Category Archives: self esteem

¡Que vivan las panzas!

Most people have at least heard of The Vagina Monologues, even if they haven’t seen it. The Vagina Monologues was a one-woman show which told stories about the vagina – with the intention of celebrating the vagina and empowering women.

Now we celebrate the panza with The Panza Monologues. (“Panza” is Spanish for “belly”.) Written by Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga, performed by Ms. Grise, these stories told in Spanglish, are not only diverse and at times hilarious – they are emotionally stirring and empowering.

It’s probably amazing to see Vicki (Virginia), perform live, but I was at least lucky enough to watch her powerful performance on The Panza Monologues DVD. I loved it so much that I wanted to share one of my favorite parts with you. Vicki gave me permission to post the written scene. If you love it as much as I did, please, check her out, buy her DVD, and if you’re able, go see her live.

Links:
Panza Power blog
About the show: The Panza Monologues
Buy the DVD

___

FROM CHA-CHA TO PANZA

[Lights rise.]

(seductively) I wasn’t always big. I use to be cha-cha thin, tall and skinny like my gringo daddy. I would wear tacones – black with straps that reached across my ankles, boots that stopped short of my knees, diamonds across my feet. Tacones – upper leather, suede, alligator, snake, all leather and in different colors- brown, red, cork, biege, gold, green, black, blue even. Tacones that matched the dresses I wore, dresses that always fit my body, showed shape, whether they were long with slit on the side, in the front, in the back / separating my piernas, or short, showing my thighs. Me and my tacones.

[Vicki stands, pulls the tacones [high heeled shoes]
out of the shopping bag.
Holds them up for the audience to admire.]

And they weren’t puta shoes / girl, they were classy. Tacones made me feel taller. Somehow tacones made me feel stronger, more sure of myself. Not submissive or anti-feminist but like the virgen in a Yolanda Lopez painting, karate kicking out of her blue veil with gold stars, stepping on the head of an angel with her tacones. Pues yo tambien. I throw punches for my raza and I can do it with my tacones on too just like the old school cholas use to do.

[Vicki places one foot on the stool
and begins to put her tacones on.]

And the men, the men were scared of me when I walked into the cantina made up / hair swept, red lipstick and tacones. You see, men like fuckin but they don’t like bein fucked and when I walked in I wuz the one doin the choosin. I didn’t sit back in dark corners waitin for someone to ask me to dance. I asked you. Locked eyes and said “You will dance this polka with me,” sometimes without even sayin nuthin.

Other times I’d say, “Fuck all of ya’ll” and take the dance floor at Daddy’Os all by myself

[Music erupts into full blown conjunto.
Vicki dances across the stage, swirls, turns.
Music lowers, Vicki remains standing.]

They all watched / old school vatos, young cholos, graduate students trying to remember their hometown barrios in a bar east of the freeway, forgetting in between too many beers. Hell even the cholas were lookin. Some worried I’d take away their man. Others, shit others just wanted to dance wid me. Be free. Be free like me.

They say a bar is a man’s space but I owned that motha fucker. I walked in with my own go-go juice in blue bottle cuz my dad once told me, “Beer makes you fat Virginia,” so I drank vodka on the rocks, learned how to play pool “Call your shots. I’m not fuckin around.” And I learned more about community politics/who owns who, who runs what than I could of ever learned workin at a cultural center.

I claimed power through my pussy, and I didn’t even have to let any one in. I just had to let em all know I knew I had one and that I controlled my own cho-cho. Ya, I owned that motha / fuckin bar / ‘till the city tore it down after li’l Danny got cut.

[Vicki sits.]

I use to be cha-cha thin. Proud of my calves, well-defined. Calves that did not look like my mother’s calves. My mom’s calves were more like tree trunks. Her whole body was like one huge bloque. My mother gave us everything, everything but I never remember her having anything. Instead of tacones, she wore chanclas. She use to threaten us with her chancla and it didn’t matter if she were big and old, she could still bend over, take off her chancla, grab us by the arm, and meternos un chingaso, real quick like/good ol’ fashion chancla discipline. My mother use to say that my father wanted boys. We were three girls. My mother never said what it was she wanted. That was her way I guess. I’m not sure if my mom ever loved my dad but I grew up thinkin that women that fell in love were weak.

I never thought my mom was pretty, even when she was younger and I never wanted to look like her but slowly the image of my mother crept into my own body. Slowly after too many two o’clock after closin time tacos, candy bars and coke for breakfast. They startin callin me dis—short for gordis—instead of la vicki. Cha-cha became panza and not little panzita even. The whole body grew and you know, it’s not easy balancin this much woman on an ity, bitty heel. I no longer walked real straight and tall. Hell, I looked more like a weeble, wobble. All my weight on a heel as wide as my pointing finger with my foot arched in the middle. I feel the weight of my panza all the way in the ball of my foot. When your panza gets bigger so do your feet and those thin sexy straps that use to hold your feet well they aint that sexy no more. You’ve got these little lonjitas hangin off the side of your shoe and it causes your feet to swell. It’s like they’re chokin, pulsatin, gaspin for air as they struggle to balance all of you on a tacon. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really feel so strong, so sure of myself anymore. Shit I’m scared I’ll fall when I’m dancin and the people that are lookin at me now are starin because they’re scared if I go too low I might not be able to get back up. They’re worried I’ll hurt someone out there.

There’s somethin classy about cha-cha/medias and tacones but when cha-cha becomes panza and you think you can still pull the same shit you could when you were 21, you just look kinda silly. You loose your tacon super powers and your magic slippers really are just puta shoes. Your dress clings tightly to lonjas and you can’t lock eyes with anyone anymore and talk to them without speaking cuz now they only look at your huge chi-chis and well chi-chis just aren’t as powerful as cho-cho. I don’t know why. Who makes these rules?

[Seductive music rises. Lights dim.]

[During the transition, Vicki sits on the edge of the altar, takes off her tacones and replaces them in the shopping bag on the altar. Vicki remains seated.]

© 2004 Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga
No part of this script may be reproduced, published, or performed without express written consent of the authors.

Disclosure: The Panza Monologues was provided to me for review at my request. All opinions are my own.

Bicultural Identity

The other day my youngest son brought his art portfolio home from school. I’d pull out a drawing, he’d tell me a little about his masterpiece, and I’d compliment what I loved most about it. Then I came to this drawing:

I looked at him.
“That’s me,” he said.
“That’s … you?” I asked.
“Yeah. We had to draw ourselves.”

It’s a typical 3rd grader self portrait in many ways, except I couldn’t help but notice that the crayon he chose for his skin color is many shades darker than his actual real life skin color. Our youngest son is fair skinned like me, but this drawing showed him to be darker like his father.

I decided not to ask questions and moved onto the next drawing. I didn’t want to make a big deal over it and make him self conscious. Maybe it’s not an identity crisis. Maybe he’s just not self-aware? I thought to myself. Maybe somebody else was using the lighter crayon and he wasn’t patient so he used whatever color was available.

I had tried to forget about the self portrait but then this weekend I found him in the backyard like this:

I asked what he was up to and he said, “I’m trying to tan.” — He explained that he wanted to be more like his brother’s color, (which is not as dark as his father, but almost.)

I’m wondering if this is just a natural part of growing up in a bicultural family where your mother and father are two different shades? Maybe it’s just a normal distancing of himself from me that comes from age – maybe he wants to identify as a male with his older brother and father?

I’m not really sure what to do, if anything – except to tell him he’s perfect the way he is. What would you do?

Barbara por Atras

I lack self-discipline, I’m a complete hedonist, I become intensely passionate about the things I love, and I’m impulsive. This spells trouble not just for my eating habits but it makes many aspects of my life challenging. Carlos, who is the complete opposite, has reformed me to some extent, and being a mother has forced me to change my ways, but it’s a daily fight.

Recently when I decided to get serious about my health, I reached out to mi amiga, Barbara to ask for guidance. She gave me a lot of encouragement and was also kind enough to send me a copy of her book, “…Barbara por Atras: A Latin Woman’s Guide to Fitness.”

I’ve read a lot of books about health but this one connected in a way that other books couldn’t. With mentions of Celia Cruz, nalgas, and piropos as well as healthful ways to prepare arroz con frijoles, tostones con mojo, and flan – I feel like finally someone “gets” me! This book is the jump start I needed. I’m taking steps in the right direction – poco a poco, I’ll make it. Gracias, Barbara.

Disclosure: The book was provided to me at no cost. I did not receive any compensation for talking about the book. All opinions are my own.

Autoestima

Over the weekend I heard a new bachata song by Prince Royce called “Corazón Sin Cara”. I immediately loved the lyrics, noting how different they are from a lot of the music I listen to. In this song, Royce sings:

Y si eres gorda o flaca
Todo eso no me importa a mí
Tampoco soy perfecto
Sólo sé que yo te quiero así.

This flies in the face of the dominant message directed at women in today’s popular music, which is that your physical beauty is the most important thing about you. I’ll admit to listening to and loving Reggaeton – but I hate how degrading it is to women. It’s all about “sexiness” and defining a woman by her beauty, specifically her body. Reggaetoneros are lacking creativity. There are so many things in this world that they could sing about, and yet we get lyrics like this:

Tú eres una Barbie
muñeca princesa
y no es de Mattel
Tú eres perfecta
Tu cara tu cuerpo
tus ojos también tu piel
te quiero completa
baila sensual así te quiero ver
juntitos, solitos nos vamos a complacer.

- “Es Un Secreto” by Plan B

Being bombarded with messages like this on a daily basis can have a brainwashing sort of effect on one’s self-esteem, so here are some songs to help you detox.

“Corazón sin Cara” by Royce

“Ella” by Bebe

“Ella Es Bonita” by Natalia Lafourcade

“Baja Autoestima” – Los Cipotes

¿Quieres Más?

Dra. Eréndira López-García talks about how to fix self-esteem issues en español (Very much worth 10 minutes of your time.) [link]

Spoken word poetry, “Pretty” by Katie Makkai. (English – strong language) [link]

Rosie O’Donnell – Beautiful Girls (English – strong language)
[link]

Latinos & Gringas Gorditas

White guy #1: You know who likes to go with Mexicans? Fat white girls! It’s always the fat ones who-
Carlos: Hey.
White guy #1: What?
Carlos: Do me a favor.
White guy #1: Yeah?
Carlos: Shut the fuck up. {walks away}
White guy #1: Damn, what the hell’s his problem?
White guy #2: You’re a dumbass. His wife is white.
{awkward silence}
White guy #1: But I wasn’t sayin’ nothin – I just meant it’s like… a stereotype.

A stereotype – and like any stereotype, it’s mostly hurtful bigotry, but with a little truth mixed in – (Sort of like Fruit Punch with 10% real juice.)

“Gringas Gorditas” (Fat white girls), do not disproportionately pair up with Latino men. I can say anecdotally that among the gringas I know who are with Latino men, it’s an even split 50/50 with half being flacas (thin) and the other half being gorditas (chubby or fat.)

I’m one of the gorditas, and I’ve come up against a lot of ignorant assumptions about my marriage. First of all, I did not “settle” for my husband because I couldn’t “get a white guy”. White guys were never on my radar in the first place, maybe due to a childhood crush on Ricky Ricardo – who knows.

Second of all, my husband did not choose me just to get a Greencard, and nor am I a “status symbol” for him.

This stereotype about Latinos and gringas gorditas is doubly damaging because not only does it literally weigh my worth as a woman in pounds, it casts an ugly light on interracial marriage – as if our marriage is somehow less valid.

Here’s some breaking news: Interracial couples fall in love for all the complicated and simple reasons “same race” couples fall in love. In the end, it comes down to attraction – not just physical, (though biologically that can’t much be helped), but spiritual connection, emotional attachment, and shared experiences all play a role.

Now for the 10% juice: Culturally speaking, Latino men are typically more accepting, and even desiring, of a thicker figure on a woman, than are Anglo men. (Source: Study on Race/Ethnicity Body Type Preferences)

(Necessary Disclaimer: That, of course, is a generality that does not apply to all Latino men or all Anglo men. Individual results may vary.)

The real question in my mind is what is the fascination with this stereotype? Why all the scrutiny over my curves and his color? Yes, I’m a gringa gordita and yes, he is Latino – ¿Y qué? (So what?)

“It is not that love is blind. It is that love sees with a painter’s eye, finding the essence that renders all else background.” – Robert Brault

Race & Reality

I just finished reading Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity by Guy P. Harrison.

This was definitely not light, relaxing reading but I’m happy that I pushed through and read it.

Book Description:

“Drawing on a wide variety of evidence – the hard data from fossils and DNA, interviews with the victims of racism, and personal experiences – Harrison dismantles the ‘race’ concept, bolt by bolt. Exposing race as a social illusion and political tool – rather than a biological reality – Harrison forces the reader to consider how they think about ‘other folk.’ Anthropologists have no use for the race concept, and neither should educated citizens.” -Cameron M. Smith, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University

Even if you already consider yourself educated and enlightened, reading this book will open your eyes in new ways. You won’t be able to look at people, race or society the same ever again. (Remember, we’re talking about race here – not culture. Very different. The craziness I observe in my own household on a daily basis is proof enough to me that cultural differences exist!)

The author argues that we all came out of Africa and we are one human race – that any categories based on hair type, skin color, facial features, etc – are simply man-made… By the time I finished reading this book I felt simultaneously freed…and trapped. I see myself as raceless, but this just isn’t practical in the society we live in.

Imagine renewing my driver’s license at the DMV. I fill out the form, I come to the race boxes – decide to leave them blank because they seem silly and irrelevant. I turn in my form.

“Ma’am, you didn’t check a box for race.”
“I know. I don’t want to. I don’t believe in races.”
“Yes ma’am, that’s real cute, but you have to choose one. I can’t process an incomplete form…”
I sigh, take my pen in hand, and check off a race.
“Hmm… I suppose this one is most accurate…”
I hand the form back to the DMV clerk who looks it over. Her satisfied smile at my compliance soon turns to a frown.
“African-American?!”

So, I don’t think race will be disappearing any time soon – and maybe it would be irresponsible of me to pretend our world doesn’t see these man-made boxes, regardless of what I personally feel. I have two sons who are struggling with their identity, and answering their questions with a cheerful, “Race doesn’t exist”, is not going to help them sort things out.

Just yesterday a classmate approached my older son and said, “Are you Mexican?” … My son, (having picked up on his father’s annoyance at constantly being incorrectly labeled Mexican instead of Latino or Salvadoran), replied with a simple, curt, “No.”

I told him that he should have used the opportunity to educate his classmate, but I wonder if that was fair of me. As a “white” girl amongst other “white” kids, I never had to explain myself. It must get annoying having to patiently tell people “what you are”. It must make one feel very “other”… and that’s never a good feeling, no matter how old you are – but especially in middle school.

The book, Race and Reality, re-printed a “Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage” which I think is empowering, not just for people who are traditionally considered “multi-racial” by today’s society – but for all of us. In the end, there is no pure race. We are all mixed and we are all human.

___

Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage:

I HAVE THE RIGHT…
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity.

I HAVE THE RIGHT…
To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

I HAVE THE RIGHT…
To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial or multi-ethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime -and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

© Maria P. P. Root, PhD

Piropos

I had a few errands to run today and it’s so hot out that I didn’t feel like bringing the whole circus along with me for the ride, so I left the niños at home with la Suegra.

My weekend was emotionally draining and I’m tired, but even though I was entering the fires of hell by going outside today, (high of 93 F today in the D.C. Metro area), I decided to make the most of having a couple hours to myself.

Before I left my air-conditioned sanctuary, I put on a black belted shirtwaist dress which shows my curves, (the good ones, not the bad ones.) I hadn’t yet worn this dress which has hung in my closet for many months because although I adore it, I never had occasion to wear it. I was over-dressed for running errands, but wearing it made me feel good, so I did. Some days you just need to do that for yourself.

Well, while I was out, I got a piropo. Now, I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m offended. I know that some modern women will shake their heads in disgust at being treated like a piece of meat, but I don’t mind being a pork chop once in awhile.

The truth is, sometimes I even make up reasons to go by the Latino market when I’m having a low self esteem day. I’m sure to get a smile and an appreciative glance . Another confession? I love nothing more than pulling up at a red light next to a truck full of construction workers on a hot summer day.

So anyway, today I’m walking out the store and this young guy, (I’m guessing 20′s and he wasn’t feo, okay? He looked kind of like Jadiel and I’m only exaggerating un poquito), smiles, stops in his tracks and says, “Hey girl. You lookin’ fine. Look at you. Mmm, what’s your name? What’s your name, huh?”

I played it as cool as possible even though I was freaking out. I blushed and then managed to point to my ring as he approached me.

“Oh, man, you married? Dang, okay then,” he said, checking me out one last time before going on his way.

After I made it to my car and turned the air conditioning on, I burst into giggles and called my husband to brag. His first question was, “What are you wearing?” and then he told me to “Behave.” Hee hee.

So, chicas, how do you feel about piropos?

Turn about is fair play?

I recently came upon this old Coca-Cola commercial. Take a look.

How did it make you feel?

I felt a confusing mix of emotions. Along with a slight smile of amusement, I also felt an instinctive indignation as I digested it on a personal level. “This is a perfect example of the media pushing beauty standards that cause women to have low self esteem and form eating disorders,” I said to myself. Then I felt annoyance because the commercial only represented the reality of how many young men act. Other thoughts were to roll my eyes at the hypocrisy, (for the young men accessing the women’s figures are drinking Coca-Cola, which isn’t exactly healthy), and then I ended up wondering how I can prevent my own sons from objectifying women as they grow closer and closer to adolescence.

After a few minutes, I suddenly remembered another old commercial, also put out by the Coca-Cola company.

Now the tables have turned. In this video we have a group of women objectifying a man yet it didn’t strike the same nerve in me. Is this natural or hypocritical? Is turn about fair play? Should we just smile and not take either video so seriously?

¿Qué opinas tú? What do you think?

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