Yo soy boricua pa que tu lo sepas
What does it mean to look Puerto Rican?
Is it because I’m not used to
What you’ve been seeing?
The women on Telemundo y Univision
Are not representative of all Boricuas
Visit our island
And actually see for yourself mijo
Y dejame tranquilo
Why don’t you believe I’m Puerto Rican?
Is it because I choose when I want to speak español?
I have nada to prove to you
Is it because I don’t feel comfortable telling you what pueblo my family is from?
That’s none of your business
Quien eres tú?
No estas viviendo en Puerto Rico ahora
You’re living here
Y crees que tú eres mas Boricua que yo?
When you look at my DNA, it’s going to say puertorriqueña
And we all know who the real Americans are
So technically Puerto Ricans are closer to the real Americans than the white Americans
We have Taíno in our blood
You still don’t believe I’m Puerto Rican?
Is it because of my afro hair?
(If you have seen my hair without any product, you know that I have a 70’s fro)
Stop acting like you haven’t seen las mujeres en Puerto Rico
going to the beauty salon
or straightening their curls at home
How dare you
You should know Puerto Rico’s history
Instead of succumbing to the history
of the white man
that is taking over our land
Hi! My name is Mariah. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I’m Puerto Rican. I am multifaceted. I am an educator, writer, dancer, model, etc.
Growing up, I have seen the diversity within my family meaning that we come in all shades but at times, I was treated differently by my own family and other people. My family and society were used to the Western ideal of beauty which is having straight hair. I used to go to the hair salon every two weeks to get my hair straightened. My mom used to put relaxers in my hair as well to make it straight. When I was 18 years old, I decided to go natural and some of my family thought I was crazy. My grandma would say things like I look like a “bruja” or to do something with my peluca.
This hurts me even until this day because some of my family members have curly hair but choose to straighten it. I felt free cutting off at least 6 inches of my hair and finally getting to see how my natural hair looks and feels. I’ve been natural since then, 12 years later. Even now, some people don’t believe that I’m Puerto Rican because of my afro hair. This shows that they have not seen the diversity in the actual country of Puerto Rico. On top of that, some people want me to speak español like I have to prove that I’m Puerto Rican. It hurts when you go to your own country and they treat you like you don’t belong just because sometimes you want to speak English.
I have also been made fun of by some black women when I first went natural and didn’t really know how to style/take care of my hair. I didn’t understand why they would make fun of me when they had the same type of hair underneath their weaves. I choose to wear my natural hair because that’s who I am. I love my afro hair and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I also wear my natural hair so I can be a role model to women, men, and children who have natural hair.
I have also been made fun of because of the color of my skin by my black friends. I know I have light skin, especially in the winter. My black friends have called me white which I find offensive because Puerto Ricans are mixed and I am part Black based on my DNA. I identify as an Afro-Latina. I love black culture. I love going to soca parties, listening to Afro-Beats / Rap, watching Black TV shows, etc.
I have also dealt with people mispronouncing my name. I have been called “Maria” many times when my name is Mariah (like Mariah Carey). I feel like at times people assume that my name is Maria because I have a Spanish last name and I’m Latina. I’ve had to correct people many times on how to pronounce my name. I tell them that if my grandparents can pronounce my name and their first language is Spanish, then you can too.
Poetry Page: @papayaspoetry
4 Comments Add yours
Thank you Jenay and Mariah. This series’ powerful portraits remind me of Yaba Blay’s book. It would be wonderful to publish an Afro-Latina edition with the women’s stories you are presenting. A few of Blay’s portraits were of Afro-Latinas, but a book focused on women and Black Latina identity would be great.
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Love it my beautiful friend! I love your fro & people are very ignorant! Glad to see you embrace your natural beauty. Xo
Thank you! 💖