From Our Readers
April 21, 2016 7:49 am
Newmarket Films

When I say the word “latina,” there may be a certain type of woman that pops into your head. For some reason, the first person I picture is Sofia Vergara. She’s curvy, bold, and rolls her r’s into the sunset.

The media has pushed their idea of what a Latina should look and act like into pop culture. They’re supposed to be very outgoing, constantly dancing, and even look a certain way. So what does it mean when we don’t fit into that stereotype?

Jane the Virgin actress Gina Rodriguez, has talked about being told she’s not Latina enough simply because she’s not fluent in Spanish. Her response? “I am not defined by anybody’s definition of Latina. I don’t actually sit in a definition. I walk in my world, happily and confidently.” Great words to live by.

In a similar way, beauty vlogger Dulce Candy posted a 30-minute video talking about not being perceived as “Mexican enough” because she doesn’t speak Spanish fluently.

There seems to be this idea that because you don’t fit the check-list of supposed requirements then you’re not really a Latina.

I openly admit I can’t dance. But just because I don’t have rhythm doesn’t mean that I don’t identify with my culture. Supposedly, I should have known all forms of Latin dance from birth, but the thing is, that knowledge just wasn’t passed onto me. Just because I can’t dance doesn’t mean I lose my Latina status.

In high school, I struggled with my identity because I felt I didn’t fit in with the other Latinas. They openly spoke their minds and didn’t care what anyone else thought, while I was a very shy and reserved person. Instead, I gravitated more toward the other quiet, awkward people. I was fine with that, and for those years it wasn’t necessarily that I was intentionally ignoring my Latina heritage, but I wasn’t embracing it either.

Then, in college, I felt encouraged by the older Latina students who exhibited confidence and leadership, and who understood where I was coming from. My first year, I became very involved in the Latino Student Association on campus because I didn’t want to feel separate from my culture anymore. I wanted to engage in that community — and when the older students empowered me, I felt like I could go on to empower others. I distinctly remember a night when I watched Real Women Have Curves for the first time with the group — I was able to relate to one another about things in the movie and laugh about them.

I learned to embrace my heritage and my personality, because they’re not separate entities. They’re both parts of who I am. We’re all on different journeys with our identities, but that doesn’t mean someone isn’t Latina enough because they’re not at the same place you are in your journey. Gina Rodriguez has also said, “I’ve never looked at another Latina and thought she wasn’t Latina enough. We should all see each other as sisters and how we can help each other out.”

There are times when I’m the only Latina in the room, and all I can do is represent myself because we’re all so diverse. I have pride in where my family comes from, and the opportunities I have because of their sacrifices. I’ve been given wonderful lessons from various Latinas who encouraged me to be strong, and from the women in my family want hope the best for me. I carry all that with me, and walk confidently because I have their support.

It’s about rising above the stereotypes and recognizing that Latinas come in all sizes, skin tones, Spanish fluency, dance abilities, and so forth. We’re defined by the stories we carry, not the stereotypes.

Yolanda Rodriguez is a writer and social media manager in California. When she’s not on social media, she enjoys watching the same pug video over and over. She also enjoys discussing diversity and intersectional feminism. You can find her on Twitter and YouTube.
Advertisement