- Christy Alfaro
I'm Latina Hear Me Roar?
Updated: Jan 19
*Disclaimer: Republished 9/7/2020*
When I was younger I had one celebrity that I really loved, Hilary Duff. I was obsessed with Hilary Duff and watched everything else she was in. I even recorded that scene
in Cadet Kelly where Hilary Duff and her friend scoff a bunch and say "no." "yes." and watched it a million times. (IT'S ON YOUTUBE I'M NOT ALONE!) I can't really remember what it was about Hilary Duff or Lizzie McGuire that I loved so much but I felt so connected to her. I wrote down the lyrics to I Can't Wait in my diary and sang it every day until I knew all the words by heart. Unfortunately, I started to hide my love for Hilary Duff because people would tease me for being too "white". Feeling the need to prove my Latinaness I stopped listening to Hilary Duff and started listening to Aventura and Mana exclusively.
I don’t think I ever felt a disconnect between my Latinaness and my Americanness. I never felt less Latina when I listened to Hilary Duff because to me my culture was so deeply ingrained in me I couldn’t ever forget. I feel like my parents did an amazing job of teaching me Guatemalan culture and making me feel really connected to my Latina culture. I remember my mom playing Pimpinela while we cleaned the house and going to my aunts house every weekend and eating carne asada and dancing to Elvis Crespo. I remember taking road trips and listening to Selena and Los Kumbia Kings. I remember sitting and talking with my Mom while she cooked dinner or did the laundry. It wasn’t until someone pointed it out to me, that I realized it was weird I talked to my mom in English. The thing is I never really spoke Spanish at home, the most I ever spoke Spanish was when I was singing along to the music we listened to. I don't really know when I stopped speaking Spanish at home, both of my parents speak Spanish and while my Dad usually talks in English my mom solely talks to me in Spanish. It could be that I just never spoke Spanish at home or that I stopped speaking Spanish after being made fun of by cousins for speaking Spanish like "a gringa." I just remember not speaking Spanish unless I was singing along to a song and as I got older it got worse and worse. To this day, I'll start speaking Spanish and it will be going well and then all of a sudden I won't remember a word and I'll start freaking out and then everything I say after that becomes gibberish.
I try not to look at my past and dissect it too much but I can’t deny the fact that all these experiences shaped who I am today. I definitely look back and wonder if I would speak more Spanish if I hadn't been made fun of when I was younger. I wonder if I wasn't teased for having a flat chest and no ass if I wouldn't feel like I had to wear skimpier more tight fitting clothes to accentuate the minimal curves I had. (I’m not even going to get started on how traumatizing it was to constantly be made fun of for looking like a “boy” and how it played in to me not feeling like a typical Latina). I wonder if I wouldn't have felt like I had to date Latino boys so I wouldn't be made fun of for liking only White Boys. - I feel like I should say that every decision I made was obviously my decision but I can't lie and say that for a long time I felt like I was making decisions to fit a mold of what I thought I was supposed to be.
I feel like I went through two very distinct periods of my life when it comes to how I viewed my culture. When I was younger I just leaned in to that stereotype of the white valley girl because I knew that if I didn't I would always be "competing" with my cousins who were always much more "Latina" than me. Then I went through a phase where I really tried to come across as Latina, I tried talking as much Spanglish as possible and just bringing up my culture as much as possible.
(I know that Gina Rodriguez is kind of problematic but this is just such a relevant gif that I had to include it)
It's so hard for me because I am incredibly proud to be Guatemalan. I feel fully engrossed in Latina culture and it was a huge part of my activism. In 2016 and 2017 I was very heavily in the feminist and latinx activism scene. While I am still a feminist and Latinx I am not as heavily in the activism scene anymore. It was really hard to be in the activism scene trying to represent Latinas and feel like an imposter. I had all these other activists around me who seemed more equipped to speak on the experiences of Latinxs. I started feeling like I had to justify my feelings on certain positions, I felt like I had to prove my Latina-ness to speak on certain experiences, and in the end I was just so tired of constantly "checking myself." I always felt like because I’m white passing I couldn’t fully understand the struggles that other Latinx people go through.
I read “representations matters" and I never felt like that was really relevant to me. I feel like I've been doing a lot of searching to find myself over the last few years and with that has been coming to terms with my culture. I had this breakthrough moment watching the Superbowl this year, watching Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Seeing my culture on screen, listening to the music I grew up with, it meant so much to me. All my white friends didn't get the level of excitement that I was feeling but I felt my culture down to my bones. In that moment I realized that my culture is for myself. I know that I'm Latina, I have the roots and the culture that my family raised me with and even though I'm white passing and can't speak Spanish well, that can never take away any of those things.
Now I'm going to jam to Selena for the rest of the night