If I had a penny for every man that has been gentle enough to “excuse” my “sassiness” or my irritability thanks to my Puerto Rican ethnicity, I would’ve probably been able to buy [at least] a used car. Sometimes they seem to be flattering comments, like how I reminded someone of J.Lo at that one house party about a month ago. I nodded and smiled: “Yes, but she was actually born and raised in New York. Her parents were born in Puerto Rico though.” “Oh, didn’t know that! Anyways, you look like her. So latina.”
But the truth is – I don’t want to be compared to J.Lo: I’m not actively aspiring to look “spicy” even if I do feel strongly and proud about representing Puerto Rican women in the U.S. Yes, I do love to dance and have several traits that (proudly) link me to my homeland. And no, I don’t necessarily look like some of the girls at the liberal arts college I go to. I’m also not interested in looking like anyone else other than myself, but some of those types of comments are [not] true and don’t make us [women of any given ethnicity] feel “special” in the good way. I was once told that my “hips don’t lie” by one of my [brief] college boyfriends- and we weren’t even dancing.
Above all, there is nothing flattering about being excused for being “sentimental” because of [anyone’s] origins, or because we’re being “women” – similarly to how black women are usually excused for being “angry” or “resentful.” I just feel emotive and overly conscious about certain things, but that’s about it.
I don’t think that coming over to talk to me after a “rant” or a “discussion” at a party and saying: “hey – I understand. You’re a latina: my girlfriend has latina moments too. So fire-y… I just learned to let it go, you know?” [This one happened two weeks ago], would make any woman feel relieved, or feel ok. Anyone, even men, can have any of those traits – only maybe they’d be looked at “virile” rather than “hot tempered” or “sentimental.”
With all the recent discussions on immigration reform and the recent success of Latino born authors like Esmeralda Santiago and Junot Díaz, I’ve been constantly thinking about what changes [if any] we’ll be looking at in regards to Latin Americans in the U.S.- above everything, thinking about how the image of [Puerto Rican] and Latin American women in general will be looking like and what we can do to create [more] consciousness about these stereotypes.