“It would be impossible to create a doll with a face representing all Dominican women. The dolls are faceless to remind everyone that differences in color and appearance are meaningless.” This is a description of the Lime Dolls that represent our culture and are bought by tourists when they visit our island. But what do those dolls really mean?
What does it mean to be a Dominican woman? What does it mean to be a Dominican American woman? Here is my best answer.
We come from a rich culture that celebrates beauty and what that looks like in many colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Dominican women love to look their best, like most Latinas, at all costs. You go to a Dominican salon on a Saturday and will know how serious we are about hair. With a strong Naturalista movement that just started to take shape, it is beautiful to see women embrace their natural hair. Yet why is it that our culture still has such strong denial of our very African roots?
Our bodies are subject to discussion, hourglass, fajas, thick thighs, back sides, surgery… But we are raised to love and respect our bodies.
Junot Diaz describes it, “Every time you hear anyone talk about the Caribbean, whether it’s Caribbeans themselves or people outside, there’s always talk about women’s bodies. Talk about this voluptuousness, this kind of stereotype of what a Caribbean person is. And I think these are stereotypes that even people inside the culture, we actually sometimes claim them and we’re very proud.”
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Dominicans are happy, loud, love to dance, love to celebrate, are hard working and smart, despite what judgmental ignorance may say.
That small island is incredible, with a deep history, passionate music, and people as beautiful as its beaches. I am the daughter of immigrants and we must work tirelessly to be empowered to share with others what that means. That we are productive members of this country with a deep love for our ancestry.
I can like Aventura, but outgrow them like Romeo did. I can like to cook, but feel lazy sometimes and buy frozen Goya platano maduro from the supermarket. I can love hearing my mom tell me about her novela and then turn around and tell her about Game of Thrones. I can teach writing at a university and speak Spanglish at home. I can try my best to teach my children Spanish, and fail. I can be married and take care of my children, and protest as a feminist in the United States. I can love Juan Luis Guerra’s lyrics, and know that he creates magic with his words, just like Julia Alvarez. I can be completely obsessed with the play Hamilton, as American as it is, and know that that it is my mother’s story, too, of an immigrant who came here and worked extremely hard. I am Dominican.
It is a beautiful dichotomy that takes both worlds and makes them mine.