Image Source: Stocknap user Allef Vinicius
Every time I look at my cousins, I think of a Gina Rodriguez GIF I stumble across from time to time. The line of text on it reads, "I'm as a Latina as they come," and it wholly represents the mindset I hope my little cousins grow up with.
Too often "to be Latina" has qualifiers that are limiting and disregard what it actually means to be part of this culture. For instance, the notion that being Latina is synonymous with being a woman with olive skin, curly hair, and a curvy body erases the very real, lived experiences of Latinas who range in skin tones, hair types, and body types and exist on the LGBTQ spectrum. The phrase "you don't look Latina" shouldn't exist.
My little cousins are walking into a world that already does so much to package their culture into easily consumable one-liners, and I don't want them to do that to themselves. I want them to embrace the truth that my naturally curly hair and their naturally straight hair both come from our shared roots. The fact that their skin is fair while their own cousins' skin may have more melanin and a tanner shade doesn't mean that we don't all have the same Latinx blood.
Beyond physical appearances and what "looks Latinx" and what doesn't, existing within the culture is something to be proud of. Curves that are reminiscent of your mother's curves should be as celebrated as the straight hair that makes you stand out among family members with tight curls. Latinas are individuals; they are no more or no less Latina for having hair or skin that looks a certain way. Some may have grown up watching Sábado Gigante as their mom tried to comb out the knots in their curls with the help of detangler, while others may have grown up never knowing the pain of having someone pull at their hair (#blessed), but regardless both of those experiences and many more exist within the larger umbrella of being Latina.
It's important to remind ourselves, the younger generations, and others of this truth. It helps to bring home the fact that our narratives are ours to own. How we define ourselves is our personal choice and right, and we don't have to succumb to anyone else's definition of us.
Image Source: Huffington Post Live