I am so happy I came across your website. As a latina (dominican), there aren’t many women going natural around my neck of the woods. So, it was comforting to find this website and motivate me to stick through this…
And this email is from Vashti:
I wanted to send you this email to let u know that ur website is absolutely awesome! 11 years ago I got pregnant with my daughter and decided that i didn’t want to put anymore relaxers in my hair. Unfortunately i had no idea how to take care of my hair and after i gave birth i let my mother convince me to go to the salon and have a relaxer done. After that i tried on and off to go natural but always ran into the same problem I didn’t know how to take care of my natural hair.
Then Jan 2010 I decided that was it, I wasn’t going to try to go natural I was going to just do it. So I started researching online and stumbled onto your site… I’m half black and half puerto rican and grew up with my puerto rican mother who never did that kind of stuff to our hair so it was all foreign to me.
I’ve wanted to address this topic for a while, but felt I unqualified because I’m not Afro-Latina.
Then, at the Chicago naturals meetup, I met Dheena (pictured above) a GORGEOUS Panamanian natural. We started talking and she agreed to write a piece about her experience going natural as an Afro-Latina. Enjoy!
Being Hispanic — “Afro-Latina” — and natural is a complete challenge. It amazes me that in America, where being different is interesting and studied, we as beautiful brown-skinned Latinas have to deal with the negativity that surrounds natural hair.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York the “Americanized” child of Panamanian parents. I have a keen understanding of where I’m from and the beauty of my cultural background BUT there is one BIIIIIIIGGGG problem — brown-skinned Latinas are extremely hesitant to embrace the African roots mixed with “el son, la cumbia, el congo, y la salsa” within us. The big question is ‘why’? Why are the majority of Latina women OBSESSED with the waves and soft curls, rollers, perms, and “el blower” wraps?
As a little girl I used to admire seeing my mom get her hair done. I thought it was magic whenever her tight coils turned into a bone straight mane.
As I got older I noticed how Latin women would go insane over having straight and wavy hair. No NAPS! As my mom would say back in the day “no kinky…ese estilo no me gusta”. “No kinks…I don’t like that style”. The Latina beauty standard was just like America’s; a woman with a small waist, hips, very fair skin (European decent) and with LOOOOONG wavy hair. The media, novellas, and the public considered it the beauty norm. In soap operas the Afro-Latina is ALWAYS the maid or mami caregiver.
As a child I was obsessed with getting a perm. My mother gave me my first “Just for me” Perm at the tender age of nine. My hair was thick, full, and flowing for about a year.
I decided to go natural in 2003 while I was attending Florida A&M University. Because of the negative remarks from family members acting like I had committed the worst sin, plus dealing with an unsupportive boyfriend, I relaxed it. I became victim to damage (again) and chopped my hair to an inch in 2006. When I went home to NYC for the holidays I got the “oh my God, you look like a little boy”, to “como vas a conseguir un novio con ese pelo?” (“How are you going to find a man?”) Thankfully I had enough confidence to say, “Well I like it and at least my hair is healthy”.
Today I have aunts — whose hair is damaged from years of perms and light dyes — that are in awe of my mane and inspired by my hair, thinking that it’s a full wig.
Ciao Chicas xoxo,