"Where are are you from?" he asked me, while I was ordering food at the Cuchifrito in El Barrio.
"I'm Puerto Rican," I responded.
"Stop kidding yourself; You're una blanquita?"
I didn't know what to think, say, or even how to react to that. But I do remember looking at him and saying "If I'm not Puerto Rican, then you're not a man?" It was the only thing that I could think of to say, leaving him a little insulted,..and a tad bit stunned.
Whenever I meet someone new or walk in my own neighborhood, people stare at me and my cousin, who's lived in East Harlem her entire life. She and I are very similar in that we finished high school, have jobs, enrolled in college, and went about our business. My cousin is very tall, thin, very light skin, and speaks Spanish...fluently. Me on the other hand? I'm 5'3, average, medium-light to tan skin, and I speak 'Spaniglish'; however, I didn't grow up in East Harlem or New York. I've lived in various because of my dad's job, so I was never forced to speak Spanish. Why do I bring this up? Because apparently my upbringing doesn't make me "Latina."
Ever since Cosmopolitan for Latinas caught my eye last summer, I've been hooked on every issue. It just so happens that when I saw Summer 2013 on the newsstand (you know, the one with Michelle Rodriguez), I immediately picked it up. Coincidentally, there's a "Real Talk" article about what makes us Latina. According to article "You Talk like a White Girl," 69% of 3rd generation Latinos are English dominant. My father moved from Puerto Rico in the late 1980s/early 1990s and my mother was born in Brooklyn, NY after my grandparents decided to stay in New York after individually moving back and forth from Puerto Rico and various areas around the world. I don't know if that constitutes me as 3rd generation, but I think it's close enough.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York where I lived until I was 3 or 4; that's when I moved to Hawai'i.
Did I speak Spanish when I was younger? Yes, but I wasn't forced. Everywhere I moved to after that, the Hispanic population was fairly small and rarely present...at least until I started high school in Georgia. All of my friends in high school were of different races, so I never thought about identifying with any specific group. The difference between my school and others? It was predominantly white. But when I went off to college, is when I began to question my identity.
"You don't look Puerto Rican," These are words I hear on a constant basis. Even other Puerto Ricans and Latinos don't think I'm Puerto Rican. My mom is fair skin, dirty-blonde hair, blue eyes and my father has olive skin, black hair, hazel eyes. Me? Curly, dark brown hair, medium-light skin, brown eyes--but of course this isn't enough. When I was born, I had Asian features; I was never told I looked Latino. The only thing that I probably have going for me is the stereotype that some Latinas tend to be larger chested, but I can't that at the moment. Do I care about this? No, but I do care about being called 'ma,' 'mami,' 'chula,' and all of the other names women are called that surround our culture. Boys, it's not attractive.
Acting Latina? Being called those names may be a part of urban culture, but I think it's a personal choice. I've been told I don't belong in my own neighborhood and that I don't act Puerto Rican, but what is acting Puerto Rican or Latino? No, I don't throw around slang terms, nor do I try and act like something I'm not. Yes, I may sound like a "white girl," but I wasn't raised around an abundance of Latinos to gain or keep a dialect or accent and it shouldn't matter where I, or anyone else was raised. Am I in college? Yes I am and yes, it is Caucasian-dominant, but so was my high school. Does this make me a "white girl?" No, but it does show that I can adapt to any environment and that my family wants the best of their children. Adapting and being confident is how we should all handle life situations. As for acting 'Latina', does that constitute going clubbing or hanging in the street or even dressing like the staged segments we see on television? I would hope not; it's only a stereotype, and television is scripted and costumed. Guess you didn't think about that, now did you?
Thus being said, here's a little information about me and I'll let you decide based on my perspective and my YouTube videos.
- I'm Puerto Rican
- I'm a college senior, graduating a semester early
- I recently applied for graduate school
- I don't speak fluent Spanish
- I've been straightening my hair for over 10 years and recently stopped straightening it
- I cook (and yes, I cook Spanish food)
- I have a diverse vocabulary and speak properly
- I do not like being called 'ma,' 'mami,' 'chula'
- I'm not much of a fan of Spanish music
- I enjoy community service
- Hockey is my favorite sport
Now, please tell me if I am "Latina" or if I'm just a good person.
**These are my thoughts on how I have been treated based on my upbringing. I am not sponsored or endorsed by any organizations, as these are my own thoughts.**