Authentic Adventure

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

It means my life is full, flavorful, rich with family, food, and faith.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Growing up as a Latina next the hood, I hated the stigma that I was going to be a teen mom or a product of my neighborhood. I had parents who pushed me towards getting an education and I have a church community that taught me I could walk in sexual purity and wait until marriage to have sex. So although it was a struggle to see my fellow Latinos settling, I knew I wanted more for me.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love my curves.
I love our food.
And I love our cafe con leche.
I love my HUGE Latino Family
I love that my dad plays the congas professionally

What do you identify as?

Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc. (Share only what you are comfortable with):

Born & raised in Chicago

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your american nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?:

I’m thankful for my American heritage.
I’m thankful for the freedoms we have here.
I’m thankful for freedom to express our culture.

Do you speak spanish?:

Yes, but broken.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc. Please share anything you'd like to share!:

I went to a predominately white bible college. I remember when my Latina cousins and I would get together on campus we felt like we were “too much” for our white friends at times. Some mentioned that we’re “too touchy,” we’re like no we’re Latinos.

Is there something else you'd like to say or add?:

I have a huge desire for young girls to see more Latina role models who don’t use their body in a sexual way. I desire to be an example of someone by God’s strength, who waited until marriage to have sex and I am in a healthy marriage while still pursuing my Dreams. I desire girls to see more Latinas who waited. I actually had an idea to do a photo shoot on latinas who waited and started over. So I love this idea of sharing all Latina’s in all their fullness and light. ️