Walk a Mile in My Chanclas

How many Hispanic girls do you know at SLU? The answer is probably "hmm I think I've seen two." Well, you probably know me and you probably see me walking around campus with my headphones on either listening to Drake or one of my podcasts. People's first impression of me is that I look like the 2,400 other white girls that come from Connecticut at SLU. Everything changes when they hear me call my mom on the phone...in Spanish. Now I've gone from the suspiciously thick white girl to the expectantly thick Hispanic girl. Since I've gotten older, there has been an increasing amount of unsolicited comments about my culture, and how my Latinidad should be obvious from the hoops I wear, the circumference of my thighs, or the way my hips don't lie. The surveillance of my physical appearance by peers, random people, and even my family has sexualized everything that makes me, me.

As I prepared to head into the gym the other day, I felt so comfortable in the new leggings I had just bought and was strutting back from filling up my water bottle. Suddenly, a familiar face caught my eye. They looked me up and down and said "Laura, you're getting a little skinny. Go into the gym and put some thickness back in those thighs!" Comments like these make me think about the expectations people have of a Latina; a Latina has to have thighs thick enough to make you wonder how she got in those jeans (thanks for that one 50 Cent), a Latina has to have big lips to speak to you in Spanish while periodically calling you "Papi" and tasting the food that she has to cook for you, and a Latina has to be submissive and exotic, yet a feisty girl. If she's Colombian, she has to always have cocaine on her and MUST be related to Pablo Escobar.

Recently, I went to The 3rd Annual International Indigenous Women’s Symposium on Environment and Reproductive Health. I sat through dozens of speakers telling the stories of their lands and the battles they have fought against corruption, genocide, and pollution. I listened to each and every one as their words seeped into my head. These indigenous women told the saddest stories you could imagine, paired with the most terrifying levels of whatever pollutant was in their land, but I did not once pity them. Instead, I felt empowered by these women who have heard about and watched the bodies of young girls and even their own be colonized and categorized, and have lived to scream and sing from the mountaintops that hold their 'raza.' These women are the voices of their communities that have not been mentioned in textbooks, and they are the warriors reclaiming their tradition. Each and every story has brought me a step closer to reclaiming my body from those who think have set the guidelines. Today, I will laugh at the people who tell me I don't look like I speak Spanish and scoff at anyone who tries to tell me that a Jennifer Lopez body is the only body type of Latinas. Today and tomorrow, I am who I am; you should be you too.