Latino Life: Are We Tolerant Of Our Own Hispanic Diversity?

Latino Life: Are We Tolerant Of Our Own Hispanic Diversity?

NBC News

Raul A. Reyes

Being Latino means being part of a rich, diverse culture. Or does it? Some Latinos feel removed from their peers because of their skin color, language ability, or mixed-race heritage. Others have faced criticism for holding political views at odds with the Hispanic mainstream. In fact, many Latinos know all too well what it is like not to fit in with their own community.

“Most people believe that all Latinos look like the stereotypical Puerto Rican or Mexican,” said Mirna Martinez-Santiago, 43, a New York attorney. “I am from Honduras. I am black, racially, but I identify as Latina.”

The host of The Opinion Talk Show gave some examples of how her skin color has caused confusion – and awkward moments.

“I walk into a Dominican hair salon and the employees are talking about me,” Martinez-Santiago said. “I can hear them talk about my pelo malo (bad hair). I tell them there is nothing wrong with my hair, and they are shocked that I can understand them. I try to educate people, but the best way to educate people is just by being,” said Martinez-Santiago…

Julie A. Dowling, associate professor of Latina/o Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Latino identity depends on many factors, including regional differences, national origin, physical features and language ability.

“There are wide, diverse experiences in competition with the stereotypical images. So people are constantly judged by these images,” Dowling explained.

“The stereotype of Latinos is that they are Mexican, Spanish-speaking immigrants, and possibly undocumented,” Dowling said. “And because it is such a strong stereotype, people often define themselves in relation to it.”

The author of a new book on Latino identity, Dowling added that “even the U.S. Census Bureau is still trying to figure out who Latinos are.”…

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