Monday, November 22, 2010

Nationality and Race

Check out two of my favorite models: Arlenis Sosa and Sessilee Lopez (click to watch video). First, there is Arlenis, the very Dominican girl, accent and all; and then there's Sessilee, homegirl from Philly. Both of these models have mixed roots, with Arlenis from the DR and Sessilee from the states, but of Domincan, African-American, and Portuguese descent. These two models are noticeably dark-skinned revealing their African descent. I chose to share the two videos above for two reasons; the first being, the differences in the ways in which these two models are marketed (one as a Latina and the other as African-American), and the second is the presence or absence of an accent (or fluency in Spanish) that qualifies or disqualifies an Afro-Latina woman from being viewed and accepted as Latina.

At the beginning of the semester we were all engaged in a game of describing what it means to be Latin@. We came up with several qualifications, one of which being Spanish-speaking. Since Arlenis is fluent in Spanish and Sessilee is not one might question whether or not Sessilee is Laina, whereas Arlenis's latinidad is obvious the moment she begins to speak. Latin America, just like the U.S. has become typified and so have the people who reside in these places. When people think of the U.S. an all-American image comes to mind that does not include and represent the wide range of cultures and ethnicities that exist here. The same goes for Latin America; earlier in the course we discussed the preferred images of Latin Americans in the media, which are typically light-skinned with European features. All this does is render everyone who isn't white unimportant and invisible, and leaves the rest of the world to believe that Black Americas don't exist, Black Latin@s don't exist, Black Europeans don't exist, so on and so forth.

Another aspect of Afro-latinidad that I find interesting is the fine line between nationality and culture and race. In a place like the U.S. where race matters Afro-Latin@s are criticized for not looking Latin@. It seems though that Latin@ is a culture comprised of different races. To say someone doesn't look Latin@ is like saying someone doesn't look American, which sounds pretty ridiculous. Check out an article by another Afro-Latin@ on this topic.

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