On Not Fitting the Latina/x Stereotype

There was never a succinct moment in which I realized I didn’t look like I was supposed to. In reality, it was more of a slow understanding, like the unfurling of petals. Surrounded by relatives with umber-colored hair and skin that was two shades darker than mine, there I stood, the little, unaware white girl. Freckles upon fair skin and almost golden hair decorating my round head, I couldn’t have looked any more alien. Yet, growing up, the pieces didn’t seem to click. The thought was never even conceived that I might not belong.

However, as I blossomed into the tumult of adolescence, my confidence began to waver. In school, I noticed other Latina classmatesor, rather, noticed how unalike we looked. I was the chubby, pale one contrasting sharply with the other curvy Latinas frequenting my grade. Flipping through magazine pages, I saw the same dark-haired, hourglass-shaped women holding perfume bottles and staring seductively at the reader. Looking in the mirror, I could only see a sad lump of fat, frizzy hair, and most of all, whiteness. It was like a slap, my pallor only contrasted by the freckles that lay atop it.

You look a lot like your mom, I would hear people say. While my sister had inherited my father’s Peruvian genes, I was the same shade as my mother, if not lighter. Yet my mother’s family lived thousands of miles away, so I was the odd one out. My cousins, all older than me, shared the same 'look,' the same one that my sister inherited. She’s the lucky one, I’d think. She actually fit in.

Slowly, I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t belong. The outlier among the people who actually looked Hispanic. So, in middle school, my circle of friends included mainly whites. I was too intimidated and afraid to try to befriend any of the Latinx in my school. I also refrained from speaking any form of Spanish, either afraid of butchering the beautiful language or afraid to be rejected by those listening. I believed I was too white to speak to those to whom the language belonged, a foreigner trampling upon sacred soil.

But I never felt fully assimilated into white culture. Something didn’t feel right. I spent my days treading between two chain-linked fences, trapped in the middle. I didn’t realize that I could climb over to either side whenever I wanted to. Once I melted the fences down, I stopped wondering whether I should mark Hispanic as my ethnicity on forms. I started speaking Spanish to anyone who would listen, unafraid of making mistakes. I made friends of all different backgrounds, knowing they wouldn’t judge me for my own blended culture. When I accepted who I was, it was like stepping into the light. Instead of looking through fractured glass, my lenses were clear and the world glowed.

By Sophie Sebastiani


  1. I'm so proud to be your friend! My big sister is an afro-latina woman, I'm gonna recommend this to her. This is Joe btw

  2. Nice article, I'll definitely recommend it to my Latina and nonlatina friends alike :)