A few years back, when my daughter Leila was five years old, she came home from school with a somber face. As usual, I asked about her day eager to hear another funny Kindergarten story. However, this time there was no typical ten minute- long Kindergarten story full of long pauses, stutters, and tangents. Instead, I heard, “Mommy… I HATE my hair!” The words spilled out of her mouth like boiling milk overflowing out of the pot right before you’re trying to turn off the heat. A wave of emotions flared up in my heart. In a matter of nanoseconds, I recalled the memory of myself coming home to my mom crying because kids in class said my hair was ugly.

I could not believe it was happening all over again. Not to Leila… not to me.  I kept my cool and asked her why she felt this way. Apparently, some kids in her classroom said her hair was ugly and puffy. I know kids can be cruel at times and that as parents we need to accept that we can’t always protect our children from others’ reactions to their obvious differences. But it was on! As my mom did 25 years earlier, I began some serious “You are beautiful the way God made you” self-esteem therapy sessions with Leila. As a girl of color, I was going to help her be strong in order to face a society that is still learning to embrace racial and cultural diversity. We read books about diversity & loving your hair. I even enrolled her in Afro-Caribbean dance lessons to help her get in touch with her African ancestry. I was determined I was not going to be passive about this situation. I was going to come full force to help her build Super Afro-Latina Girl armor.

A year had passed after the I hate my hair incident. “Mommy, why don’t you wear your hair curly like me?” asked Leila. Without much thought, I answered that my curls were not as pretty as hers and that I rather wear it straight. Then she replied convincingly, “But Mommy, God made your hair that way. You tell me I should love my hair just the way it is. You should love your hair the way it is too.” That’s when I realized that all the “Love yourself” lectures did not have much value if I did not show my daughter to love her natural beauty through actions. If I wanted my daughter to embrace her ethnicity as an Afro-Latina, I would have to set the example.

I agreed with Leila and that is when my natural hair journey began.

Un día años atrás, cuando mi hija Leila tenía cinco años al buscarla de la escuela noté que estaba muy triste. Como rutina le pregunté ¿Por qué la mala cara? Yo esperaba otro cuento interesante en un día típico en el salón de kindergarten. Pero esta vez no tuve el placer de disfrutar un cuento chistoso.
“¡Mami, odio mi pelo!”, fueron las palabras que salieron de la boca de Leila. La frase se derramó en mi subconsciente como cuando la leche se derrama de una olla antes de poder apagar el fuego. Una ola de emociones llenó mi corazón de miedo y tristeza. En nanosegundos recordé la memoria de mi misma llorándole a mi madre que niños en la escuela me habían dicho que era fea porque era negra y tenía el pelo malo.

No podía creer que la historia se estaba repitiendo. No a mi hija… No a mí.
Me mantuve tranquila y empecé a indagar de dónde venía el comentario. Aparentemente niños en su clase le habían dicho que su pelo era feo y greñudo. Yo sé que los niños algunas veces pueden ser crueles y como padres tenemos que aceptar que no siempre vamos a poder proteger a los hijos de las reacciones de otros a sus diferencias obvias. ¡Pero no se iba a quedar así! Hice lo mismo que mi mamá hizo conmigo 25 años atrás y empecé terapias con Leila para que se sintiera segura de sí misma. Especialmente como una niña de color en una sociedad que todavía está aprendiendo a abrirle los brazos a la diversidad racial y cultural. Fueron terapias intensas de “Eres bella así como Dios te hizo.” Compré libros infantiles de diversidad y admirar su pelo rizo. Hasta la matriculé en clases de bailes Afro-Caribeños para que se conectara con sus raíces. Yo estaba determinada a no ser pasiva en ésta situación. Yo iba a prepararla para el mundo y ayudarla a crear su propia armadura de Súperchica Afro-Latina.

Un año después del incidente me pregunta Leila, “Mami, ¿Por qué tú no te dejas el pelo rizo como yo?”. Sin pensarlo le respondí que mis rizos no eran tan lindos como los de ella y por eso prefería alisarme el pelo. Con voz muy sabia Leila me aconsejó, “Pero mami, Dios te hizo con el pelo así. Si tú me dices que ame a mi pelo así como es entonces deberías hacer lo mismo”. Ahí fue cuando me di cuenta de que los sermones de autoestima no eran suficientes para enseñarle a mi hija que amara su pelo y belleza natural. Si yo quería que mi hija se identificara orgullosamente con su etnicidad Afro-Latina tendría que darle el ejemplo a través de mis acciones propias.

Le di la razón y ahí empezó mi nueva travesía con mi “pelo malo”.

Dominican born, Puerto Rico and Chicago raised blogger Anyiné (ann-yee-neh) “Angie” Galván-Rodríguez, identifies herself as an Afro-Latina.  Her journey as a blogger began in 2013 when she decided to share her experience transitioning from relaxed hair to fully natural hair as a black Latina through her blog www.afrolatinanatural.com. What began as a  “naturalista”  bilingual hair blog inspired by her five year old daughter,  flourished into a pathway to embracing and confirming her identity as an Afro-Latina.  Her blog is a personal exploration of beauty inside and out empowering other black Latinas embrace their AfroLatino roots and natural hair. Her blog also explores the experience of being an Afro-Latino/a in the USA, Latin America and beyond.  She continues to share her experience as an Afro-Latina, as well as to increase awareness of the Afro-Latino community in Chicago and across the Americas.
 
Anyiné is a writer at heart and a teacher by day. With a B.A. in Spanish literature and Latin America studies as well as a Master’s in Education, she is able to share her passion of Latin American Culture and the Spanish language with students from various backgrounds.  When she is not teaching, spending time with her loved ones or writing, she travels to destinations were the cultural impact of the African Diaspora in the Americas is prevalent.
 
Website: www.afrolatinanatural.com
Instagram:  @afrolatinanatural
Twitter: @afrolatinacurls
YouTube:  AfroLatina Natural
email: afrolatinanatural@gmail.com

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