I do not get told I do not look Latina enough, and people are never in disbelief when they hear me identify as Latina. In fact, I have been told I look too Latina and that I act and look too Nicaraguan, specifically. Among my communities, I am the Latina who other bilingual Latinxs speak to in Spanish first. Among non-Latinx white people, I am, phenotypically, the Latina that Fox News uses in its fear-mongering reports on immigrants. I am the Latina people think of when they picture someone who is criminal because that is what they have been told about brownness.
I have a particular racialized experience. My brownness is not just evident when I speak or share where I was born; my brownness enters rooms with me. Even when I stand quietly in a corner, I still get racialized as other. I have learned how to navigate spaces where I can predict these biases will bubble up, managing my appearance and learning how to stand up straight, like someone who expects respect. It takes this performance for white folks to release the preconceived notions they have about me because of how non-white I look. But it doesn’t work all the time.
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