Latina Shuts down Stereotypes

Alexia Gardner, Editor

There are as many as 56.5 million Latinos that live in the U.S., according to The Pew Research Center. I am one of those 56.5 million and I am proud of it. I am a second generation born, hailing from America’s southern friend, Mexico. As proud I am of this heritage, there comes a lot of backlash and stereotypes with it that need to be taken down.

Every time I tell someone that I’m Mexican they tell me, “Really! Well you don’t look like it,” and they have this look on their face of disbelief because I don’t look like a ‘typical’ Mexican. You know, the classic dark skinned, black hair, barely speaking English type of person. Well surprise, surprise! Mexicans and Latinos come in all different forms.

There are different types of Latinxs when it comes to their appearance. There are those who are fair-skinned, due to the Spanish influence, just like me. I am half-white, but I am just as Mexican as I am white. In fact, there are still full-blooded Mexicans that look like they belong somewhere in Europe. Others look stereotypical due to them having more of an indigenous background. Then, there are Afro-Latinx, who are people who have both African and Latino background. These Latinos usually come from the Caribbean with a history of slaves introduced to those areas.

One misconception that people have when it comes to Latinxs is that it’s the same thing as being Hispanic. Wrong! Latinx has to do with coming from a Latin American country and Hispanic has to do with coming from a country where Spanish is the main language. For example, famous artist Enrique Iglesias comes from Spain, so he’s Hispanic and not Latino.  Someone from Brazil is Latinx but not Hispanic because the main language in that country is Portuguese.

Even though I don’t face this because I am Mexican I know a lot of my other Latinx friends say they are Latinx, a person automatically assumes that person is Mexican because that’s the “norm.” There are so many Latin American countries such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador and so many more. Each of these countries has their own culture and history, and they’re not all the same.

A stereotype the Latinxs face, especially women, is the hypersexualization of our bodies. Don’t get me wrong. Latinas are some the most prettiest and sexiest women I’ve met, but the set beauty standard harms some of us. The idea that all of us have to be this big beautiful woman with a curvalicious body hurts the Latinas who don’t look like that. This stereotype is usually what men envision when they say, “I only date Latinas” or,  “I love dating Latinas.” I don’t really fit that stereotypical look that American media has perpetuated on Latina women so this adds to the disbelief when I tell people that I am Mexican, because yet again, I don’t fit the stereotype. Latinas come in all shapes and sizes and we’re just as beautiful as Latinas who do fit the stereotype.

Despite the negative associations that come with this label, there are amazing things I love about being Latina, such as the food. Each Latin American culture has a different food style. Mexicans happen to have a taste for spicy food. Besides spice being the main ingredient, we have traditional food such as Menudo and Pozole, which in my taste, aren’t spicy at all. Most people think this kind of food is gross because Menudo uses a cow’s stomach. Cultures across the world have their own views on what is acceptable to eat, so for those who think this is gross, it just means they grew up in a culture where cow stomach in their diet is not the norm.

My favorite Latin American tradition is having a  huge celebration when a girl turns 15 called a Quinceñera. Its purpose is to signify the transition from a young girl to young lady. My celebration started off with a ceremony at the church where the Father blessed me, and it was followed with a huge party where I was surrounded by my friends and family. It was one the most memorable experiences in my life and I will always be thankful that my mom gave me the opportunity to celebrate an age that seems insignificant in American culture.

The greatest thing about being Latina, at least for me, is belonging to a culture. A culture that holds some of the same values as me and  a culture with a rich history and bright future ahead for us. The fact that I can go to a new place and immediately connect with someone once we find out that we’re both Latinx is amazing. My culture and ethnicity will always be a part of my identity as a Mexican-American woman.

Alexia Gardner (11) celebrates her 15th birthday with a Quinceñera, which is a celebration signifying the transition of girl to woman. Gardner makes up one of the 56.5 million Latinos who live in the United States and values her culture. “I will never forget this day,” Gardner said. “Every single memory is forever in my brain.”