Society Magazine

If You’re Latina, Then Why Are You White?

Posted on the 16 March 2015 by Juliez

If You’re Latina, Then Why Are You White?A few weeks ago, I was at a party with a few of my friends. I had been casually using a new dating app and had been talking to a guy that seemed pretty nice. He mentioned that he happened to be out in the same area, so I told him where I was, figuring we could have a drink. He arrived with a few of his friends and I said hello. The first words out of his mouth? “False advertising. You’re not Latina.”

I wish I could say this surprised me but it really didn’t. Ever since I joined the world of online dating, my ethnicity is questioned on a daily basis. Actually, to be honest it’s been an issue my entire life. I was born in Venezuela, as were my parents. Spanish is my first language. I consider myself a Latina. However, I have light skin, dirty blonde hair, green eyes, and no discernible accent when I speak English.

You may be thinking, “Oh, a white girl is complaining about being white.” That’s not the case at all – I am just tired of people using my skin color as a way to belittle me or deny my identity. It’s proven to me that stereotypes about Latina women take numerous shapes.

I’ve always struggled with connecting to my Latina ethnicity because I don’t look like the picture-perfect Latina and have no accent. When I was in sixth grade, I remember telling people that I was American because I didn’t quite fit in with the self-identified Latinas at my school. These insecurities have stayed with me through high school and even into college. One of the first things I did when I was a freshman was dye my hair a very dark brown and relished the comments that it made me look more “Latina.”

Then there are the whole host of stereotypes related to Latina bodies with which I’ve certainly struggled. Latinas  are expected to walk an impossible line between curvy and thin — a cultural pressure that has affected me throughout my entire adolescence and still affects me to this day. And I’m hardly the only one: Research shows that eating disorders in the Hispanic community are on the rise, and that white and Latina women have similar attitudes about and rates of dieting and weight control, especially in terms of bulimia and BED.

Latina women are also expected to have tan skin, dark hair, and exotic features. We’re incredibly sexualized and are supposed to be spicy, fiery, and curvaceous. When you Google search “Latina Women,” almost all of the images that come up are tan, dark-haired women who are scantily clad in provocative positions. Because I don’t fit this ubiquitous stereotype, I’ve been told endlessly that I’m not a “real Latina.”

Sofia Vergara, who is arguably the most famous Latina in pop culture right now, claims that she only found success when she dyed her natural blonde hair darker. She claims, “When I started acting, I would go to auditions and they didn’t know where to put me because I was voluptuous and had the accent — but I had blonde hair,” said Vergara. “It was ignorance: They thought every Latin person looks like Salma Hayek. The moment I dyed my hair dark, it was, ‘Oh, she’s the hot Latin girl.’ I loved it.”

Although Vergara wanted to help fight this ignorance, she needed work, so she fed into the stereotypes. “The reality is Latinos come in all colors, heights, and flavors, but who was I to preach this stuff when I needed a job?” She said. “My team and I decided to darken my hair to make it more in tune with my accent, and it worked.”

While some may consider this a shallow issues, I know from personal experience how difficult and hurtful the experience of being denied your heritage is. I’ve been told that I don’t understand what it is to be a Latina, called a gringa, asked if I’m adopted. I’ve only lately begun to realize that this says less about me and more about our society’s incredibly narrow-minded ideas about Latin women. I have Latina friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors and in my eyes, that does not make them any more or less Hispanic. These stereotypes have real consequences on real lives and we need to stop upholding them as facts.

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