I USED TO BE A SELF-HATING LATINA
Written by: Prisca Dorcas Mojica-Rodriguez
Raise your hand if you've had your problematic Latina/self-hating days. Because, I certainly did.
My journey towards loving my heritage, loving my skin, loving my indigenous features, and then some, HAS TAKEN SOME SERIOUS TIME AND EFFORT.
Here are my exposed past mistakes. We cannot say that people can’t grow and become wonderfully liberated bodies and souls, because that limits us all and quite frankly undermines the work that others invest towards becoming better people.
I've listed the indicators that made me realize I used to be a self-hating Latina:
1) I used to own my Spanish heritage with pride.
We all know these trash ass Spaniards came to our lands and stole them. We know that they raped, ransacked, and took what wasn't theirs to take. We know that they created an entire name for the mixed kids of indigenous and Spaniards: mestizos. They did this to create a distance from calling them full blooded Spaniards but also not disgracing their “glow up” from being just indigenous.
This has created in Latin America and the Carribean a self-protective lens where we've learned to hate our own heritage. While this behavior is taught, it does not make it unproblematic. Being a child who looked very traditionally indigenous meant that I was mocked a lot. I created a distance between what everyone seemed to know about my ancestry (I was called an india, as an insult). I began to claim my Spanish ancestry. I somehow, conveniently, forgot that I have indigenous ancestors and repped my Spaniard last names with a pride that could be described as SELF HATING. I traced “Rodriguez” back to the “home country” of Spain, and my retort to repel any negativity about my indigeneity was: “Rodriguez comes from Spain.”
2) I used to wear colored contacts.
Wearing colored contacts alone is not necessarily an indication that you hate your self, but for me it was definitely a sign of my own self loathing attitude towards my brownness. I liked how my face looked with blue contacts. I felt prettier with lighter eyes. I felt like my brown skin, my facial features, my dark eyes, my dark hair, made me look and feel ugly so I wore contacts. Wearing colored contacts helped me manage that feeling.
My true failure was in thinking that lighter eyes were just prettier in a general sense. I perpetuated the idea that lighter skin and European features were superior with every compliment I gave to a light-eyed person. I perpetuated the idea of white superiority with every magazine cut out I put in my scrapbooks in middle school. I idolized white people. Granted there were not many non-white people to idolize in popular culture, I still grabbed a hold of that concept and I ran with it.
These were indicators of my self-hatred, because I embodied none of the things I worshipped and tried to erase myself in order to become the things I loved.
3) I used to want to distance myself from my roots, speaking Spanish, and accents.
As an immigrant, I know too well the plight of having to learn another language and taking ESL. However, that did not stop me from bashing new immigrants who somehow retained their accents. I had been bashed so often that I knew how to bash new immigrants. I was mirroring the state of a nation that teaches people to assimilate or perish, become productive members of society or leave, contribute or you’re the problem. The narratives are seen everywhere, all around us, it is used in rhetoric by congress folks who want to somehow humanize immigrants by upholding the “good ones” which I was trying to become, therein vilifying the struggling ones.
Although this xenophobic behavior is learned, it does not make it unproblematic. In my HS there was an entire section that we referred to as the “refy” section, which is where the new immigrants hung out and spoke Spanish with one another. To call someone a “refy” was meant to be insulting. Their status as colonized people who needed assistance made them a target for the “better immigrants” in our HS. And without much encouragement I was one of those people who used poorer and less assimilated brown bodies to validate my own proximity to whiteness.
4) When white people referred to me as “spicy,” I did not say anything.
When I was described as "spicy" I had a specific set of images that came to mind. They were images of highly sexualized and fiery Latinas. These are the singular images that Hollywood tends to evoke whenever Latinas are on screen. I knew that's what people were implying when they
called me "spicy". However, I did not have the knowledge to realize that this also meant I was being dehumanized along the way. When white people use these types of words to describe people, the message they are sending is that they do not see us as varied complex people. Instead we are seen as linear non-feeling, non-reactive, non-human concepts. When I heard "spicy", I did not know it meant that they had no real context for who I was, but rather, they follow an externally given script of how to view me.
Self-hating colonized black and brown folks usually tend to strike a sense of sympathy. I believe that colonized folks of color are hateful because we were taught hatred, we were taught to hate ourselves and so, we become hateful towards those very things we embody for some sense of survival that our ancestors had to endure. I've come to the realization that it doesn't have to be the case for us, not anymore, NO MORE.
As a recovering self-hating Latina, I am glad I had people around me who called me out, and not always gently, but necessarily so.
To any self-hating Latina, or recovering self-hating Latina, they have done this to us to gain the upper hand.
Reclaim your narratives, reclaim the color of your skin as beautiful, reclaim your ancestry in its fullness, reclaim and uphold.