Behind the Poems: Contra Pelo

I had the great honor of having this poem featured in the inaugural publication of Latino Book Review in 2019.

contra pelo poem

Growing up I always felt self-conscious of my curly, frizzy hair. I tried to keep it under control, slicked back with hair gel. Or I would have my mom spend hours straightening it with a flat iron, which in Florida humidity is asking for a miracle. One time in the mall, one of the kiosk ladies selling flat irons even grabbed my arm and pulled me to her stand after I tried passing by and saying no.

It took me a long time to realize why I hated my hair so much. Growing up, nearly all the pretty girls I saw on TV had pin-straight hair. They also happened to all be white. It’s not stated outright, but this representation tells you that people who look like you are not considered pretty.

At the same time, I also experienced people always wanting to touch my hair. Countless times, random strangers would reach out in awe, as if my hair was an exotic marvel.

The title translates to “Against Hair.” This poem delves into all the ways Eurocentric beauty standards have waged war against those whose DNA does not adhere to these rules.

I’ve come to love my hair. I now see its wildness as a defiance of what I’ve been told about beauty by the media. I wanted to capture that feeling in this piece. And I’ve always loved “misbehaving” women in literature, so I wanted to make the connection between wild hair and non-compliance.

woman with thick, curly hair

Check out the rest of my Behind the Poems series here.

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