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“Yo he visto esos ojos y pelo antes” 


I only knew mi Abuelo Tonito for so long, but when I think of him, these are the words that ring in my mind. With the widest, most loving eyes, he would always mention that I was a carbon copy of my Abuela Tonita. 

 Like much of my culture, I grew up hating my curly hair. It took some serious growth and learning before I came to know how to take care of my curlies and truly love them like I do today. Now when I think of my curls, I fondly think of my curly haired family members, the meditative two-hour long process of hair wash days, and my indigenous roots to the Basque tribe. 

There is no single hair type for Latinas; some of us grow cute curlies or compact coils while others grow straight or wavy hair. Yet mainstream society would have every young Latina believe their hair type does not exist in the world and that having curly hair is to have “pelo malo.” Curly hair has deep associations with colorism within the Latino community as curly hair has an association con AfroLatinidad, simply because the “norm” is white con pelo planchado. 

When looking at celebrity pop culture or those in power within our governmental systems, there is no lack of Latinos with pin-straight hair or of perfect curls made with a wand. Some of the strongest women I know have naturally curly hair, like my mom pero siempre ha sido planchado for “professionalism.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have so much fun straightening my hair on occasion and get excited when my straightened hair accentuates my indigenous features. En mi vida, I have noticed that whenever the topic of my curls and Latinidad comes up, the immediate assumption is that I am AfroLatina. However, generational ties simply do not exist within my family’s lineage, to my knowledge. While on the other hand, when I do straighten my hair, my indigenous features are accentuated and I deeply appreciate that. 

Regardless, why is it that a hair type has such strong negative associations with one group or subgroup within our ethnicity? Moreover, why is there a negative association so commonly known as “pelo malo?”

These are questions I ponder often. Our hair does not define who we are, although it most definitely is a point of unity through hairstyles and connection to our gorgeous roots. I never met her pero, as far as I know, mi Abuela Tonita wore her curlies sin pena and si quieres, so should you. 

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Nicole-Antoinette Urbina-Ruiz
Nicole-Antoinette is Wafi Media's Editor in Chief and a senior at McDaniel College. She will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science specializing in International Studies. She also works at the McDaniel College Writing Center as an Associate Peer Tutor. Outside of her work with Wafi and college life, Nicole-Antoinette is an avid singer, runner and outspoken advocate for the Latine and immigrant community. Nicole-Antoinette is passionate about issues relating to immigration, human rights, social justice, and latino culture. She hopes to attend and earn a JD at law school in order to serve the immigrant community through her practice of law.