When I think of myself the first thing that might pop up is an artistic weirdo. To the outside world...Latina. No issue in being Latina. I personally identify as a Latinx Woman. But the issue I want to cover in these next few minutes is why a cultural identity in young teen Americans is a huge issue.
I was born in Houston, Texas. The first born daughter to Raymond and Marielly Ortiz. I was raised centered around my Latin roots. During the days my grandma would take care of me and teach me many things about our small island in the Carribean. I learned how to make tostones and sofrito. In the house I only spoke Spanish, and when I got to school in Kinder I learned English. My parents taught me to be respectful to your elders. I come from a very proud Boriqua family. But in school I was shamed for being of another ethnicity. My earliest memories of racial injustice was when I was 7; I grew up in a small, predominantly white area of South Houston. I was maybe one of 5 kids of color in my class. I never really thought it could turn into something bad until one day; my friend Alex had to tell me she couldn’t be my friend anymore because her parents didn’t want her to be. I was confused. How could me knowing two languages and being a little bit more different physically cause me to lose friends or even later on...boyfriends. I was too hispanic for my white friends, and a little too white washed for my latino friends who were born in their countries and I was not. I did not know where I fit. During my years in middle school, and parts of high school I struggled with who I was. I had curly hair, and olive tone skin. I had hips and developed very early on. I remember I would straighten or curl my hair with hot tools because I wanted straight or voluminous curls like the other girls. Not knowing that it would severely damage my curl pattern until this day. Sophomore year I basically died my whole head blonde; and back tracking a bit, but when I was 10 I was finally able to wax my unibrow because the kids in school would just make too much fun of me. For years until I was about 15 I would beg my mom to pluck them just about every night because my hair would grow so fast back I felt that the peach fuzz that was building up would be noticed and laughed at. I never wanted to develop the English “Spanish” accent like Sofia Vegara so I would purposely sound like a valley girl, and have even been told recently “wow you speak english so good...”
In high school I participated in Theatre Arts. I absolutely love the arts and began acting around 12 years old. In high school I was denied multiple roles on account of my skin being too dark or too “Latina” so to say. I have also been given roles to make it more “Latina.” What the hell does that mean? Be more exotic? Be more sassy? ...Be more Latina? Being or acting Latina isn’t a personality trait. Theatre and the world of performing arts purposely only uses actors, producers, writers, etc as token prizes. If I walked into a room versus a white girl she would get the damsel and I would get the mean girl...why is it that the Latina or Black girl always plays the mean or slutty girl? The Asian or Arab are the smart or ditsy ones and Whites are the leading roles. Why can’t we debunk the stigma surrounding type casting??? Obviously you wouldn’t make Hitler Black man or Vanessa in In the Heights white. In some circumstances type casting should be played in order to tell a much greater story. But why must ordinary shows be so typed and constructed?
Growing up Latina in Texas I have never fully fit in. I have “proper” English so to say. I eat all types of foods, but mostly Puerto Rican, and I’m able to do two step dances as well as Bachata. I’m Latina, I’m Texan, and I’m American. I can be whoever and whomever I want and no one can say differently. I am not Illegal, I am a human with rights.
As of now in my life; I began the First Hispanic History Production at my high school back home alongside the production of the directors and department. I have built my own photography company showcasing injustice issues like black lives matter and many other things, I embrace my natural curls, my natural unibrow (from time to time) and I am one proud Latin-American girl. I speak two languages fluently, I am the first in my family to attend a four year university to further my education in Christian Studies to hopefully become a Fine Arts Pastor. I one day hope to open a non-profit for kids in the foster care system, and one day also hope to open my own Theatre company. I’m also working on writing and producing music. I volunteer helping the movement troupe as a social media assistant, and so much more. I have so many goals in my life. Being Latina and a Woman will never hinder my dreams. I will continue to push for change. Justice for Latinos in America and BLACK LIVES STILL MATTER.
Ask yourself or your friends these debatable questions to start healthy conversations?
Has there ever been a time in your life that your race has hindered your passions and desires?
Have you ever felt like you needed to change the way you look due to beauty standards in your society?
What’s something that could be holding you back due to your race?
Is there something you can do right now for your community as an allie?
Have you ever felt like you weren't “American” enough but also never really fit into your other cultural ethnicity groups?