During my middle school years I began to identify who I was as a person; finally being able to put together a style of my own. I had preferences over music and dances, and accessories began to mean something. My interests and hobbies were starting to develop; I began to understand who I was. It was also during this phase that I discovered how society portrayed my sex along with my ethnicity.
A term that is generally used to describe food, yet, is commonly used to describe Latinas. We are stereotyped to be curvaceous and dark-haired with sun-kissed, golden skin. The Latina image is shaped by women like Sofia Vergara, who has successfully turned her name into a brand. Her image sells. She’s often featured in movies, TV series and commercials as the loud, sexy Latina who speaks with an accent. Latinas in the media are seen as hypersexual. Spanish broadcasting is filled with bombshells with hourglass shapes and tight dresses. In reality, Latinas vary in color and we come in all different shapes and sizes. Latin America within itself is a melting pot. Many nations have left influences in Latin America through their historic attempts in colonization.
At the age of fifteen, I knew my culture now saw me as a woman.
Instead of choosing to have an extravagant Quinceañera, I begged my mom to book me a trip to Spain to visit my favorite aunt. Experiencing other girls’ Quinceañera traditions made me interpret it as an inauguration of some sort. I lacked interest in having one of my own. I wanted my adolescence to consist of my own interests, not what was traditional or expected. Changes within me were happening and I did not want this so-called “womanhood” to be advertised. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. It was then that the definition of Mamí became more than just a word to describe someone who birthed you. It was dreadful to walk past groups of older men, even while wearing my Children’s Place jeans. I hated being objectified; it was nauseating. Even at such a tender age, I was being sexualized for simply being in the body I was given.
Foreign, a characterization used to describe matter belonging elsewhere.
Now-a-days women in social media portray themselves as foreign in order to describe their “look.” American culture sees individuals from elsewhere as exotic. It is what is desired. We see it in the media, hear it in songs and characterize it in society as sexual. Although American women find glamour and beauty in exotic women, ironically, the same women they idolize desire the illusion of “The American Dream.”
Growing up in the U.S while being a native from elsewhere made me want to be anything but foreign. “So, do you have a green card?” Kids would ask following my clarification on where I was born and why my Spanish sounded, “Like I was singing.” It made me question my identity. I felt alienated but as the years went by, the harshness of others allowed me to accept myself entirely.
As I matured I found empowerment in my roots and background.
I was different and I liked it. I cannot lip-sing Backstreet Boys songs with my friends, have a favorite Spice Girl or sadly don’t remember when Aaliyah was still alive. But instead of regretting the things I missed out on, I’ve learned to embrace events that surrounded my own childhood. I have grown to love who I am and not allow society to create a role for me neither for my sex nor ethnicity. I am the casting director of my own life.