I want a little girl. I envision us in our living room, our hips swinging as a a merengue ripao blasts through stereo speakers. The beat changes to a familiar salsa — “Hasta Que Te Conosi” by Marc Anthony — and we sing loudly, as if we are the ones on stage at Madison Square Garden. I look at her caramel skin, curly hair, and wide eyes as she twirls and laughs happily. I am bursting with pride and joy. I wish for her what I wished for myself as a young Latina — that she loves herself deeply, accepts herself and her quirks, and realizes she is worthy of greatness. I snap out of my reverie, spin her quickly as the rhythm of the congas speed up, and say, “Mamita, you are a strong, beautiful and smart Latina. Don’t let anyone put you inside of a box. You, amor, are meant to be free.”
I haven’t always felt free. I’ve desperately wished for that feeling as if I were wishing on a genie in a bottle, because as a Latina I’ve been emotionally and mentally imprisoned and conditioned to be a certain kind of mujer. A mujer I do not want my daughter to become.
One that caters to her partner, cooking and cleaning even when exhausted, and, in turn, placing her needs and desires last. One that allows her mate to take the lead even when she disagrees with where she is being led. One that refuses to rock the boat for fear of upsetting anyone, therefore, goes along to get along even when getting along means muting her own voice. One that feels she needs to be a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets, while acknowledging it is an unfair double standard. One that feigns confidence and independence but depends on her partner to take care of her financially. One that believes she is not good enough for unconditional love and has to do all the things to be loved. One that plays into the role of mosquita muerta and sexpot even when it rips her up inside to be inauthentic.
For years, I’ve struggled with what it means to be a mujer Latina in love and life. I’ve fought within myself about myself and my behavior, and questioned where it all stems from. My childhood. My upbringing. Mami. She was taught by her mother (and her mother by her mama) to be the very mujer that I became. The media is also to blame; they portray Latinas as submissive and catering and fiery sexpots that explode in an instant. I don’t want my daughter and other Latinx—the millennials, the adolescents, and even the abuelitas—to fall into the trap of believing they have to be anyone but themselves. No matter our age, our career, our relationship status or our station in life, we deserve to live our lives how we see fit.
The amazing thing about life is that we can turn it around. You can take back your identity. You can be the mujer that you want to be not the mujer you were told and taught to be by your family and the media.
You can #TakeBackLatina.
I’ve started to take back my identity and live authentically, despite el que diran and the images and messaging the media represents as “Latina.” I’m on a proactive and revolutionary trip that began a year ago with LoveSujeiry.com, a platform for Latinas to come and dish on love, sex and dating even though we’re told that kind of talk is appropriate. I’ve continued to give Latinas a voice with the #TakeBackLatina social media campaign, which started when I got a group of Latinas together to get their photos taken by Dominican photographer, Jennyfer Parra of Turn the Pic. They all wanted to spread a message of Latina empowerment and positivity. They all agreed that something needs to change when I shared the facts: When you Google Latina or search for the #Latina hashtag you find porn sites, titie and ass pics, Latina porn stars and articles on “how to date a Latina” or how “Latinas are crazy.” This infuriates me. I don’t want my sister, my cousin, my niece, my friends, my coworkers, my comadres, my Love Sujeiry team or my daughter to constantly have to prove that they are intelligent and educated, entrepreneurial and hard working, kind and nurturing, classy and respectful. I had to do something. We have to do something. And so, we’re encouraging and engaging Latinas all over social media to join us as we #TakeBackLatina one Instagram photo at a time.
It’s been powerful. The messages that Latinas have shared along with their photos have solidified my commitment to #TakeBackLatina for all Latinas. Cynthia Travieso, a Jersey City blogger, said it best.
“The imagery of Latinas on the Internet is appalling and not reflective of who we are… and this has bothered me for years. Anyone remember when I had the Tumblr account XXXrated Latinas and just infiltrated it with abuelitas reading (I’m willing to bring it back, just let me know)? This is 2018 and here we are still having to reclaim our narrative on what #BrownIsBeautiful is and what it means to be Latina. We are more than our perceived curves and “fiery” personalities. We are entrepreneurs, artists, activists and educated professionals (and much much more) who refuse to be reduced to one role! So today I ask you to reclaim #Latina, for our mothers, daughters, sisters, amigas, and most importantly for ourselves.”
Yes. Let’s reclaim what it is to be Latina. Join me as I continue this mission. Post a photo on Instagram sharing all of your amazing Latinaness. Be the mujer Latina you want to be. Say fuck it to el que diran and societal and cultural pressures of what it means to be a woman. Lend a hand to a fellow Latinx. Collaborate. Unite. Speak out. Be you.
Let’s #TakeBackLatina for our sisters, for our daughters, for our mothers. For us.