At the end of February, YWCA USA did a call for for blog submissions from young women and girls of color under age 21 as part of our 2016 Stand Against Racism campaign, which is themed “On a Mission for Girls of Color.” We received a number of wonderful submissions, and by featuring some of these stories, we hope to both give these young writers a platform for expression and sharing, and to highlight and illuminate some of the unique issues facing girls of color in our country today. Below, Adriana Rodriguez shares her story:
I am a Latina—my father, Dominican, was born in Santo Domingo; my mother, Puerto Rican, was born in Manhattan. I was born in the US; I don’t speak Spanish fluently; I don’t have the typical “Latina” body and I’m pretty pale. All of these aspects culminate within me, a girl struggling with the intersection of where I come from and what I look like.
I think that in general Latina girls face many societal pressures because of what’s portrayed in mass media. Women like Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, and Eva Longoria—all amazing women, but not fully representative of my community—are the kinds of Latin women shown on TV. Even news reporters on Latin channels are infinitely more sexualized. Latinas are forced into the sexy, “spicy” trope of a woman who is portrayed as nothing more than a piece of meat. There are so many diverse Latin cultures in the world, and American media focuses on the voluptuous, tan woman with long, shiny hair.
Take a deeper look into any country with a Latin population—Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, or Peru—and you will see dark skinned, coarse haired, chubby women. Women who are just as beautiful as Sofia, but hardly represented. The broad spectrum of Latin women is completely ignored here in the U.S., and Latinas like myself find ourselves reduced to the stereotypical Latina. I find myself questioning every day whether I am “Latina enough.” But there is no way to be “Latina enough.”
My culture is complex and multifaceted. It cannot be boxed up or contained to one look. White as milk, dark as the night sky, skinny, fat, tall, tiny, short haired, long haired, quiet, loud, rich, poor, and everything in between, Latinas are every look and personality you can think of, and we should never be made to feel lesser because we don’t look or act like what someone thinks we should.
Adriana Rodriguez is a junior at Teaneck High School in Teaneck, NJ, where she is co-founder of the school’s Feminism Club, senior officer of a girls mentoring group, member of the newspaper and activism clubs, and a Girl Scout. She enjoys learning about social justice issues and doing whatever she can to help end them. Adriana hopes to study political science or civil rights law in college. Adriana is an alumna of YWCA Bergen County’s girls leadership academy, Empower U(niversity).