Nearly all Dominican women straighten their hair, which experts say is a direct result of a historical learned rejection of all things black
By Frances Robles
A rising Voices: AFRO-LATIN AMERICANS
...But a professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said.
"If you're working in a bank, you don't want some barrio-looking hair. Straight
hair looks elegant," the bank teller said. "It's not that as a person of color I
want to look white. I want to look pretty."
..."I always associated black with ugly. I was too dark and didn't have nice hair," said Catherine de la Rosa, a dark-skinned Dominican-American college student spending a semester here. "With time passing, I see I'm not black. I'm Latina.
...To many Dominicans, to be black is to be Haitian. So dark-skinned Dominicans tend to describe themselves as any of the dozen or so racial categories that date back hundreds of years -- Indian, burned Indian, dirty Indian, washed Indian, dark Indian, cinnamon, moreno or mulatto, but rarely negro.
Several women said the cultural rejection of African looking hair is so strong that people often shout insults at women with natural curls."I cannot take the bus because people pull my hair and stick combs in it," said wavy haired performance artist Xiomara Fortuna. "They ask me if I just got out of prison. People just don't want that image to be seen."
...The Dominican Republic is not the only nation with so many words to describe skin color. Asked in a 1976 census survey to describe their own complexions, Brazilians came up with 136 different terms, including café au lait, sunburned, morena, Malaysian woman, singed and "toasted."