Monday, February 27, 2012

The International Natural.

I recently studied abroad in Costa Rica for 4 months. I knew I would witness many things, but I did not think my hair would be a variable in my experience.

For the first 2 months I wore a sew in. The last two months I sported my natural kinks and curls. Now, I had reserves about taking my sew in out because of the amount of questions I thought I would get by my peer group. I can get irritable very quickly when bombarded with questions. I was the only Black student out of 40. Not to mention, I was the only Black person in my area in Costa Rica. I later met some people from the Caribbean, but only a few. I stuck out like a sore thumb.

You can only imagine that when my hair went from this:

 To this:

I would get some different responses. To be honest, the feedback wasn't what I expected.

Cat-calling is normal in Central America. I talked to a few men and they said it was second nature to them, like a past time. They didn't care what the response from the women was. I know that seems like irrelevant information, but I'm getting to something. When I first arrived in Costa Rica the men would call me 'morena', which means dark skinned woman in Spanish, but it is usually a term for darker skinned women with either straight or curly hair, NOT kinky. I also traveled to Nicaragua during this time and I was also called 'morena'. After taking down my sew in, the next day when I walked to school I noticed the men were referring to me as 'negrita', which is an endearing form of Black woman. During the two months I had been there I had never been placed in juxtaposition with a Black woman, although it was clear that I had some form of African ancestry.

While wearing my natural hair, this label followed me through Central America. For those who don't know, there is a myth that Costa Rica is the 'whiter' Central American country. From what I witnessed, the people tend to place a higher value on North American culture than the rest of the region. The feedback I received from Costa Ricans was different, but I had another experience with the rest of Central America.

I had the chance to voyage through El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. I traveled with my beautiful Philippine friend. Black women are definitely exotic in these countries because I got cat-called and harassed the entire trip and she didn't.

 "Negrita, mi amor. Nunca he visto pelo como así. ¡Te amo!"- a random man from El Salvador.
"Black woman, my love. I've never seen hair like that. I love you!"

El Salvador was the most interesting. I had countless questions about what products I used in my hair. Photo opportunities followed the questions. Can you believe people wanted to take pictures with me just because they had never seen hair like mine? I was wearing two-strand twist, mind you. Beside the street harassment, the positive reinforcement was awesome.

Although I received different reactions to my hair, I never received a negative comment. It shows that not everyone places artificial beauty on a pedestal. I am grateful for that experience.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I really appreciate it! I try to show different things!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Came across your blog today love your hair now following blog an instagram!

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate it! If I'm not following back, let me know!

  4. Came across yuor blog because of the feature. I love hearing about the experience of naturals when they come to different countries.

    1. It's interesting because I never thought my hair would be part of my experience. I guess it just goes to show you that it's not just what is on your head.