Turning 21

Jul 10, 2014
7:18 AM

I’m 21 and not pregnant.

That’s what everyone expected from me, right?

I have black hair, dark skin, and curves. Aren’t all of us who look this way supposed to be pregnant by now?


We get criticized for the clothes we wear, the way we act, the things we think. We are often the subjects of rap videos. We are constantly expected to wear tight outfits. We are usually considered to be immigrants.

But why?

Being a Latina has given me a different life than most girls. I grew up listening to Daddy Yankee instead of Jay Z. My Christmas’ were filled with tamales instead of apple pie. My television had novelas instead of soap operas.

Being a Latina has allowed me to realize that people do look at you different. Being a Latina has showed me that the color of your skin might affect the way you are treated. Being a Latina has exposed me to poverty, drug cartels and racial violence.

All by the age of 21.

Being a Latina has made me think twice about the way I act around others. It has made me think twice before judging someone by the way they are dressed. It has made me be a bit more grateful for the things I have. And it has definitely made me learn more about where I come from.

I am expected to speak another language. I am expected to know how to cook. I am expected to know how to dance (provocatively, too).

I am expected to be the lesser known version of Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lopez. I am expected to be “easy” and “put out.”

I am expected not to amount to much. I am expected to be just like in the movies—a housekeeper or a maid. I am expected to be ignorant about the world.

I am expected to be feisty. I am expected to be to have an attitude.

And I am expected to be ok with all these expectations.

I am now 21 years older, 21 years wiser and 21 years stronger.

And it took 21 years to realize that these imaginary and media-built ideas about Latinas are the epitome of conclusions crafted by others—not by us.

Why is it that Latinas are better known for their bodies than their brains?

Why is that we believe a young Latina is pregnant more than her becoming a college graduate?

Why is it that some Latinas are actually OK with these expectations?

I am now 21 years of age.

I can legally have a drink. I can legally gamble. I can legally get a real driver’s license.

But what’s the use when the world will use it all against me?