Last week I had to hand in a seven-page paper on what it meant to be my ethnicity in the United States. Like all things in an academic setting, there was a list of questions the professor wanted to be answered. One of them was “What does it mean to be your ethnicity?” There are multiple ways to answer this question depending on who you ask. In my case, being Puerto Rican meant a variety of things. Being Puerto Rican meant we are a mixture of Taino, African, and Spanish. We carry our African roots in our foods, our language and even in our music. When you hear the timbales your legs and hips come to life. When you hear the voice of the legendary Hector Lavoe, you cannot help but want to dance and sing along. When you realize that everything sounds better in Spanish half the time. When abuelita waits for you with un cafecito and pan con mantequilla. Being Puerto Rican meant you feel when your heart is going to explode whenever Puerto Rico wins a medal or participates in worldwide sports. Being Puerto Rican meant understanding that our island has a completely separate identity apart from the United States. Anywhere you go, Puerto Rico is heard of. Understanding that our ancestors had a non-stop fight in trying to gain independence and how our youth is still carrying it out today. Being Puerto Rican means you understand we come in all colors but our skin has the ability to withstand the blazing sun. Dreaming of our clear crystal blue beaches and wondering how did you get so damn lucky to be born in a place like this? Being Puerto Rican means that I am part of Paradise. I was born and raised where the ancestors of colonizers vacation. I was born and raised on enslaved soil. I was born and raised on a soil that is much stronger than it’s oppressor. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, I carry the language on my tongue and the culture on my back. That’s what being Puerto Rican means to me. Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tu lo sepas!
There is no denying that I am a very picky woman when it comes to romances. Especially now that I lived stateside. I have noticed that men hypersexualize me because I am a Latina. It is sickening to think about all the relationships I have terminated before them even blossoming because of this. I remember being 14 years old and having this crush on a boy who was two years older than me. I barely knew how to talk let alone flirt. While we are both exchanging “flirtatious” messages he said, “You being Puerto Rican makes you ten times hotter.” For some reason, I was totally offended. I asked him, “why?” and he said,”Latin girls are hot. Who doesn’t wanna be with a latin girl?”. So, was he talking to me because I was this fetish for many men in the present day? Was he speaking to me because he liked me? The answer was I was a fetish to him and many other men. I remember feeling uncomfortable because all the flirting became completely sexual. It became a comment about my “Puerto Rican lips”, my “Puerto Rican hair” and my “Puerto Rican, Jlo looking butt”. After that faded out, I had many other encounters with men and again, all of them commenting and making slick comments about how I must be fantastic in bed. I would always ask, “Why is that?” and the response would always be the same, “You’re Latina. You women are amazing in bed.” That was my queue to abort the mission. In high school, one of my male friends made it clear to me that he wanted to sleep with a Latina and then, asked me if I was willing. As if my ethnicity is a marketed sex appeal. Then, I began to realize it was. I knew girls who would pick and choose when to say they were Latinas. They always chose to say it when it came down to being more attractive to a guy. It would work like a charm, in a few minutes he would be asking you if you preferred a bed or the inside of his car.
Not only is this something that is just assumed, but us Latinas are portrayed this way even movies, music. In one of Drake’s hits, he has a verse that goes, “Lips so french, Ass so Spanish.” In movies, we are either the sexy maids, the sexy Spanish teacher or the sexy nanny. Everywhere we turn Latinas are oversexualized. There is no escape to it and it carries out to our personal relationships.
“Call me ‘Papi'”, Latinas hear that phrase more than we would like. Plot twist, my language is not a tool that you can use to exploit me for your sexual pleasure. My ethnicity is not your fetish. My culture and my ancestry is not something you can cross off your bucket list as soon as you ejaculate. I am not an object.
Lately, I have found myself thinking profoundly about the schools I applied and got accepted to at the end of my senior year in High School. How many of them accepted me because I am a Latina? How many of them accepted me because of my 3.6 GPA, AP courses, honor roll and extracurricular activities? As I continue my journey in higher ed I begin to think that I was accepted into these schools because of Affirmative Action. A way of saying, “We need to meet some standards, we pick you!“. I go to a university where I can count the number of Latino students who attend. I live on a campus where the Latino community is underrepresented. Most times I am the only Latina in my classes. I have noticed patterns in which I am looked at as a circus attraction. “You’re from Puerto Rico, give us an example?!” or “Share your experiences with the class!“. As if my culture and experiences are a tourist attraction. I have noticed professors testing me to see how “smart” I am. When I achieve something my college does back-flips and immediately send me an email about ways to honor my successes. In reality, they are using me as a marketing tool. “We present you with a Latina! We have diversity!” Since when is my personal success a marketing tool for White America? Since when is my ambition and passion to help my Latino Community and my island of Puerto Rico a tool to use for your school’s success rate? They honor what I have achieved but not the reason as to why I am achieving it. If my school accepted me because they knew I was smart, none of my accomplishments would be plastered on the hallways or on the school’s website. Unfortunately, I am a student who was chosen due to Affirmative Action. They chose me because I am a statistic. One day, I will become more than just a statistic.
I have decided to continue this blog, I will be focusing on how it is to be a Latina in the scholarly world and in White America. What challenges I face and other latinos face. I will periodically post about historic Latinx figures in education. However, I want to keep this blog real and relatable. Latina Nina is back and is here to stay. I hope you all continue to follow along with my journey. La lucha no para.
Bienvenidos, everyone! I’m Nina, the proud owner of this blog. While navigating my blog there are a series of things to understand and keep in mind. This blog focuses on the oppression of women and gradually narrowing it done to women of color. As well as how these forms of oppression have deprived women and people of color from their right to education. Being a woman of color myself, these pieces were very insightful to me and reminded me of certain situations I have been in. It is extremely important to recognize the struggle and the fight that has been taking place for hundreds of years in order for women to be considered equal and gain access to education. Sadly, the fight hasn’t stopped! However, some of the people and situations this blog covers, were milestones in history in which these people paved a road for many to follow or offer examples to. The blogs covers people like Abigail and John Adams, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Luisa Moreno and Jessie De La Cruz. It also covers events like the Seneca Falls Convention.
There is a certain way I would like you all to read my posts and that is by chronological order. All these years show the same problem but a different struggle. All these struggles, gave shape to what we have now.
Posts in order to be read:
This blogs goes from the late 18th century to the 21st century. It highlights the different struggles of women and people of color even now in current day. I hope you enjoy and learn from these posts as much as I did! What I want you all to take away from this post is that coming together as one to fight for a cause is a way to triumph. Understanding the struggles of others and privileges of others or your own is ideal when understanding racial divides or social divides. Also that looking back at history it doesn’t seem as if much has changed because of these problems are relevant today just in a different way. Lastly, education is a right. Do not let anyone take that away from you. Sit back, relax and read.
“As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces,” she added.”
If not all of us are aware from where this quote came from, let me give you some background story! A Latina student that goes by the name of Tiffany Martinez got her essay back and her professor told her “That is NOT your language.” in front of the whole classroom. The professor felt, that Tiffany’s language was too complex to be used by a Latina. When Tiffany was looking through her essay, the professor had circled the word “Hence” and commented, “This is NOT your word”. Tiffany Martinez decided to go public about the professor who discriminated against her.
Even in the 21st century there is still oppression in academic institutions due to the belief that we have learned and read about of people of color being considered less than and incapable of being scholars.
I must add in something extremely personal, those who know me, know that I carry my culture on my back and my native language on my tongue with nothing but pride. Hell, I have Puerto Rico’s silhouette tattooed on my rib cage! I am a PROUD Latina! However, being Latina in the United States is a never ending battle. I, myself have been discriminated against within the public school system many times when I moved from Puerto Rico. I have been told by my high school teachers everything you can imagine. My ultimate favorite line being “You are actually smart for being a Puerto Rican”. Comments that I have learned to pick and choose which ones to react to. However, recently I went through something that I just cannot seem to let go. I am currently, a sophomore at the University of Hartford, a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science, also enrolled in the Honors program. This fall, I registered for an Honors Writing class, in which I felt confident going in to.When I walked into the classroom, I immediately realized that I was the only Latina and Spanish-speaker in the classroom. The professor came in and asked us to go around and say our name, major and a fun fact about ourselves. When it’s finally my turn I say, “I’m Nina Vazquez, I am a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science. My fun fact is that I am originally from Puerto Rico, my first language is Spanish.”, pretty boring, right?! I thought it was, but the professor thought otherwise. After everyone was done with the icebreaker, the professor stands there and says, “Well, I need a writing sample from all of you. I need it, just in case SOME of you need to be lowered down to a BILINGUAL writing class.” Stuck me out like a sore thumb on that one. I sit there, stunned, embarrassed and very offended. But decided that I was not going to let a comment like that determine the year for me. I wanted to prove them wrong and show them that being bilingual does not mean I am less capable of writing, talking or thinking in another language that is not my native one. When it was time for the first essay to be due, I knew that I had to make an immaculate paper for this professor to prove myself just as good as the other students in that class. I spent 13 hours editing and revising this paper, going through every line to make sure they would not dock points off for anything. I handed it in confident enough, thinking that I was going to get a good grade. Sure enough…you guessed it, I failed it. When I tried asking for feedback, there was no logical reasoning for the grade I got. The professor flunked me because they thought, I shouldn’t have been in an honors class due to the fact that I was not born in the states nor that my first language was English. As a side note, the university does not even OFFER bilingual classes. This professor wanted to take away from my learning experience because I did not fit their criteria of what a passing student should look, sound, or be like. Even though, this professor made me question my intelligence and my learning capability. I realized that people like them are the reasons why I want to get my degree(s) and push myself, because success is the best revenge. Just like Tiffany Martinez and I there are probably 100 other Latinx or other people of color going through the same thing. If you consider yourself to fall under this category, I want to let you know that you are NOT alone. You are NOT dumb, You are NOT incapable, You are NOT what they make you feel like or say that you are. Get educated, get ambitious, love yourself and your roots, because that’s what they hate the most. Become active like Luisa Moreno, Jessie De La Cruz and Lucretia Mott. Make your voices heard and fight against the social constructed idea of “inferiority”. With that said, no one will ever deprive me from my education.
Source: Griffin, Tamera, “A professor circled “Hence” on a Latina student’s paper and wrote “This is not your word””. Buzzfeed, 2016.
“Within the movement, questions arise in situations ranging from relationships of women organizers to men in the community, to who cleans the freedom house, to who holds leadership positions, to who does secretarial work, and who acts as spokesman for groups. Other problems arise between women with varying degrees of awareness of themselves as being as capable as men but held 60 back from full participation, or between women who see themselves as needing more control of their work than other women demand.”
This is written by women that were named, Casey Hayden and Mary King. They begin by explaining that women and African-Americans have in common that they are oppressed groups. That everything is decided for them before they even get to decide for themselves. Things such as work and involvement is determined by white men. So, they want to create a movement that would work against, what they referred to as the “hierarchical structures of power”. They explain why they want women involvement, explains that women are exploited in different ways. They speak about exploitation in marriage, working world and in a social setting. These women then made a list, to remind others that certain things are socially constructed and women have every right to bring the law into action or challenge this norm such as divorce and voting rights.
They go into details about the movement and who should be taking each role and how no one has decided. The quote mentions, who would do the secretary position and who would take the role of a leader. Knowing what many think what gender should do what. This correlates with Hopeless Causes and Things despaired of, how the immigrant women were taught how to be secretaries and do easy jobs, jobs that men would not be caught doing because it did not pertain to their gender. Hayden and King challenge those gender roles by simply saying “who is going to do these roles” without automatically giving them to either gender or filling the gender role requirement. They both say, that system already dictated who would take on these roles but they will leave it open for discussion and will not allow this system to determine where they go or how to run this movement. Which is great, because it is a huge challenge on gender roles, like a start of a gender revolution. But the start of the revolution against gender roles has been seen all throughout my blog. From the Female Physician, Abigail Adams, Seneca Falls, Luisa Moreno to Jessie De La Cruz, all challenged the system and the social construction of gender roles in various ways.
Source: Hayden, Casey and Mary King. “Sex and Caste: A Kind Memo” 1965. Lines 55-61