Afro-Latinas

Dear Afro-Latin@s,

 

This is a testimony to all my Latinas out there that battle with showing off or embracing their blackness. To my Latinas who already embrace their blackness but struggle with trying to fall in the right crowd without being told you too black to be white or you are not black because you are not black enough. Funny someone told me the other day, “The idea of calling yourself Afro-Latina, does not make sense to me just be black or Latina” Hmmm, if only it was that easy right. First let’s take about how long it took me and many of my sisters so long to love our hairs because curls were too ugly so being in the salon every Sunday was a thing. The most upsetting part today is that curly hair is embrace sisters, but the Eurocentric culture appropriated my hair, your hair and style. I feel your pain in so many ways when you trying to balance out who you are but also trying to fit in because you constantly are trying to get the validation of others! See this letter is more than me or us trying to get the message cross, this is a testimono of the unspoken feelings of always being the middle person, trying to defend that your blackness is truly meaningful! Writing this letter, I know I am repeating and saying the same words that our ancestors have cried, but the sadness part is are people listening? Because my cries are endless. The feeling that your culture or your identification being called out on as not enough hurts. My latinidad and my blackness is enough.

Our ancestors must be flipping in their caskets of all the pain we still encounter. They reflected courage, determination and persistence; but how must we continue their legacy of courage when we are being Afro-Latina is not a thing. You see I want to make it clear ladies, let’s NOT give up, let’s educate because sometimes we get caught up with the bad instead of the good. Educate so that future generations feel protected and secured. We should feel proud to say that we are Afro-Latina because we are somebody. We must unify together, and be the movement we want to see, standing together and supporting each other through it all.  The first step is recognizing our OWN strengths and appreciating our OWN presence, no matter how many times our presence goes unnoticed. Our presence will speak volumes to those who are not ignorant, to those who understand the pre-fix of the word Afro-Latina. We must work towards building our own community and letting other communities know what the first part of our identifications mean.

I know at times my sisters we feel that that this color is a burden or the way we identify. Not at all. This our gift, your super power, your secret weapon, the skin cells we carry no one can take that away. Because we know what it is like to be different and discriminated against, you will be able to recognize it when it happens to someone else. You will be able to lift them up as I hope this letter will do to you. And then they will pay it back with someone else and so on and so on. This super power means you have the potential to stop this ugliness just by being you. If this is not a gift, then I do NOT know what is. Keep pushing my sisters …

Love,

Menorka

Letter Response to Uncovering Mirrors

Dear Little Sophie,

You are so beautiful. Your mind, your body and your spirit. And you will go through so much. People will put you down but you will get back up again. Your mind will tell you “no” but your heart will tell you “yes”. Listen to your heart because it’s truly what should drive you to inner happiness. I’m here to tell you now that everything will be okay. I know you’re so curious about what the future will hold for you but have faith that whatever happens will happen on its own. It’s okay to think those girls on your favorite television show are pretty. And it’s okay to not know if you have crushes on them or if you just want to be like them. You will still not know the answer to that question when you are older. And that’s okay because you have so much time to “find yourself”. But at the same time, you will ALWAYS be your true self. Life is just a path of discovery. You will uncover so many little secrets about yourself and so will other people. When people in your life insist you give them answers, don’t feel the need to. Your self discovery is personal, not public. They too have their own journey. You will fall very madly in love with silly boys that don’t deserve you! Your heart will hurt a lot when it’s all over but cherish the memories you had with them because you’ll grow so much from these relationships, trust me. While you face more difficult situations down the road, I encourage you to seek help. It’s okay to ask for it because people who love you truly want you to be mentally stable, they want to be here for you. The art that you make will help so much when it comes to these problems. Not just your art, but your writing too. Don’t be afraid to read books too because you can learn so much from them. Even the books you may be embarrassed to pick up, just do it! Who cares? Just you at this point. Like the American Girl book about puberty and hormones, that’ll come in handy some day, again, trust me. When you get to that time in your life where boys start looking at you, don’t feel like you have to be someone else just for them. Don’t feel like you have to dress up just for them to like you because if they’re worth it, their like you “sweatpants, hair-tied, chillin’ with no makeup on.” You’ll find out later what that song is! Anyways, back to relationships! Relationships are tricky but they don’t have to be like that. They can also be a learning experience. I don’t even mean just romantic relationships- but also friendships. The best romantic relationships start as friendships too- so keep that in mind. On a final note, expressing your sexuality is going to be a rollercoaster. You will feel confident some days and most days you won’t know what the heck you want. When you’re feeling lost, talk your LGTBQ+ friends. They will comfort you and relate to you more than anyone else. Never stop loving the people in your life unconditionally because one day you will get it in return. I promise.

Love,

Sophie

Desahogo about my culture

We put much thought into defining where we come from. Some do it because they care about their heritage. Others do it simply because they want to make sure that they are not added into the mix. The mix that make us draw the imaginary line that divides Black from White. Here is where the people that draw it make it seem like white is better. What makes me angry about all this is the fact that these attitudes that I am talking about do not come from white people. They come from us. Yes! The latinx culture. Here and there, we are in a constant fight with our own history. This is our own fault!

Growing in the Dominican Republic, watching Haitians break their backs everyday. Working for their food along their fellow dominicans made me believe that we were unified. You know, since we are neighbors when it comes to the location of our country. I thank God today because I have an education and I was able to open my eyes about my own culture, specially my country. We… the Dominicans, we are racist. Most of us, if not all of us within the Latino culture are racist. We are in a constant fight to find ourselves further away from Blackness as if being black was some sort of disease. Now, if you think I’m lying let’s talk about the Dominican Republic because what I am talking about now is what I grew up seeing.

I say “We” when I talk about racism in Latin America because no one who grew up there is able to say “I did not have these attitudes while growing up.” It might not be our fault because we were young but the thoughts were there. I used to celebrate February 27th as the best day in Dominican history. We celebrate independence from Haiti as if it was our greatest accomplishment, but what happened to the independence from the colonizers? Why do we have a “Faro a Colon” as some sort of tribute to him? As if he deserves to be recognized. Why do we try to copy North American culture in most of the racist things they do? Because we are racist. We are poor, we have different skin tones and because of that are oppressed by the elites. However, we ain’t no saint because we also oppress others. The “others” are called Haitians in my country. What are they called in yours?

Being latinx is complicated enough, now when the word Afro is added… Where Afro is tied to Blackness and “we don’t want to be considered black because white is better.” We make the construction of our identity too complex that we do not know who we are even thought we believe we do. You believe that the negation of your roots makes you more of who you really are. YOU ARE WRONG!

Some do not want to be fully black, others do not want to be fully white and I do not want to be racist at all. Embrace the different flavors!

Nao Bustamante’s “America, the Beautiful”

When reading about Nao Bustamante’s performance art piece “America, the Beautiful” I was absolutely blown away. I think that incorporating the image of “la rubia” into a performance art piece brilliantly brought to light many of the misogynistic tropes that incorporate blond women in both Mexico and the U.S.

In fact, one of my father’s favorite anecdotes about first dating my mother has to do with this idea of the blond Mexican woman as a fetishized “other”. Apparently, he and my mother were watching a Mexican talk show in the kitchen in mis abuelos’ house in Mexico. My father, being the analytical person he is, asked my mother: “Why is it that they only show white actors on Mexican television when I have barely seen any white Mexicans since living here?” My mother responded, “Well, white Mexicans exist, but what do you think Mexicans look like?” At that moment, the camera pan

ned over the studio audience, and for a brief second the screen was filled with brown bodies. “That!” My father replied, “That’s what Mexicans look like to me.”

So, while my father was immediately aware that it was a little off having the media dominated by white (often blond) Mexicans, his own perception of Mexicans also seemed to be flawed. I think that Bustamente meant to challenge both of these ideas of what a Mexican looks like in this piece; she in fact juxtaposed both ideas of Mexicaness on her own body, oversexualizing herself in a way that could have approximated her to the American Marilyn Monroe ideal (white, blond, and beautiful) as well as the preconceived Mexican ideal (dramatic, dirty, unstable).

Jugando las escondidas con la migra

La migra viene
Hay que esconder
Como si fuera niña otra vez
jugando las escondidas
Quisiera ver un futuro
en este mundo
Pero si me mandan pa mi país, mejor me muero yo sola
antes que me matan a mi
No quiero morirme así

Entonces, porfa
no me buscas
Déjame aqui escondida en paz
Comi si fuera niña otra vez
Es que yo mas prefiero pasar mi vida escondida
que encontrada y muerta

This is in response to the podcast “Femme Defense.” The podcast was recorded shortly after the election and touched upon how many undocumented immigrants were feeling in danger. They went on to discuss the different ways women can protect themselves in times like these. This got me thinking about the different ways in which undocumented immigrants protect themselves. It’s really hard for them to do so since they are not protected by the government. In this case, their best form of protection is to hide from the government/ICE. It’s sad to have to always live a life in fear and in the shadows, but for some this is their only option.

Letter to my mom

Mom,

Art is such a short word that contains many different ways of expression. Theater is one way. Our body is one of the most powerful tools at the moment of express and free ourselves. Through theatre we broke stereotypes, we broke barriers, we broke everything that limit our way of expression. As Nao Bustamante expressed “Using the body as a source of image, narrative and emotion, my performances communicate on the level of the subconscious language, taking the spectator on a bizarre journey, cracking stereotypes by embodying them. I disarm the audience with a sense of vulnerability, only to confront them with a startling wake up call.” I want to say thank you art, thank you theatre. Thank you mom for introducing me to this world.

At the same time I want to say sorry, sorry for never appreciate theatre as I needed to. Sorry for underestimate the power of the body to express ideas and concepts. Sorry for letting you down when I didn’t want to see the local plays because i thought that they were not worthy of my time. I am nineteen years old now and I know better.

Mom, reading about the work of Bustamante was awakening. Do you remember when I told you about Ana Mendieta? Bustamante used her nudity to express ideas just as Ana, but she did it in a theatrical way. Nao Bustamante challenged her audience and the critics by expressing such controversial ideas. For me “America the beautiful” contained things that no one have the guts to say before her such as the perception of ‘blonde’ in different cultures.

I know that we need to appreciate theater and for that I am grateful to you. You teach me that. I am learning about the importance of the body and the ways that different latinas used to expressed things that everyone should be aware of.

In one month I will be back home and  I want to be back on our art dates. I want to perceive art as you perceive it. Please don’t let me fall in technology, don’t let me be a millennial that doesn’t appreciate art. I wanna learn more about our culture through music, paints, plays, etc.

Thank you mom

Everyday I am aware of new things that I need to thank you for. You are the best.

Gabriela.

Body & Mind

If we as humans

as people

as brothers and sisters

mothers and fathers

Focused on hearing what our bodies says

all bodies say something

as much as we focus on talking

talking is a distraction

It distant ourselves from our own bodies

as women we express ourselves through our body

Makeup, clothes all distractions

our bodies expresses itself to us

if we decided to listed

if we stopped being so afraid

afraid of achieving a deeper level

a balance between body and mind

Mind and body

focusing on what matters

thats the real relationship that I think if we all need to have

 

Literacy

After reading tenemos que seguir luchando, specifically about the community literacy project, It made me remembered when I was in high school,  I was given the option to participate in a literacy project for kids who did not have the opportunity to attend an school. Literacy, at least in my country became especially important around the late nineteenth century, owing to the political and economic changes in the world, which profoundly impacted social structures. 

In the story, she told how initially women approached to the program only to learn how to read lyrics so they could sing at church, but once the had basic literacy they decided they wanted to  learn dressmaking. Through this program I learnt, how this kind of project improve people’s lives in a comprehensive way, not only are they taught to read and write, but to live, to make decisions, to participate in the community and to get involved in the directives to make a change in their own reality.

 


Poetry response to “Everyday Grace” by Mirtha Quintanales

Poetry response to “Everyday Grace” by Mirtha Quintanales

 

The discomfort we feel in our bones when we see something we don’t like

How to detach oneself should be the types of lessons we learn in school

Because otherwise, we feel everything and I don’t always thinking feeling everything

Is okay.

Why do we let things get to us, let the things people say and do bother us?

Why do our bodies react to others?

Is it not so simple to detach oneself?

Or should we be feeling everything everyone does, even if it has no affect on us personally?

Sometimes I wonder if I should be fully immersed within my universe

Do I feel happiness, sadness, and pain with others? For others?

Or do I isolate all feelings in order to be content with my being only?

Selfless or selfish.

It all depends on the route I take.

Dominican Presence in Academic Spaces Extra Credit

What I found most interesting about the talk was the lack of representation in academia. This isn’t something new to me since I have always noticed that my professors and teachers tend to generally be white. However, it was very touching to learn that there have been significant people of color in academia, although their legacies have been suppressed.
I also really liked Ramona Hernandez’s talk on the importance of studying Dominicans. I feel like, up until college, I never learned about Dominicans and their significance. This is really sad for me especially because I am half Dominican. I learned a lot about Dominicans, particularly Dominicans in New York, through her talk. The number of Dominicans in New York is rapidly increasing, and we are a force to be reckoned with!