Brenda Medina reports for Florida’s Sun Sentinel.
It’s an age-old issue that divides Hispanics and it involves hair.
But more importantly, it’s about cultural pride and differences.
Even in countries like the Dominican Republic, where by some estimates 90 per cent of the population is of black descent, straight hair is considered a symbol of beauty. In the Caribbean nation, some workplaces are known to require their female workers to straighten their hair as part of the dress code.
The argument has now reached South Florida, much of it courtesy of a 25-year-old Dominican woman whose blog is avidly read by a new generation of Latinas. But Carolina Contreras never imagined she would become a hair activist.
“In our culture there is little appreciation for curly hair,” said Contreras, whose mother started straightening the blogger’s dark curls when she was 8 years old. “The idea of beauty is long, straight and even blonde hair.”
Contreras, a major in international relations and modern languages, who will meet on Saturday with some of her followers in South Florida, is treading new ground. While she isn’t the first person to talk about the challenges that women of color face because of their curly locks, she is one of the few bloggers who does it in Spanish.
After returning to the Dominican Republic from Boston two years ago, Contreras launched Missrizos.com, a blog about her own journey from the world of hair chemicals, curl relaxers and straightening irons to sporting her natural afro. Some of the stories she shares reflect how Latino cultures discourage dark-skinned Hispanics from accepting their afro roots.Her blog has gained readers outside the Dominican Republic, including South Florida, where followers like Claudia Rodriguez, a Dominican immigrant from West Palm Beach, has become an avid “missrizos” (Miss Curls) reader.
Rodriguez, 39, stopped costly, weekly visits to the beauty parlor about four months ago when she started to work out at a gym for health reasons.
“I saw it as a sacrifice for my health,” she said. “The first day I read [missrizos.com] and looked at the photos she posted on Facebook, I had an epiphany,” Rodriguez said. “By the time I turned off the computer I had already changed my mind. I said ‘I am beautiful and my curls are here to stay’”. Rodriguez is planning to attend Saturday’s hair meet-up at a Cuban restaurant in Miami.
Another missrizos fan, Rachell Santos, from Pembroke Pines, said she became liberated from the beauty parlor and the straightening iron after moving from the Dominican Republic. She now disagrees with her own family that hair has to be straight to be beautiful.
“Whenever I visit the Dominican Republic, the first thing my mother wants to do is make an appointment for me at the beauty parlor,” said Santos. “I am still fighting against this type of social pressure.”
Contreras, who was raised in Boston, battled these same pressures after moving to the Dominican Republic two years ago to work for an HIV awareness nonprofit organization. But she sees growing acceptance for her natural hair style.
“More and more women choose this lifestyle,” said Contreras, who has also inspired her sister and her mother to stop chemically straightening their hair.
For the original report go to http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-08-16/news/fl-missrizos-20120816_1_beauty-parlor-dominican-republic-straight-hair