I am pale-skinned.
The color of my skin (apart from it literally being the skin I live in) has been a pillar of my identity. But it was not until recently that I grew a pair (of ovaries, obviously) that I dared write about it. Skin color, and in turn, race, are rather touchy subjects and the last thing I want to do is piss off the wrong audience. But I know that’ll happen regardless, so fuck it.
I’ve also avoided discussing this issue because I did not want to validate the ignorant statements made by people regarding my skin and culture. Let me be clear: this is about my identity as a pale-skinned Latina. This isn’t a pity party, and it sure as hell isn’t a blog post where I play the victim of racism, because that would be real fucked up.
What I do want to talk about, though, is an already marginalized group of people who encounter a peculiar set of assumptions that tie their skin color to their culture. Again, I am talking about pale-skinned Latinas.
Yes, I was that one “white girl” in my friend’s quinceañera and yes, I have Argentine citizenship. But neither of those things should serve as proof or validation that I am actually Latina.
To be fair, on a purely objective level, I am white. My skin is pale. Hence, I am a white woman. But culturally, I am not that “white girl” — which I should mention is a term in itself riddled with contradictions and poorly justified assumptions. However, for the purpose of this post, I’m running with it.
I’m not here to list my grievances of being mistaken for a white woman or a white person — who the fuck wants to listen to a pale-skinned person complain about their pale skin? I’m very aware of the privilege that comes with being white — that sentiment is not lost on me. But another thing: I’m perfectly content with the skin I live in.
What I’m not content with, is having to justify, disclose, and even convince people that I’m actually Latina. I get that society functions under a certain set of assumptions and shit. I can’t fight that. I can’t help it that my skin is pale. I’m (not) sorry I don’t have a fucking Argentine sun tattooed on my forehead as a constant PSA. But I am not going to pull a Kylie Jenner and force myself to fit what society deems Latina-enough. I won’t tan myself and I definitely won’t let you call me mami, either.
And I’m not the only pale-skinned Latina out there, in case you haven’t figured that one out. We’re here, we exist, and we’re queer (okay, maybe only some of us). But really, we exist in a grey area of cultural assumptions. We’re not totally “white,” and yet, we aren’t always accepted as entirely “Latina” either. God forbid you find yourself in Mi Pueblo listening to the Mexican mother and daughter talking shit about your whiteass in hushed voices. And I hope you never have to sit through a terrible date with someone who loves “spicy Latinas.” Don’t even get me started on the general hypersexualization of Latinas (other other WOC). At face-value, these experiences are slightly comical, and I am happy to exist as an anomaly. It thrills me to watch someone’s reaction while I speak on the phone to my grandma, or how well I can salsa dance (hips don’t lie, bitches). I love challenging people’s understandings of what the Latina identity is. Even if I am a prickly pear, soy rellena con una dulzura que ni pudieras imaginar si tratabas. I, and so many others, will never, ever fit into your boxes of categorizing Latinas (and women, tbh). And we don’t want to, either.
I’d be lying, though, if I said there weren’t moments of frustration, isolation, and depression regarding that grey area I exist in. It’s a shit feeling when other Latinos feel they need to talk to you in English instead of Spanish. It’s also shitty when Latinos tell you that you speak decent Spanish for a gringa. Sometimes I feel like a toy for my non-Latinx friends who ask me to translate or “say something sexy.” There are moments in the day where sometimes, I don’t know what the fuck I am. And I imagine there are countless other human beings who feel the exact sense of alienation I am talking about — Latinx or not.
I’m not here to whine about the way I turned out. I’m not here to bag on white people. But I am here to document and publicize a group of individuals who are often unseen and overlooked. My identity, like so many others, is worth being noted. It is worth being seen.
It’s a confusing upside-down that I’m still trying to navigate, but hell, it’s there.