Everything started the day I was born, that’s when all my features came to light and everybody analyzed me from head to toe. My mother always thought that I was a very beautiful and somewhat quiet baby. I really believe that that was my mom’s love talking. I only have a few pictures of how my body looked like when I was a baby. My mother is with me in every picture and I can see how much she loves me in each one of them. Soon, I began to walk and talk and my mother changed her mind about how quiet I was since I clearly remember the lack of silence when I was awake.
A few years passed after my birth and my body became that of a little girl. When I was 5 years old, I had a big belly, skinny legs, short dark brown hair, and an inquisitive look. If I had short hair it was just because of my mother. She used to cut my hair since she was the only one who put up with the daily struggles to brush and braid my hair. I think my screams were heard in the whole block and our neighbors used to take my screams as the alarm to wake up their children to go to school. What was interesting about this situation was that my mother knew that the minute I walked out of the house, my hair would be a mess again.
Despite these daily “struggles,” I was a very happy girl. I grew up within a group of about 15 kids (siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors, and whoever showed up,) most of them were boys. We used to escape with my granny to play in the river that crossed our country house; that’s how I hurt my left foot and knee, climbing trees and stealing apples. The marks on my skin are my personal tattoos, now I look at them and I smile while remembering my past. These marks take me back to those moments of innocence, credulity and admiration.
So, time passed and I became a teenager, I was a skinny girl with pale skin, very expressive eyes, thick eyebrows, and long and messy hair. Around those years, years of discovery, curiosity and rebellion, I started to change the color of my hair, sometimes it was deep black, others it was purple or blue, all depended on my mood. My face, although pale for the lack of sun exposure, showed the forgotten innocence and the desperation to grow up. You could see in my eyes the hunger for a different future, I wanted to discover the world and travel without looking back. I didn’t know that in foreign countries, I would become more aware of the features I possess. In faraway lands, I am no longer the girl with pale skin or expressive eyes, I simply became a Latina.
It is sad to find out that I am to the world only what my surface shows; I am no longer the woman with indigenas roots, who were conquered by the Spaniards, someone who likes to travel, read and think freely. All of these features disappear the moment I open my mouth and pronounce my name. My essence disappears within the stereotype of who I am supposed to be. According to the stereotype to which I belong, I should know how to dance salsa, I should love the kind of music that makes you wanna move your body, and I should be more relaxed with the world and its intrinsic events. But, I am not like that at all and those characteristics don’t interest me that much. As time passes by, I realize that what I am and who I am goes beyond my physical features, the color of my skin or the shape of my feet. Through the years, if my body used to grow and change, now it only ages. My hands have these little spots, marks of the passage of time and the few occasions I dared to cook, my mom says that all these spots are the result of hot oil splashed in my skin.
My eyes, more than expressive have become somewhat wiser, they have witnessed the best moments of my life as well as the injustices of this world. My face has wrinkles, and each one of them represents the times I cried, laughed or the times I was amazed. Personally, I think that the majority of my wrinkles belong to the happy moments of my life but I must clarify that the wrinkles in my forehead are the result of frowning my forehead during many afternoons under the sun without decent sunglasses. All these characteristics made me think that the way I see myself, is only mine, very personal and "private." Only I can determine my flaws and attributes. I know that I can be a little fat for many while for others I can be a little skinny, for some others I am petite while for others I am tall. For some, the color of my skin is dark while for others my skin is plainly pale.
Although, whenever I go back to the place I was born, everybody knows that I am a “serrana” since my body lacks the characteristics of a woman from the Coast or even a woman from the Oriente (the jungle.) These are voluptuous women with flirty looks and curves that melt any man. I am not like that, quite the contrary, when someone who doesn't know me sees me for the first time, s/he has the impression that I am angry, upset or too serious. I usually reserve my smile for those I know; and the curves of my body (if any) are covered with layers of clothes and sweaters that little to nothing is left for the eyes of strangers.
But it doesn't really matter what the whole world thinks of me. I admit that I love my body with all its flaws, unique features, and all its spots and marks. Every feature is mine and only mine, my big forehead, my lips with a unique shape made only for me. I love my arms, they are proportional to the size of my body, and these hands of mine, they carry in one of their fingers the symbol of the eternal union with the man I love. My legs and my feet have walked through paths made only for me and in turn they have created paths for others to discover. I love the way my body is becoming the diary where I write the events of my life, wherever I am, I know that what I am, is camouflaged under the wrapping of this skin that one day will become only dust.