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A guide for non-Latinos on what to know and what NOT to say to your new Latina love interest.
Not every Latina looks like Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lopez.
The scenario goes something like this:
Boy meets girl.
Boy chats up girl.
Boy hits her with the usual, “So where are you from?”
For the sake of example, let us say she is Puerto Rican.
Boy tilts his head and examines the contrast of freckles on her cheeks to her pale skin and her blue, piercing eyes. Her hair is dark brown and thin. He mentally notes her present but not protruding rear end.
“But you don’t look Puerto Rican.”
Now, if this girl is a keeper, she’ll deservingly snap back with, “Well what do you think Latinas look like?”
And then boy will be stuck tapping into the Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Lopez analogies that have put Latinas at the forefront of popular culture, but often make their physical standards a social crutch during real life exchanges. Sure, these women are stunning and have helped create an appreciation for curvature some men and adolescent boys did not even realize existed (or more so, that they even wanted) but they are not the blanket casing.
Latin America is a true mash up of skin tones and ethnic backgrounds; meaning there are no real physical outliers for the Latina woman. In the Caribbean and coastal Latin America, African slaves, indigenous tribes, and Spanish Europeans collided, leading to myriad physical outcomes. Some Latinas cannot tan because their skin is too pale. Some Latinas have dead straight hair. Some Latinas can pass for African American. There are also areas in Central and South America that have strong Asian backgrounds.
Take a peek at the following famous, diverse Latina faces and bodies: Zoe Saldana, Karla Souza, Joan Smalls, Cameron Diaz, Cintia Dicker, and America Ferrera, for just a few reference points. And our beloved Sofia is actually a natural blonde!
Bottom line: Latinas don’t all look the same.
So let go of the “You don’t look Latina” line, unless you want to look ignorant.
Not all Latinas are “fiery.”
Our interested boy has taken a Latina girl out on a few dates. She is poised, smart, and elegant, and does not get snippy when the waitress cannot help but flirt with her date. She laughs it off, and tells boy to keep smiling so they get superior service. Instead of nodding at her laid back demeanor and her lack of jealousy, our boy drops this line:
“You know, you really don’t act Latina.”
With that line, she might just whip out the “fiery” personality that boy thought he had escaped.
Many Latinas are passionate, strong women who speak up for themselves and others. Sometimes people think they are yelling when they are really just projecting — emphasizing, if you will. In some Latinas, these tendencies are natural.
But not all Latinas are running around being stubborn, hot headed, or jealous. Some of them are mild-mannered and shy. Some are soft-spoken. Some are even introverts.
Today’s Latina has grown up with a mix of customs: those influenced by being in America and those learned from a multicultural sect of friends. Latina women are not excluded from the female personality spectrum. So try not to be box your love interest into the “fiery” mold; people are complex, so treat her as such.