A Rising Voice in Afro-Latin America by Frances Robles

11:31 PM

I spotted this article while scrolling through my timeline on Twitter last night. The tweet came up with a caption that read "Wow, who knew Dominicans hated blacks this much". So I quickly click the link to see what the fuss was about and found an interesting 5 part article on Afro-Latin Americans and the issues they face mainly due to the color of their skin.

(06/10/2007) SANTO DOMINGO -- Yara Matos sat still while long, shiny locks from China were fastened, bit by bit, to her coarse hair. Not that Matos has anything against her natural curls, even though Dominicans call that pelo malo -- bad hair.

But a professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said. "If you're working in a bank, you don't want some barrio-looking hair. Straight hair looks elegant," the bank teller said. "It's not that as a person of color I want to look white. I want to look pretty." And to many in the Dominican Republic, to look pretty is to look less black.

Dominican hairdressers are internationally known for the best hair-straightening techniques. Store shelves are lined with rows of skin whiteners, hair relaxers and extensions. Racial identification here is thorny and complex, defined not so much by skin color but by the texture of your hair, the width of your nose and even the depth of your pocket. The richer, the "whiter." And, experts say, it is fueled by a rejection of anything black. "I always associated black with ugly. I was too dark and didn't have nice hair," said Catherine de la Rosa, a dark-skinned Dominican-American college student spending a semester here. "With time passing, I see I'm not black. I'm Latina. "At home in New York everyone speaks of color of skin. Here, it's not about skin color. It's culture."

The only country in the Americas to be freed from black colonial rule -- neighboring Haiti -- the Dominican Republic still shows signs of racial wounds more than 200 years later. Presidents historically encouraged Dominicans to embrace Spanish Catholic roots rather than African ancestry. Here, as in much of Latin America -- the "one drop rule'' works in reverse: One drop of white blood allows even very dark-skinned people to be considered white.

Several women said the cultural rejection of African looking hair is so strong that people often shout insults at women with natural curls. "I cannot take the bus because people pull my hair and stick combs in it," said wavy haired performance artist Xiomara Fortuna. "They ask me if I just got out of prison. People just don't want that image to be seen."

The hours spent on hair extensions and painful chemical straightening treatments are actually an expression of nationalism, said Ginetta Candelario, who studies the complexities of Dominican race and beauty at Smith College in Massachusetts. And to some of the women who relax their hair, it's simply a way to have soft manageable hair in the Dominican Republic's stifling humidity.

"It's not self-hate," Candelario said. "Going through that is to love yourself a lot. That's someone saying, ‘I am going to take care of me.' It's nationalist, it's affirmative and celebrating self." Money, education, class -- and of course straight hair -- can make dark-skinned Dominicans be perceived as more "white," she said. Many black Dominicans here say they never knew they were black -- until they visited the United States. "During the Trujillo regime, people who were dark skinned were rejected, so they created their own mechanism to fight it," said Ramona Hernández, Director of the Dominican Studies Institute at City College in New York. "When you ask, ‘What are you?' they don't give you the answer you want . . . saying we don't want to deal with our blackness is simply what you want to hear."

Hernández, who has olive-toned skin and a long mane of hair she blows out straight, acknowledges she would "never, never, never'' go to a university meeting with her natural curls.

To read the full article, which I highly recommend, please click HERE!

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8 People Obsessing!

  1. wow i knew it was bad in the dominican but I never fathomed their self hate to be so overtly expressed in this manner. Its absolutely pathetic.


  2. *sigh*

    It really angers me when people who do not know exactly where the problem of Dominicans and Race began. I am a black Dominican and I would like to say that NOT every black Dominican thinks this way. There are many of us who know where we come from and our heritage. IT IS NOT SELF HATE!

    The Dominican Republic had a president name Trujillo and this president tried to ethnically cleanse the country of black people. There is a river that divides the Dominican Republic and Haiti called the Massacre River.They say that about 30,000 blacks were killed in this river because of Trujillo's agenda to ''whiten'' the country.

    Unfortunately the impact of his black is bad campaign still impacts the society and it has had quite a toll on people distinguishing the difference between RACE and NATIONALITY. This IGNORANCE is still continued to be spread by the government. Let me give you an example, on the national ID the person's race must be on it. My cousin who is darker than me is classed as NEGRO meaning black. I on the other hand would be classed as TRIGENO meaning mixed (i think i have yet to find someone to explain to me what that colour is).

    This race problem will be something that unfortunately will continue because the government will find some way to try and shut people up the corruption in that country is immense! Not only that but it will really take a lot! to re educate people of where they come from of their heritage. Things like that takes money and really who in the Dominican Republic will spend money trying to educate people about who they are? about their race? NO ONE will take that risk or they will be seen as ''anti dominicano''.

    So please dont blame the people to be honest it is not their fault. Blame the government for continuing their agenda of black is bad.

    love the site KKK.

  3. oh here is a nice article to read about the massacre.


  4. @jh69 Thanks you so much for comment. It's good to get a point a view from someone who is black Dominican. Also thx for the the link I will be checking it out :)

  5. it's allllllmost the "same" issue in Brasil, being that color of a brasileiros is varied. you could be brother and sister but one is "brown" and the other "black" and BOTH have afros lol.

    and hey if dominicans are known for their blowouts we're known for our... brazilian KERATIN treatments lol althought regular people don't really get them.

    great post u got us thinking.

  6. It's not just Dominican, it's Puerto Rican (me) and a whole slew of other nationalities who have this sort of "Hair Racism".
    My mother started straightening mine out of ease and necessity. She used to lovingly plait and curl my hair until I started school, then she couldn't keep up.
    I kept relaxing because I had this want to have the beautiful silky locks of Asian women, that was what I saw as beautiful.

    I can't remember when the tipping point for me was, but one day I decided I wanted to see what my "Natural" hair looked like.
    I grew it out, and with the support of some great products and some online research... I did the big chop.
    Surprise to me (who's Puerto Rican but has been going to a Dominican woman to relax my hair for almost 10 years) I had beautiful hair under there.
    I didn't have to pay for harsh chemicals, endure the burning and scabs and hours of effort. I didn't have to avoid the rain and humidity and pool (a huge feat here in Miami!).
    It was curly, and silky and soft and lush and BEAUTIFUL!

    I will never allow anyone to refer to my hair as "Pelo Malo" again. My cotton/silk curls/fro are a perfect combination of my African and Spanish heritages...
    Just like me.

  7. @JasmineLeilani I love that, thanks for sharing!


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