Waking Up Latina

Gina pic

To wake up Latina means to return to that proud four year old moment when I finally knew all of the lyrics to “Alegre vengo de la montaña, de mi cabaña que alegre está!”  

It is…

to put on my Bomba skirt for the first time and dance to a drum beat that has lived in my soul for a thousand years

believing that Hispanic is a race, going about life with an ambiguous sense of racial identity

walking into a room and not knowing where I fit, not being white enough or black enough or Latina enough…never enough

learning from a young age that the greatest skill is that of adaptability

arroz con guandules, pernil, y tostones

the joy of connecting with my blackness

the process of accepting my whiteness and acknowledging the privilege of my light skin

a longing to reach for and touch my indigenous roots

praying the rosario before bed and never missing church on Sunday

the pride of my language and the unmatched beauty of a Spanish bolero

an ongoing process of decolonization of my mind and reclaiming of my independence

unraveling a painful and messy history while standing in awe of the resilience and heart of mi gente

mangú con salami y queso frito

falling in love with the curls in my head and realizing that pelo malo doesn’t really exist

having a conversation with another brilliant Latina and rejoicing at the revelation that she is really a mirror

reconciling with all that it means to be who I am

knowing that I stand on the shoulders of fighters, revolutionaries, scholars, and artists

To wake up Latina means that I now become the shoulders. I now become the mirror. And a little girl might say “she looks like me” and instantly know deep within herself that she is more than enough.

Photo credit: Linda Nichols Photography

**Lilliangina Quiñones is a World Languages Teacher and Diversity Practitioner in Atlanta, GA. She is of Dominican and Puerto Rican Heritage, born in NYC and raised in Buffalo, NY – the place she proudly calls her hometown.