TV Shows Pop Culture

Jane the Virgin Recap: DROP THE VIRGIN ALREADY

Hashtag game: #Petrafied, #PreTweetMode, #EsteBunInTheOven, #EsteBarf, #UrineTrouble.

Highlights: “Not that funny, Jane”, a ten-second laughing-for-no-reason scene, World Greatest Griller, Amnesiac Michael, Faith M. Whiskers III, food-coded secret language, “a murderous, powdered-donut-eating criminal”.

To paraphrase the Latin Love Narrator, let’s continue where we left off: the last episode of Jane The Virgin season two gave us watchers a pretty speculative cliffhanger (re: the beautiful wedding followed by a harmful encounter). When will Jane finally have sex? Is Michael gonna be dead or maybe in a coma? What happens to Petra later? Does Xiomara’s relationship with Rogelio change after Esteban scandal? Well…

I couldn’t feel more oddly bookish when watching Jane The Virgin, especially this new episode, aka Chapter 45, where most of the sequences of event are told in a book-flipping style (also there’s a scene in this episode where the ‘book’ is dog-eared!). Michael’s injury drove the narrative of Chapter 45, placing other people with its consequences: Jane and Michael’s mother rather unpleasant meeting and some arguing (turned out they have the same habit of keeping a list of questions), Petra’s luck, and another investigation at The Marbella.

It also brought up Jane’s stories – and imagination as well – both from the past and future. Finding out the fact that Jane had been in a love triangle before #TeamMichael versus #TeamRafael period is arguably more surprising than knowing about her enjoying the spoiler paradox – despite not expending any ending but the happily-ever-after one. If I were Jane, I, too, would dare myself to explore polyamory because choosing either a gullible detective (with whom I kissed like magic) or a bespectacled bibliophile (with whom I’ve been in love for two years seventeen months) might romantically frustrate me.

On second thought, still on If I Were Jane game, I would choose Michael (as if this episode didn’t almost entirely revolve around him). Who else would bring me soup and yell “Keep your head inside the vehicle!” to the guy I was going out with, that he pulled over? Jeez, calm down my dear Power-Abusing Michael. Just don’t call me – okay, don’t call Jane – a jackass in a parking lot.

Other thing to keep in mind: anyone, please take texting and dating advice from your mother if she happens to be Xiomara.

Alas, the amount of hilarious spontaneity is comparable to the intense exhibit of emotions. The hospital where Michael had his surgery came in the color blue, sort of amplifying the fleeting melancholy of hoping while in shock. “Abuela” Alba with her rosary and prayers, Jane’s sudden burst, doctor’s sympathetic expression, Michael’s police colleagues lining up in the waiting room, Rogelio’s cautious behavior in preventing anyone non-stars to capture his presence until somewhat he got handcuffed for it. This indeed is a story about faith.

Not only Jane Gloriana Villanueva is a very organized person but also, judging from her detailed family plan, a visionary wife and mother. I was amused when she chronologically explained how she wanted a future with Michael; three kids, big backyard feast, front porch talk. I got to say I love witnessing both of them growing old together but mostly it was because I want to see more of Gina Rodriguez and Brett Dier covered in thick makeup acting as old couples. Furthermore, my amusement came to its peak when the “this is the story about faith” quote actually contains double entendre. Come on, guys.

On the other hand, Anezka playing Petra did a good job in her improvisation… and a sister-to-sister injection. I still recall her asking the police whether Rafael looked happy when he confirmed her alibi (re: one-off sex from the other night) and lowkey wanting her feeling towards Rafael validated. While Rafael himself was quite impressive in remembering about Sin Rostro’s favorite snack to help police investigate the Michael-shooting case, quite sadly after all that he hasn’t figured out if Petra is now literally a different person.

Out of my faith I believe he was almost there when he told ‘Petra’ earlier that their relationship (read: one-off sex from the other night!) felt different and what they had was no longer there thus he wanted them to remain just friends. Poor baby daddy, please try harder next time. (PS: double entendre never intended.)

Tech Now + Beyond

Here’s how Google is proving it actually cares about diversity

Any Spiderman fans out there?

Remember last year when Marvel cast Tom Holland as the new Spiderman? We were all a little disappointed, right? I mean, that’s the third Spiderman franchise in the last decade and they had to go with another white man? Even though Holland was great in Captain America: Civil War (that kid knows how to make you laugh), many audience members were justifiably frustrated.

After all, when Spiderman was first written into the comics, it made sense for him to be a nerdy white dude. He was supposed to be an underdog, the little guy, you know the trope. And as a geeky, science nerd he fit the stereotype.

Fast forward through the rise of Silicon Valley, and now the nerdy white dude is the man. White men have taken over the coding industry and asserted their dominance over the world of computer science. That’s why people were frustrated that another white man was playing Spiderman, because geeky white men are no longer the underdogs.

People Holding up Signs Image

Although the entertainment industry may not yet have learned from its mistakes, the tech industry seems to be catching up. This past Thursday, Google opened a computer lab named Code Next in Oakland, California with the goal of specifically reaching out to latinx and black students. Code Next hopes to work with the Oakland community to encourage computer science education and grow diversity in the predominantly white-male coding world.

Google chose Oakland as the base for this computer lab for a very particular reason: Oakland is the fourth most multicultural city in the United States.

Google in Oakland Image

Today’s technology industry is overwhelmingly the domain of white men. Blacks make up only 7% of the industry and Latinos just 8%, likewise, women only compose 30% of the sector. That distinct lack of color can be linked to a lot of different causes: hiring discrimination, institutionalized racism, and on.

Yet one of the main causes that Google emphasizes for this initiative is that 51% of black and 47% of latinx students don’t have computer science classes in their schools. Oakland, on the other hand, hosts a population that is 26% black and 25% latinx. Looks like the perfect place to reverse industry discrimination.

Group Smiling Using Computer

Google has made a concerted effort to engage with the Oakland community in planning Code Next, and will hopefully continue to do so as the program launches. As Errol King of Code Next explained, “We decided from the beginning that we would build with the community, not for the community.” That’s such an important attitude when working with local communities, and especially when working with communities that have historically been marginalized or ignored.

As Code Next grows, Google hopes to launch a second lab in Harlem, New York. Eventually, the plan is to make Code Next into an open-source program that schools and educators across the world can implement.

Girl Using Computer Image

We can’t wait to see a world where more women and people of color are involved in the computer science industry. It’s a step towards representation that we so direly need. The broader our cultural imagination, the more opportunities for all of us.Diversity in one sector promotes representation, and representation encourages us to push into new fields–that’s something we could all use.

Imagine, in another ten years we could be living in a world where “computer geek” doesn’t just conjure up images of crime-fighting white-superheroes, but pretty much anyone.

Race The World Inequality

#LatinxsCreate calls for the celebration of Latinx people’s art

Author Tristan J. Tarwater on 9/16 started the viral hashtag #LatinxsCreate on Twitter and asked Latinx creators to showcase their art and/or portfolio in honor of #LatinxHeritageMonth. From writing to audiovisual, to illustration and video game, arts to crafts, the hashtag promotes a wide range of creative work. To paraphrase Tristan, this is definitely a chill way to showcase amazing Latinxs creators out there.

From September 15 to October 15, Americans commemorate LatinX Heritage Month by celebrating the culture, histories, and contributions of Latinx people. There’re a lot of ways to take part in this annual celebration, so why not start with something visually beautiful? Now take a look at these art from #LatinxsCreate because everything is ultra-awesome!


































Race The World Inequality

Afro Latinos ARE real Latinos

Latinos come in every race and color. Despite popular belief, a lot of us come in variances even within immediate families.

We represent a whole host of cultures and histories even languages other than Spanish.

But many Latin American communities share a similar history with African Americans in the U.S. Countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where my parents are from, that have afro-centric communities. It’s mostly in part because there was once slavery in many parts of what is now Latin America. And with that shared history, comes a shared Euro-centric enforced beauty standard.

As much as African Americans have images of lighter skinned people as beautiful, and markets for skin bleachers, hair relaxers, and nose clips, so do Latinos.

Novellas and Spanish language movies often portray straight haired, thin nosed, lightly tanned people as protagonists and beauty queens, while Afro-centric and more indigenous looking actors are usually servants, poor, or villains. It may have been why people fawned over my straight hair, or why my paler cousins were always referred to as “elegant” and my darker cousins were not.

When I was younger, I didn’t have a word for it. I just knew that when someone was darker, they weren’t as pretty. It was communicated to me in different ways.

Some older relatives would pull on my nose and joke about how it was too wide. A neighbor who saw me talking to a boy in elementary school joked that when I got to high school I should look for a “real American boyfriend.” She meant someone who wasn’t a person of color. Other people would make jokes about arreglando la raza or “fixing the race,” which meant…making it even more Eurocentric. It was hard to hear things like that sometimes.

I grew up in Queens and had classmates from all over. My siblings and I had fun talking to our different friends, listening to different types of music. We’d spend after homework hours doing different activities, such as watching different kinds of music videos on television, and binging on The Parkers and The Fresh Prince.

Relatives would scold my dad and tell him not to let us watch “those people”. They explained that we should be “American” but “not that type of American.” And though there weren’t many adults that had those sentiments, it stood out when they did.

It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to express how disappointed I was to see people treating each other that way.

In high school and college, I began to understand why older people in different parts of Latin America had a low-key disdain for dark skinned people. Slaves in Latin America were subjected to the same color hierarchy that American slaves were.

Years later, people in power were still mainly of European decent. There weren’t necessarily the same laws in the United States outlawing who could marry who, which made it so that people mixed a lot sooner in some parts, especially in some parts of the Caribbean.

But my own great grandparents on my mother’s side were not allowed to legally wed because my grandfather’s mother was a dark Dominican, and his father was practically Spaniard. El Jefe, who dictated draconian laws over the Dominican Republic for several decades, called for the massacre of Haitians in the country in the early half of the 20th century. Dark was always dangerous, and poorer. And sometimes it was deadly.

I think that’s why I was so frustrated when I began reading comments in Spanish on Twitter about recent shootings. I understood that people would have opinions about the complicated issue. However, I also thought that more Latinos would understand that when certain groups of people are subjected to unfair rules, we all suffer.

I read everything from “afro Latinos aren’t exactly real Latinos,” to “I’d rather side with real Americans than with those hooligans.” The name calling disappointed me, as did people who refused to look at statistics or those who resorted to insults instead of having a realistic discussion about why the country seems to be having racial tension and how to solve those tensions.

I understand that everyone his going to have a different reaction. Latinos aren’t a monolith. We are comprised of a wide range of races, backgrounds, and cultures. We have different upbringings and can be anything from a NYC, bilingual Caribbean Latina like myself who tries to research new movements, to several generation Americans who may not feel very affected by those movements.

We need to look into why we have some of the sentiments that we do and maybe try to learn about what’s going on in the United States. Not everyone has to agree with how to address the issue, but I’d like to see more awareness or intersectional social issues in our communities. We’ll all be better off in the long run.

Race The World Inequality

I didn’t grow up in as diverse of an area as I thought I did

My family moved to New Mexico so I would have the chance to grow up somewhere diverse. We had been living in Salt Lake City, Utah and my parents wanted me to have the chance to live somewhere people were something other than Mormon. So when my dad was offered a job in New Mexico, we headed to the state of green chile and roadrunners.

What we didn’t expect was that New Mexico’s diversity, perhaps like diversity anywhere, was limited. We moved to find something other than white, and found a community that was white and Hispanic–but little else.

Growing up, I remember that there was not a single black kid in my grade at high school. I think the grade above me might have had one black student, and that was a “big deal.”

Similarly, though there was a small group of Asian students at my high school they were known as precisely that: “the Asians.” Leave it to high school students to forget “Chinese,” “Korean,” “Taiwanese,” and on, and instead only say “Asian.” They were the nerdy kids, you know the stereotype: good at science, bad at dating.

There were so few of them, that they were token examples of their culture. As white and latin@ high school students, we assumed that whatever one of them personally did was what all of them collectively did. That if one kid liked spicy food, all Asians liked spicy food; if one did well on a test, all Asians did well on tests. If that’s not the definition of a stereotype, I don’t know what is.

Despite the lack of black and Asian culture, I didn’t realize I was missing out. After all, this was New Mexico. You know, Mexico, only newer. We were the epitome of Hispanic culture in the U.S. Everyone ordered huevos rancheros at their favorite Mexican restaurant, went to Zozobra in September, and hiked in the foothills of the Sandia mountains.

Though I am white, I’ve always felt like I had a decent understanding of Hispanic culture. I spoke Spanish, ordered my chicken flautas Christmas (with red and green chile), and spent more time in Catholic churches than entirely necessary for a non-Christian. It wasn’t until I moved away from New Mexico to start college that I realized I had been missing out on something.

No matter how well I understood the culture I had grown up in, I had missed out on something huge: an understanding of other cultures beyond stereotypes.

When I moved into my first-year dorm at college, I met my first roommate. She was mixed-race and of black descent, and although it didn’t hit me in the moment I later realized that she was one more black person than had been in my entire grade in high school. Living with her became a crash-course in breaking-down stereotypes.

Early in our first year, we found ourselves coincidentally at the same art exhibit opening. Alongside a few paintings, the centerpiece of the show was a series of sculptures of people’s hair. As the artist described her work, she mentioned wanting to do a collection about hair because, as a black woman, she was so tired of people asking to touch hers.

I spotted my roommate across the room laughing at that comment, and I straightened my back. No one had ever told me not to touch a black woman’s hair. Were there other unspoken rules about race that I had been missing out on? I was suddenly very glad I had never asked to touch my roommate’s hair, and suddenly very worried that I had asked to do something else.

That was far from my last experience learning about race in college. Unlike how I had thought of “the Asians” at my high school, I learned to stop falling into the harmful trap of assuming that what one person did stood in for everyone in their culture.

Just as I should have stopped using “Asian” as substitute for “Thai” or “Korean,” I started to see that “black” meant more than one singular experience. For my roommate, it meant being mixed. For a classmate, it meant being an immigrant from Nigeria. For a friend, it meant going home each summer to her family in the Caribbean. My experience of other cultures quickly catapulted from tokenization to representation.

I’m eternally grateful for my experience growing up in New Mexico and the insight it gave me into a culture other than my own. I’ve lived in Spanish speaking countries since moving away from home, and always felt a little closer to the culture because of it. Yet, I wish I had grown up somewhere less binary in terms of racial communities and more multicultural.

What I wish I had known as a kid, is that you can always learn. Thanks to the internet and libraries everywhere, you can make up in reading what you lack in personal experience. After all, your friends are never responsible for representing their entire culture–whether there be one or many of them. And should you move somewhere new, you can get to know people from all sorts of backgrounds other than your own.

Beauty Lookbook

It took me years to love my curves as a Latina

Actress Blake Lively was the center of online controversy recently at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival when she posted an Instagram showing off her body hugging gown with the caption “L.A. face with an Oakland booty.” This erupted online debate in the comments section and spurred a sea of think pieces covering everything from cultural appropriation, social media influence, and, last but never least, body image.

Her Instagram post, and by default, her body are part of the casual glamorization that ignites idolization of the big breasts, skinny waist, huge butt body type. This silhouette has been in fashion as of late as a creation for, and by, white celebrities but is also the same stereotypical standard that most black and Latina women are held to. Celebrities are able to show off their bodies like anyone else is, but the difference is that their lives, whether they want to or not, are being used as comparisons for the rest of the population (or better said, their fans or anyone who comes in contact with their content).

It’s proven that celebrities and their influence are markers for the population as evident by follower counts, rising trends, and the ever popular fragrance/cosmetic/apparel/reality show empires that have been built.

[bctt tweet=”The first time I can remember disliking my body was when I was about 12 years old.” username=”wearethetempest”]

If I had Blake Lively’s body, confidence, or maybe just her filters – my life growing up, and even now would be a lot different. Like most other women, I am on a journey towards “body acceptance” and “positivity” that has extended from my early teens to now.

The first time I can remember disliking my body was when I was about 12 years old, and I was trying to find something to wear to my first middle school dance. I tried on a bright blue shirt with a bright yellow lace camisole and capris. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking I looked pudgy. I went to the dance, listened to some Secondhand Serenade, and felt self-conscious the entire time.

Growing up, I was hyper aware of the space I took up. As a tall and slightly chubby child, I never fit into the normal fashion trends girls of my age set fit into.

I am currently 5’11 (5’10 ¾ to be exact), around 180 lbs, a size 8-12, and still very aware of all of this.

Through social media, listicles, conversation… honestly just existing, I feel like I’m told how I can better distribute my fat, hide my stomach, shop for my thighs, and show off my hips (all in 10 minutes or less!). I grew up being really annoyed (and jealous) of the Paris Hilton/Nicole Richie/Lohan body type. They were effortlessly skinny and twig-like, and I think it subconsciously held a major bearing on my own depictions of the female body.

[bctt tweet=”As a Latina, I feel like there’s just no way I can win on some days.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But in the past 10 years, trends have now moved to exoticize a body type that’s more commonly been attributed to black and Latina women.

As a Latina, I feel like there’s just no way I can win on some days. I can never fit into the imaginary “skinny white girl” mold because of my large hips, butt, and general size, but because my curves aren’t smooth and my chest is small, I can also never embody the false image expressed by Latina celebrities like Sofia Vergara. The latter is openly praised in movies, TV, and any other form of media you can name. Some can argue that these outlets “aren’t real life” but that’s just the concern – they are meant to reflect real life, but because of those creating the content and those participating in it, they aren’t true reflections of everyday life.

It took me years to realize that neither of these “types” are actually real.

Trying to redefine what my “Latina body” was to my life is a very complex journey that I’m sure I’ll dissect through every stage of my life. My body isn’t the most important thing on my mind at any given moment, but that does not mean that when it is a thought, it isn’t the most annoying and forceful thing in existence. It’s been a few years of struggling with food, exercise, how I feel I should look, and how I perceive myself, but I have made advancements. I fundamentally understand the flaws in media and that the societal expectations that my body is sometimes held to were created long before I was even born.

[bctt tweet=”My body is my own and both as strong as it is beautiful.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My body is my own and both as strong as it is beautiful.

My willing my thighs, stomach, and butt to be smaller is not only destructive and a bit impossible (because of how I am built), but it would also take away the awesome feeling I get whenever one of my friends mention how nice I look in those leggings/jeans/skirt/etc.

And why would I ever want to do that?

Gender & Identity Life

I unfollowed my brothers because they’re sexist

I was born a girl, and because of that, there were times when things were different for me than they were for my younger and older brothers. At the time, I figured that it was just the way the world was. Girls did particular things, while boys did others. It was like a rhyme that my classmate and I chanted as we hopscotched and skipped rope: “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, girls go to college to get more knowledge.”

The first time it didn’t sit right with me was when my younger brother was allowed to go camping before I did. The only excuse I was given was that as a boy if anything bad happened to him, he’d be able to defend himself.

I figured that was somewhat correct.

[bctt tweet=” Girls did particular things, while boys did others.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Other Latino families seemed to think the same thing. As I became older and began to embrace being a Latina more, I found myself uncomfortable with the cultural expectation that women would act one way and men would act wholly different from that. High school started and, while my parents didn’t give any of us the talk, my siblings and I began having crushes and getting into relationships behind their backs.

At one point, my brother had a girlfriend, but it was hard for me to talk to my parents about liking a boy. It was still only a minor frustration, though.

[bctt tweet=”My brother had a girlfriend, but it was hard for me to talk about liking a boy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

A few years later, I learned that my mother had a half-sister. I wanted to know if she was older, a child from one of my grandparents’ older relationships. My mother wouldn’t say. Soon after, I was visiting an older cousin and badgered him about our aunt. Just like I had, he used to think she was just a regular aunt. He then told me that she was the youngest daughter, that our grandfather had her with another woman. I looked shocked, so my cousin revealed that our aunt’s husband had also cheated on her and also had hidden a child from her for a few years. As bad as I felt for my aunt, I found myself more confused that no one had ever talked about this situation openly before.

If a woman was a single mother, she was looked down upon, almost ostracized. But I began to realize that no one ever really insulted the other half of the equation: the father.

At first, I was a bit disillusioned because I liked my uncle and I adored my grandfather. But then, not too long ago, I found out that my mother’s eldest brother also had a child that he tried to hide from his wife. My cousins refuse to speak to him about her, even though he doesn’t act like what he did was all that bad.

Not too long ago, my cousin helped her father file for residency in the U.S. so that he could be near her and her husband. He asked her to file for his other daughter – her half-sister, born of an extramarital affair – as well.

When she blew up on him, he didn’t understand why it was so bad. I remember trying to bring it up with a few men on my mother’s side of the family, and they didn’t seem to think much of it.

[bctt tweet=”If a woman was a single mother, she was looked down upon, almost ostracized.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I eventually gave up on trying to talk to them about it.

Whenever I tried to make a point about why it was wrong, relatives would just scoff and kind of just say that I was upset because I was a feminist. Though a lot of my relatives respected feminism and supported me, some of them acted as if it was some sort of joke and that I’d come around once I was older and married. That made it hurt so much more whenever my uncles would let my guy cousins get away with certain things, but had a different set of rules for their daughters.

[bctt tweet=”When she blew up on him, he didn’t understand why it was so bad. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

That disparity became apparent to me during a few recent family gathering. When a cousin of mine was preparing for his second marriage, everyone was so excited to see him and his new bride. His older sister, who had also been married and divorced twice, was attending the wedding with her new boyfriend.

When a few older family friends spoke about her relationships, they judged her without shame.

Apparently, it was okay for her brother to become divorced, but not for her. After the ceremony began and the guests went to the reception area, I sat at a table with a lot of my other cousins and was appalled at some of their conversations. One of my oldest guy cousins was drunk and talking about all of the underage girls he was going to try to hit on at the wedding. He had recently filed for divorce and placed all the blame on his ex-wife, claiming younger girls were better. My brother sat with him and laughed along, also pointing out all of the younger girls he was going to try to “holler at.”

[bctt tweet=”As a feminist, it’s suffocating to be around the men in my family.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Though a lot of the things the men in my family have done hasn’t been directed towards me, it’s suffocating to be around as a feminist. It’s made it so that I couldn’t ever date anyone that reminded me of a family member, or who was from my mom’s country or my dad’s country. It also made it so that if too many men from my family clustered together at a family event, I began to go out of my way to avoid passing by them.

On social media, the situation is no better.

Some of my guy cousins and even my own brothers post memes that degraded women and make them out to be sexual objects. They post jokes about “hos” and “sluts” while congratulating other guys on “getting some.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of my brothers posted a picture about what a modern marriage is like. The picture had a story about two people who dated, the wife is a nag who wants more and more and eventually cheats on her husband and takes half his money. The picture was posted with a caption that my brother wrote. It read “ain’t that the f*cking truth.”

I found out recently that he had been cheating on his wife with a coworker for a few weeks until the coworker found out that he had lied about being single. It stung to remember how when I was a teen, he had joked about how he would smack around any guy who cheated on me or made me cry. And yet there he was upsetting my sister-in-law with no shame.

Heart pounding, I went onto his Facebook profile and unfollowed so that I wouldn’t have to see his posts without unfriending him.

Then my younger brother began to post things that depicted women as cruel, frivolous, and promiscuous. At the time he had broken up with his girlfriend and was maturely placing the blame on all women. The post that really did it for me was one that called feminist “new age broads” that need to stop complaining. The photo said that a good girlfriend cooks when asked, cleans when asked, and pampers her man without question if she loves him.

He technically wanted a servant, not an equal relationship. And if the relationship went wrong, it would automatically be her fault.

That’s when I unfollowed him, too.

[bctt tweet=”‘Do you actually considered me your equal?’ I want to ask my brothers.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Despite loving all of the guys in my family and enjoying their company, visits are sometimes quiet on my end. I’d like to sit down with them and ask them if they knew how much they’ve hurt others. “Do you actually considered me or your mother your equal?” I want to ask. “Do you know how much anger the things you’ve done have caused everyone around you?” I worry about one day having my own kids. I worry that I won’t feel comfortable with some family members watching after them or telling them to degrade women or to allow themselves to be degraded. It’s something I’ve been working through for several years now, and it’s something that I will probably have to work through for years to come.

[bctt tweet=”That’s when I unfollowed him, too.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Until then, I’ll have to make sure that I do my best with my own future children. I’ll show them how to see the good in their family members, but also the wrong so that this disease dies in my generation. I refuse to see that kind of behavior justified or accepted any longer. It has to end somewhere.

Culture Gender & Identity Life

I’m Latinx – and I’m fed up hearing you call me “exotic”

Being sexy was thrust upon me around twelve. I wasn’t fully formed, my face was still round, but it was the first time I remember distinctly getting catcalled in a street. Even more mortifying was the fact that I was walking beside my mother. I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened or what was said, I just knew I felt uncomfortable and violated. For the first time, I was made self aware about how I look to other people. I not only became aware, I became self-conscious.

By the time I was fifteen, I was aware of the lingering looks but was still oblivious to how I was truly unfolding under the male gaze. I was awkward and it was obvious that I had no awareness of beauty or a full understanding of sexuality at that point. I looked eighteen, and that resulted in cat calls from men who were well over twenty.

I am not here for you. My open talk of sex is not here for you.

It’s only now, at twenty-four years old, that I have been able to dismiss the male gaze as a thermometer for how I feel about myself on a given day.

I own my sexuality  —  every taste of it.

I own what (or who) I want to do, why, and how. I openly talk about sex with friends, give them advice, and read tips online as to how to give a great blowjob (to be fair, I no longer need them). I rally with women who fight against the term slut, and support the choices of my peers when it comes to sex.

“But Rebecca!” you might object. “Aren’t you just fulfilling the stereotype that all Latinas are great in bed?”

The answer is no.

Being sexy was thrust upon me around twelve years old.

Stereotypes are inherently negative.

The stereotype surrounding Latinas is that we’re hot, exotic lovers from another land, portrayed as friendly and with arms and legs wide open for a night of passionate bliss. This stereotype isn’t saying that we’re owning our sexuality for our benefit, or to understand it, or because we’re smart and open-minded people.

It brings us down to the most basic form and says we’re only good for service, and our whole lives are fulfilled by those moments.

The media portrays Latinas as loud, “spicy,” and sexual. The media doesn’t say we are outspoken, beautiful, and sexually confident. It doesn’t show successful Latinas, or anyone outside of the trope that we’re there for support.

It doesn’t lift us to believe we can be more, or can talk about anything other than that week’s hot take.

It doesn’t give us the confidence to become the lead role; we are always a mistress or a nanny. There are no confident women portrayed that put sexuality in a positive light.

Even Gloria in Modern Family is resented for her beauty and her marriage to a much older man.

‘Oh, you’re a Latinx woman? You must love having sex with men.’

Through the permeation of this stereotype, Latinas who don’t identify as straight are completely disregarded,  including their sexuality, their lives, and what they want to do with both. Oh, you’re a Latina woman? You must love having sex with men.

Not only is that hurtful thinking, it ignores a huge audience of Latinas and sets them aside for cis women who are used as props for sexual exploration.

I am not here for you.

My open talk of sex is not here for you.

I am not here to fulfill the decades-old stereotype of the slutty Latina, the best friend with juicy gossip, or the woman tempting your husband with seductive curves. I am not the spicy Latina to serve you looks and ass, and I am not here for your ideology of what I should be.

I am here to talk about sex without apologizing for it.

I’m not sorry, and I’ll say it again — I am not sorry for owning my sexuality, or for expressing it.

I’m not sorry for being open about my needs and wants, and I’m not sorry for wanting to discuss healthy sex and relationships as a daily topic.

Money Now + Beyond Interviews

Lifting Latina Voices: An Interview with Mariana Santos

Mariana Santos is a visual storyteller, journalist, and problem solver.

Having grown up in a world where females were consistently silenced, Santos made it a goal of hers to pave the way for permanent change. As a Portuguese journalist, the stark gap between male and female representation in Latin newsrooms struck her as particularly disturbing. 

From that, the idea behind Chicas Poderosas was born. 50645-1

Chicas Poderosas is a mentorship network for Latina women, working to provide them with increased access to digital media skills. What started as a Kickstarter initiative has quickly turned into an expansive network of female journalists across the Americas — stretching from the United States to the tip of South America. 

Santos created her network during her time as an International Center for Journalists Knight Fellow.

“Chicas poderosas” translates from Spanish to mean “powerful women.” It’s a name wholly fitting for the initiative, since its premise is to uplift and empower female voices.

Santos is Fusion Media‘s director of interactive and animation at Knight Chair of Innovation at Florida International University. Last year, she graduated from Stanford’s JSK Knight fellow program, where she worked all across Latin America in major newsrooms and with independent journalists. She’s also a member of the interactive team at The Guardian in London. A trained animator, Santos pioneered the newsroom’s use of motion graphics to make data stories more compelling. She leads design-thinking workshops to increase interdisciplinary approaches to storytelling, and is a leader in community transformation via digital training.

We asked Santos to tell us more about herself and her initiative.

The Tempest:  What’s the main idea behind Chicas Poderosas?

Mariana Santos: Poderosas is an organization that’s promoting digital training among communities of women journalists, developers, and designers around the world. We want to offer access to talent and skills to those who can’t access training in technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and management. We started in Latin America in 2013, and are now expanding to other countries. (Editor’s note: These include the United States, Mexico, and several countries in South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru.)

Chicas Poderosas thinks globally and acts locally. Spanish is not a barrier for access, as we tailor experiences and training that meet the needs of a region.

We work with ambassadors across our areas of influence in main cities, providing training on digital storytelling. The skills we teach range from data visualization, animation, video, audio podcast, design thinking, digital management, etc.


Why do you think it’s so difficult to get Latina women in the science and technology industries?

It’s a little bit all over. Especially in the USA and Europe, though, we see a gap between the involvement of women in these fields in comparison to men. The amount of space available for women in these fields is mostly dominated by men, and thus becomes less welcoming for women. And as a result, less women get involved.

Chicas Poderosas wants to change this practice and create a community of women in these areas of expertise, and we’re doing this by creating an ever-growing support network for our women.

What kinds of problems are your Chicas Poderosas solving?

We are giving voice to the underrepresented stories and women, and we’re helping women up the ladder of leadership, management and entrepreneurship. We are trying to switch the chip in women’s brains — empowering them to succeed and teaching them to not be afraid of success and leading the way forward.

Tell us a little about what inspires you.

I was born in Portugal, where in the old times, women were expected to stay home and take care of the house and kids. They weren’t expected to go out there and change the world.

I don’t believe in that, and I want to change the mindset of every girl raised in this kind of culture. These girls are very capable and creative individuals who can make a change in the world. I want to empower those quiet voices and make them reach their dreams.

Where do you see Chicas Poderosas headed in the future?

I see a global network of women empowering and helping each other in this world, where collaboration brings us a long way. Where we’re all looking towards global achievement, rather than focusing on our own belly buttons.


What advice would you give to young millennial women aspiring to be in tech?

Try hard, and don’t quit at the first signs of difficulty — no pain, no gain. Stay in the problem for as long as you can, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

My other advice would be to reach out. Reach out not only to female communities, but to tech communities all around the world who are working towards the similar goal of achieving further and reaching higher. Believe in your dreams and go get them!

If you had a day completely free and to yourself, what would you do?

I would go to the beach, surf, and eat an amazing meal with friends…then sit under a palm tree, reading a book and listening to the waves.

Mariana Santos can be found on Twitter at @marysaintsLearn more about Chicas Poderosas on Facebook and on Twitter @podersosaschicas.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

[art image credit: Kent Hernandez]

Gender Love Inequality Interviews

Meet Alexis Isabel, the teen feminist taking Twitter by storm

Alexis Isabel proved to be more than your average teen when, at the age of 16, she founded Feminist Culture, a Twitter account created to spread awareness and educate the world about feminism. The overwhelming success of her Twitter account led to the creation of her site Feminist Culture, bringing in a diverse group of writers and editors to discuss hot-button issues. Alexis Isabel (also known as @lexi4prez), was recently recognized as MTV’s Social Star of 2016, and has been featured on multiple publications including The New York Times and International Business Times.

The Tempest: So, what inspired you to start Feminist Culture?

Alexis Isabel: One of my friends texted me and told me to watch the documentary, Half the Sky. It moved me, and I felt like I had to do something to help. I tried to find a way to help others, to help women globally. At one o’clock in the morning, I decided to make a Twitter account and talk about women’s issues and feminism. It took off from there.

The Tempest: How do you balance your online and personal life? Do you keep them separate, or have the boundaries been more fluid?

I have my ideas and feminist ideology, and when I talk about it, it’s like my social media persona, but these values carry over into my personal life.

How do the opinions of others influence the work you’re doing, and is there anything you’d tell them in the process of your work?

There are a lot of people online and in person that don’t agree with feminism and don’t react well to my ideas. There are people online who threaten me. I’ve posted screenshots before of people who have said they want to dox me, people at my school, guys who say that what I do is wrong and annoying. Sometimes it makes me want to stop, because I don’t want to deal with people threatening me, but at the end of the day it’s the exact reason why I’m doing what I do. The people who say these things look down on women, so why would I stop what I’m doing? It motivates me even more. It’s bad at times and hard to deal with, but at the end of the day, it’s why I do it.

What’s next in the cards for you?

Well at the moment, I’m writing for multiple organizations, and I’ll be starting summer term at FSU in two or three months. Once that gets started, I’m going to pursue pre-law and a poli-sci minor, and hopefully continue writing.

What’s your advice to young women like you, looking to take on social justice efforts?

There are two basic things when you’re trying to get a large audience or get people to listen to you:  1) Make sure you take into account the variety of issues your topic encompasses, if you’re talking about the same thing over and over again, When it comes to social activism, there are variety of issues to discuss. 2) Even if you don’t have the direct capability to do something for your cause, you might have followers who do, whether it’s money to donate, or inspiring them to join a club at their school. Use your following wisely. You’re going to get a lot of hate, so keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing, then just block out the horrible people. You have to learn to ignore people, especially when it’s coming from someone who isn’t willing to learn.

Find Alexis Isabel on Twitter and Youtube. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Gender & Identity Life

Hey, Latinos – we need to talk about colorism

There are few things I love more than my roots. They defined my experience growing up, shaped me, and continue to propel me forward in an ever-changing world. They give me something to go back to.

I’m half-Puerto Rican and I’m half-Brazilian. Almost anyone who knows me personally knows this about me and sees it reflected in me every single day. But there is an aspect of the Latino community that hurts me every day, that is heard in the smallest of microaggressions to language that has pervaded the years from the beginnings of colonization.

Colorism /ˈkələrˌizəm/ noun  —  prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

The term colorism is most commonly applied to the black community — light skinned versus dark skinned, preferences as to whom you’d rather sleep with, who is more attractive, etc. It’s an issue that goes much deeper than just these examples. The same thing occurs within groups of Latino communities, and it’s something that has been reflected in both parts of my ethnicity. 

It’s reflected in terms like ‘pelo malo’ (bad hair) when it comes to unruly, dry curls, and hearing the pity in a grandmother’s voice when their grandchild is “mas trigeno” (darker). It’s being called “blanquita linda” (beautiful white one) when walking down the street, while my mom remembers times where those with darker skin staying under umbrellas to make sure they didn’t get more tan, times when Puerto Rican banks deliberately turned down job applications from those with darker skin. 

I see it in the uncomfortable ripple among some of the elders on both sides of my family when I mentioned that I was dating a Puerto Rican man from a part of the island known for its high population of Afro-Latinos. I see it in the comments and catcalls Latinas receive from men of any race.

Actual footage of me when men say, “You’re just so gorgeous for being Latina” or when a Latin man with dark skin says, “Ay, blanca, you’re not like those dark skinned girls.”

It’s reflected most in the fact that to someone that was born a mile or even the house next door away from my mother (where I get my fair skin from), has white privilege in every aspect of life, despite being neighbors and even at times sharing blood.

Just ask my half-Puerto Rican, half-black cousin about the sheer disbelief we face when we tell people we are related.

Last year, a study found that Latinos with fair skin are seen as more intelligent by interviewees and therefore get more jobs. “Overall, the findings suggest that white prejudicial attitudes related to skin tone could create substantially unequal access to economic, social, and cultural resources,” wrote sociologist Lance Hannon.

Not to acknowledge how far my light-skinned privilege carries me would be completely unfair — I can’t relate to the struggle that many other Latinos face. And claiming I’m a person of color seems unfair to Latinos who face struggles every single day that I can’t even begin to fathom.

Both Puerto Ricans and Brazilians have various shades and shapes, ranging from the palest of pale to the blackest of black. Yet in the U.S., when we look for the famous faces of Latinas who hail from those places, we get Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Lopez. We picture women with perfectly tanned skin (bronzed, but never too tan), light eyes, perfect, frizz-free hair, and big asses. We’ve abandoned everything in between, even among our own communities.

But there are some signs that colorism can get better in the Latino community. Thousands of Brazilian cities are now recognizing Black Awareness Day. And more and more are identifying as black in the country as compared to ten years ago, according to Remezcla. This numbers aren’t tied to any birth rates or sociological changes in Brazil; instead, sociologists say, they’re a rare indicator that a more positive attitude about race is finally setting in.

Remezcla also recently showcased beautiful images by photographer Jeferson Lima, who went to Bahia to show the beauty so often ignored in Brazil and mainstream markets like the United States:

In doing research for this article alone, I couldn’t find a single video about colorism in Latin communities (can we change this please?), or at least one that focused on this issue that clearly remains unspoken in most cases.

This conversation needs to change, because it has barely begun. I can only speak from a place of someone who was “fortunate” enough to be “blessed” with fair skin. But this is something that we all in the Latino community have a responsibility to talk about and acknowledge.

The longer we go without realizing that this is a serious problem that is reflected in so many parts of our everyday lives, the longer we allow it to pit brothers and sisters of the same families and ethnicities against each other. We cannot let this happen. Let’s raise the issue, let’s get angry, let’s talk. 

Gender & Identity Life

Am I authentic enough for you?

Before I studied abroad in Cuba in June 2014, I asked my professor if we would be able to see what Cuban life was really like, rather than a touristic facade. But as the rambling inquiry spilled out of my mouth, she laughed and asked me not to mention “the A word.”

The A word, of course, was authenticity.

I could see why my professor was wary of this loaded term. Travelers and tourists alike search for authenticity when traveling, which is often an idyllic fantasy of what a culture or place was like years ago, what it was really like, before touched by the polluting forces of post-colonial globalization.

As an exchange student in the Emirates, I saw a lot of cultural tours that attempted to serve authenticity on a platter, but it doesn’t match up with current realities. When people travel to the Emirates, they want to have real Arabic coffee in a real Bedouin tent. You know, while real Bedouins are actually drinking Starbucks and living in grand white houses. And while Bedouin teens wear traditional clothing and do drink Arabic coffee, they also hang out at malls, because malls are a massive part of current Emirati culture. Of course, malls don’t seem to fit in with notions of authenticity, without or within.

‘Authentic’ is conflated with ‘traditional’ and sometimes ‘indigenous,’ but these words often ignore a more confusing reality that’s harder to neatly package and process.

[bctt tweet=”‘Authentic’ is conflated with ‘traditional’ and sometimes ‘indigenous.'”]

Notions of authenticity exist in a historical vacuum, as if places and people remain in time capsules, untouched by global movements and interactions. In this way, purist myths of culture and ethnicity infect ethnic communities and their diasporas, meaning we often hold ourselves and are held by others to an unrealistic standard of Authentic Enough.

It can be difficult to convince others of our ethnic community that we are, indeed, Authentic Enough. I’m often asked by older desi folk why I don’t speak Hindi when I’m half-Indian, and I’m expected to know about holidays I never celebrated and a religion I was barely taught. I’ve also been chided for speaking insufficient Spanish by a woman who believed I was Latina (I’m not, but Latinas shouldn’t be judged for this anyway).

I may be Indian, but I’m second generation, and people often forget to factor how much American assimilation plays a role in how authentic we can portray ourselves.

How can we fulfill these expectations of our ethnic communities while existing in a different country and, thereby, environment? That’s the question each generation seems to struggle with until their ethnicity fades away, only decipherable by a last name. Unfortunately, some things get lost along journeys between continents, like language and recipes, and people in our communities might complain about the younger generation not knowing how to do anything or respecting their elders.

But hey – we exist as products of our very recent histories, and just because our realities don’t quite match up with antiquated notions, that doesn’t lessen whatever we’re made of.

[bctt tweet=”As diaspora kids, our realities don’t quite match up with antiquated notions of authenticity.”]

Yet sometimes, people don’t have these rigid notions of authenticity: what they see before them is as real as it comes. My aunty told me this summer that I was just like a girl from Champapur, the village in Bihar, India from which we hail. What she saw before her were the qualities of a strong, determined woman who deeply cared about her family. For all my doubts about whether I had anything to do with my lineage, here was my seal of approval.

As nice as it is to know I share the qualities characteristic of my family and their community, it shouldn’t take an aunty’s encouragement to realize I never belonged elsewhere. As diaspora kids, we adapt to changes in our environments, becoming a mixture of cultures and a kaleidoscope of identities. Dusty history books or older relatives can’t tell us what’s “authentic” about us when our histories are being written by all the spaces we inhabit in our rich, varied and divided lives.

Cuba is not the cliched “time capsule” writers have so often painted it to be: it is a vibrant society of people who are always changing and adapting to their environment. Our ethnic identities, too, are not encapsulated in time, but are dynamic interpretations of authenticity’s true face.