July 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
I am supposed to be loud. When people find out that I am the daughter of immigrants from Latin America, they expect loud. They expect sass and then some. Maybe they get that from me and they are satisfied. I am supposed to be loud, but I am not supposed to be heard. I am supposed to provide the right kind of Latina loudness. The kind that is laughable, almost comforting to the people who can be assured that they are of a higher, more polite and less loud, class. They question my Latinaness, they wonder aloud why my English is so good. They exclaim: “But you don’t look Latina!” So where do I begin my lecture, my crash course on the history of Latin America and the presence of Latinas in the U.S.? How do I begin to discuss the politics of my very existence?
There are things I’m not supposed to be. Sometimes I take pride in my sass, my loud laugh and bursts of enthusiasm. Most of the time, though, I think about what these things cover up. The silence that is louder than the laughs and the Spanglish. The silence that we are forced to carry with us and use as a response to the injustices and the inequality we face everyday. Our silence is supposed to meet the overt sexualization we are subject to, the sass and volume stops when it is time to discuss the conscientious exclusion of our cultural contributions. The brazen charges of “show me your papers” are meant to go without a response.
That’s what’s been bothering me lately, this pressure to move away from the stereotypically contrived notions of what I’m supposed to be as a Latina. Not to mention the pressure to end the silence that I can feel weighing on me. This is why I particularly hate the unfortunately pervasive loud Latina label, or the similarly infuriating sassy Black woman stereotype. This isn’t to say that loudness, sass and enthusiasm aren’t wonderful, but I’m sick of ignoring the silence that we are relegated to. I am especially sick because of the atrocities we are supposed to be silent about. I will not stay silent about the murder of Oscar Grant and I will not stay silent about Embarizona. So I’m trying to learn to speak as loud as I laugh and live outside of the loud Latina paradox that social notions have created for me.