Diasporic Realness Guest Writer’s Month: Chocolate and Vanilla: Learning to Love My Skin Color

textgram_1441938428Diasporic Realness is a Guest Writer’s Month dedicated to US telling our stories!

By: Anali Martinez of The Nueva Latina

“Papi, porque yo soy de chocolate y Abner es de vanilla? Yo quiero ser de vanilla tambien.”

I wasn’t always as dark as I am now. I remember I used to be very close in skin color to my brother. One summer on our family trip to the beach, I came back in to the hotel room and as I turned to look in the mirror I jumped back scared.

I was dark. I was brown. What happened?!?!? I started crying.

I spent the rest of the summer trying to wash away my color by viciously scrubbing while I took showers. I was so ashamed of my new skin color and I didn’t even know why.

I watched novelas religiously growing up. In novelas, all the beautiful protagonists are blancitos for the most part.  All the morena/os in the novelas usually play the help or someone who is not a good person.

One day when I was about 7 or 8, I decided to ask my dad, “Papi, porque yo soy de chocolate y Abner es de vanilla? Yo quiero ser de vanilla tambien.” Why was my brother vanilla colored? Why was I chocolate? I was so jealous of him and I wanted to know why I was “cursed” with being brown.

I would go to Mexico for my summer vacations and I would engross myself in Mexican culture. My parents even enrolled me in school for the two months that I would be there. Looking through the newspapers and the magazines, I noticed something. In all the social event pages of Mexico’s high society…there was no one who looked like me. Mexico has strong laws barring discrimination based on skin color or ethnicity, but the practices of public relations firms and news media lag behind, promoting the perception that light skin is desirable and dark skin unappealing.

My crisis with my skin color worsened and I felt as ugly as ever. I wanted to be light with my whole heart. Why did I have darker skin? Why were my mom and my brother “blessed” with light skin? Those are the kind of thoughts I would have.

In fourth grade, after our Spring Break vacation, I went back to school only to be nicknamed BMW or “Black Mexican Woman”.

For the last few months of school all my classmates would call me this and I would spent hours locked in the school bathroom crying because I felt like my life would be so much different if only I had light skin.

Freshman year of high school one of my classmates decided to tell me, in front of the whole class, that I looked like La India Maria.  There was a picture hanging of her in our Spanish class and he would point to her everyday and remind me that I looked like that and that I was destined to be no more than an india for the rest of my life.

“[Dark] skin color is still associated with foreignness,” Luz Maria Martinez, a leading anthropologist on Afro-Mexican culture, told a newspaper. “We do not know how to value the indigenous culture, which is very rich, or the African culture, which is as great as any in the world.”

On a trip sophomore year of high school to Acapulco, a light-skinned Mexican girl about my age was laying by the pool at the report we were staying at. I walked by her on my way to order a burger from the pool bar. I was still in my “sleepy clothes” (aka sweats and a T-shirt) and was in no mood for anything at the moment. She called over to someone and kept calling. She kept saying, “Excuuuuuse me! Hellooooo! I need help over here!” I went to the bar and ordered my burger and started walking back.

A man with a hotel uniform started walking towards me. I tried walking around him, but he blocked me in my tracks. He asked me in Spanish, “Where is your uniform? We received a complaint from a guest that you wouldn’t serve her?” I was confused and a little hurt. I wanted to yell and scream and throw something. I started crying and told the man, who I assumed was a manger, that I was a guest there and that i was from Texas. He stepped back and kind of gasped a little bit. He apologized and told me not to worry, it wouldn’t happen again. He offered me some food coupons.

Being dark in Mexico and in Mexican culture is often seems to be associated with being poor or bad.  

While traveling outside of their communities, black Mexicans say they are stopped routinely by the police and accused of being illegal immigrants from Cuba or Central America. They often endure long stares and even touching of their hair by curious fellow Mexicans.

When I met Julian, who is from Colombia, he called me Mi Negra. I was upset at first, but he told me that in Colombia they use that as a term of endearment. I was confused because my whole life I thought being dark was something ugly. Julian embraced me and my skin color. He showed me that I could be beautiful regardless of the tone of my skin.

Going to college and graduating with my B.S. in Civil Engineering gave me the confidence I always needed to show all the Mexican kids I grew up with that I was always destined for more.

The color of my skin shouldn’t have effect on my ability to study and do well for myself.

I always think about the guy who told me that I looked like La India Maria and I wonder what kind of satisfaction he got out of that. If he told me that now, I would say, “Yeah I do! Mexicana for life!”

Looking back now, I wish I would have owned it. I wish I would have embraced my skin color. Mexico and Mexican culture portrays being dark to mean being ugly or being of “low class” and I wish that would change. For so many years I was so depressed and so uncomfortable with my skin that I went though times that I wished I would just die. For a society to make a person, a child, feel this way…is just not right.

I love me and I love my morena skin. I wouldn’t change it for the world now.

Stay in love,
Anali – The Nueva Latina


Anali Martinez of The Nueva Latina is a 20-Something Latina living in Austin, TX. She is from Del Rio, TX. She is a proud Mexican and loves to learn more about her heritage every day. She loves party planning and organization. Anali has helped plan many large-scale events during high school and college. She went to college at The University of Texas at Austin and earned her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Her hobbies are blogging, live music, running, working out, Zumba, and hanging out with loved ones as much as she can. She is a Kate Spade lover and planner addict.


One thought on “Diasporic Realness Guest Writer’s Month: Chocolate and Vanilla: Learning to Love My Skin Color

  1. Tatum says:

    This was lovely ! This post reminds me of a documentary I watched about black Latinos narrated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates. I recall the plight of the black Mexicans. It isn’t Mexico’s peoples fault (I guess) like much of the world they’ve been colonized and therefore are ignorant of any realities outside of their oppressor(s) world. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Being “black” is looked upon with such disdain.

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