Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LaLa Vazquez: Puerto Rican Can Be "BLACK" Too!

This is an article that my friend Celina shared with me earlier this year and I totally forgot to post it to the blog. The piece was written by Natasha of --> I found the article interesting and relevant to my own story. Being a second-generation Garifuna and Afro-Honduran from the East Coast, I always caught a lot of slack from people trying to define me when I first moved to Texas and even now as an adult. People would be like, "Oh! You speak spanish? So are you black?" I would sarcastically look at my skin and reply with, "Last time I checked yeah." Or as my cousin International Stro says, "Same ship, different trip." I used to get really frustrated with having to explain myself. Then I came to the realization that the problem stems from peoples lack of exposure. The media is also responsible. If you watch television (spanish or general market), you would think that all Latinos are blonde-haired and blue-eyed or brown. As my mentor Dr. Subervi said in his Latinos and Media class, "You can look at Latinos as a bell curve when it comes to the various races that make up the ethnicity." Now, I just respond with, "Google me." Bless,


LaLa Vazquez wrote a personal note addressing all the drama that tends to ensue when people discuss her (and other Boricuas' for that matter) racial background. She says that while both of her parents are Puerto Rican, that makes her Puerto Rican. But she also says that doesn't mean she's not "black" as well. LaLa explains that black and Puerto Rican are not always mutually exclusive...and she schools people on her Latina heritage and what she teaches her son Kiyan. Her words when you read the rest...
A lot of people don't realize that I'm Latina, which is fine. One thing about being Latina is that there isn't one look that comes with the territory. I don't expect people to know my cultural background just by glancing at me. I do, however, expect that when I tell people my family is from Puerto Rico, that I will be believed and not accused of trying to be something that I'm not. It usually goes something like this: a person having a conversation with me discovers one way or another that I'm Puerto Rican and fluent in Spanish. That person then expresses their shock over these realizations for any number of reasons--common responses are, "You don't look Latina" and "I thought you were black!" I never said I wasn't black. And since when does being black and being Latina have to be mutually exclusive? In my experience, people tend to have an uninformed and rather narrow view of what it means to be Puerto Rican. For me, not looking like some people's idea of a typical Latina has been challenging and often painful. I constantly find myself trying to justify who I am, and why should I? I'm proud of my heritage and my family. Both of my parents are from Puerto Rico. They raised two kids in Brooklyn and later in New Jersey, where we ate arroz con gandules and pasteles and listened to salsa music. I feel just as at home in Puerto Rico, where I still have tons of family, including aunts, uncles and cousins. Puerto Rico is in my blood. And that has nothing to do with the color of my skin. I'm not angry with anyone who doesn't understand the complexities of race and culture. And I'm also not interested in having long, drawn out conversations about how it's possible for me to look like this and speak Spanish. In fact, sometimes I make it a point not to mention my parents' birthplace because I don't always feel like having the inevitable discussion that follows. Instead, I let people look at me and come to their own conclusions. As I start to get my feet wet in Hollywood, I already know that there are certain parts I won't even be considered for. The character can be Puerto Rican and speak Spanish just like me, but Hollywood defines Latina as Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara. As beautiful as they are, we're not all one race in Latin America. But I don't go to auditions so that I can give history lessons to film executives. I'd rather skip the entire process. I'm raising my son to understand who he is, and it's my hope that he'll never let others define him. It reflects poorly on us when we don't educate ourselves about the rest of the world and what it looks like. I encourage people who are interested to learn more, do research and ask informed questions. If you're lucky enough to visit various countries in Latin America, you'll be baffled to see the blackest of the black and the lightest of the light living together. And I dare you to ask one of them to prove their latinidad.

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