Hispanic • Latino/a • Latinx Beauty & CULTURE
Latin America is made up of 21 countries and is comprised of many cultures that have their own unique beauty rituals. U.S Latinx and Latin American people have a multi-racial history that has created a variety of physical characteristics, hair textures and skin tones. Those characteristics coupled with cultural values have shaped the way beauty culture has evolved in the Hispanic, Latino/a or Latinx community.
CULTURE & HISTORY
The dictionary defines Latin American as a people or culture of Latin American origin or descent (For U.S. populations, the X in Latinx is used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina). Latin America includes countries in the Americas where a romance language predominates. This includes, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and the creole languages. Mexico, Central and South America, and Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti in the Caribbean are included because they were all once under Spanish, Portuguese and French colonial rule.
Did you know that 90% of enslaved Africans were taken to South America? As a result, there is a shared African hairitage between the United States and Latin America that includes Latinx people. When we examine the hairitage of these Latin America and the Caribbean, the cultural and styling footprint is similar with some distinct differences.
Enslavement and the slave trade existed longer in South America and in certain parts of the Caribbean than in the United States, even though Black people in these countries were able to hold onto their African heritage longer preserving African derived languages, religions and hairstyles, unfavorable attitudes toward Black hair texture and darker skin tones exist in damaging ways. The natural hair movement that is present the US is also present in Latin America the Caribbean and continues to grow. This helps to change the narrative and more Black Latin Americans and Caribbeans are embracing their rich history and African “roots.” 2016 study by Univision found that Latinas learn about beauty from their mothers at a young age, with 66% saying they were told maintaining their appearance is important. With the growth of the natural hair movement, the maintenance of that appearance will become less and less influenced by Eurocentric beauty standards. Knowing our hairitage challenges the notion in the United States, Latin American and the Caribbean that Black hair is not beautiful.
THE HAIRITAGE OF LATIN AMERICA
Latin American culture is fully expressed in high art and literature as well as music, folk art, religion, and dance. While the Western world has had a heavy influence, the Native American, African and Asian influence also stands out-particularly with regard to hairtage.
As a result of the integration of various ethnic European and African ethnic groups into Latin America, it is common to see a range of hair textures from little to no curl pattern to the tightest coil. When examining the precolonial styles of South America, braids and hair ornaments such as ribbons and beads were a popular way to sculpt and decorate hair. Like African tradition, braiding in the Latinx community is a social art because of the time it takes to create this form of protective styling.
Although Eurocentric ideals created a caste system that categorized afro-centric characteristics as less desirable, attitudes are beginning to change, and natural curls and coils are becoming more accepted. We are even seeing a rise of Hispanic, Latino/a and Latinx beauty brands for skin and curly hair in mainstream retailers.