"Hair Expectations" By Camila Orellana

In September, poet Elizabeth Acevedo gave an inspiring performance at St. Joseph’s College.

From all the poems, beautifully performed and written by the genius Elizabeth Acevedo, a Latin-American descendant poet, the one that really caught my attention was the poem tittled “Hair.” When one initially thinks about Latin American culture, it is difficult to take in to consideration the great role that hair has in this culture, and overall the amount of effort we put into trying to fit the hair expectations we Latinos have. The way Acevedo dealt with not accepting the form of her hair, all curly and tight, and how her mother taught her how to “fix it,” is one of the many ways we don't show acceptance of our own past and give colonization and the ideals of the colonizers more attention and the ability to cover up the sense of pride for our heritage. For example, one of the most common ways to “fix” hair in Latin culture nowadays is dying it a shade lighter or many shades lighter in order to look more “European” or at least to appear to be of lighter skin. This doesn't only happen when you grow up, but since the first hair grows out of your head, as in most countries in Latin America, the baby's hair is washed with chamomile tea in order to make it lighter, blonder and thinner; something I went through as it was my mom's way of fixing my hair.  Even though not every Latino has Afro hair, the ones that have, can identify perfectly with the description of how Acevedo treated her hair through the years without giving it a rest in order to fit said expectations. Moreover, the feeling of not being accepted by your own culture because you don’t “look like it” has become absurd. I loved that Acevedo actually discussed something not everyone does, especially between Latinos, and expressed pride in her heritage in a language that is understood anywhere in the world: poetry.

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Photo Credit Unknown