Creative Submissions

Yo Soy AfroLatina: Two Poems by Aymeé Malena

Written by: Aymeé Malena



Photo from Tony Peralta's installation "Complejo." Source:
Photo from Tony Peralta’s installation “Complejo.” Source:

A Hair Journey


So much hair for a new born. Bienvenida al mundo Aymee Luciano Beltre

Desde que sali de la barriga de mi mami he tenido mucho cabello.

My hair, so silkish and black

Its texture changed throughout the years…to the point that I wanted to change its texture once again

Beginning at the age of 9

Willingly sitting my small brown body on that salon chair to begin a ritual that would be repeated for the next 12 years

Quitandole la vida a mi pelo

Not letting it even develop to a mature state…not letting it change textures by itself

Pelo Malo vs. Pelo Bueno

Bad Hair vs. Good Hair

I didn’t mind sitting there for hours

I would soon get to have my straight hair,YO NO QUIERO PAJON! Pelo Bueno

Pero a veces picaba! Sometimes it itched it burned!

I smelled the vinegar, felt it cold on my scalp, felt the burn ¡ay mami mami me pica!

I wanted to get up from the chair, but if I let the relaxer on for too long my hair could burn and fall off,

TAKE THE PAIN! – pelo malo (bad hair)

12 years sitting on a chair to repeat the same ritual every 3 to 5 months.

Make sure your hair is neither clean nor dirty. Don’t scratch your head beforehand, it burns more if you do. Sit down to part the hair, section it, apply the derrizado, softly, then the smell, the strong smell and then the burning and itching. The trips from the chair to the sink and back then rolls and blow dryer. Taming and hiding ancestral roots. – Pelo Bueno…pero

“After two or three weeks under the conk and hot comb applications, the hair says, ‘To Hell with this. I am going back to Africa,’ and it goes back to its natural state.”

Since the age of nine I had been hiding my African roots- Ashamed of my hair—Pelo Malo

I followed Eurocentric standards of beauty – good hair was straight hair, not my thick hair

Yo tenia pelo malo

I tamed, hid and killed the life of my hair, then I thought that was beauty, then I yearned to be white, I didn’t know about my ancestors

For almost 12 years my relaxed hair represented my own internalized oppression, it was time to begin decolonizing my mind and body

January 2011 – mami mami, I’m going natural – then the arguments over my hair began

“Yo no se lo que a ti te esta pasando” I don’t know whats happening to you – mami said

I know you raised me relaxing my hair mami I know I wanted it so badly but I was a child I didn’t know better, ahora I know about our African past and that this hair represents my ancestors and I want to embrace it mami! My hair is beautiful como Dios me hizo!

You know, it is not an easy process to stop relaxing the hair after 12 long years.

It is not easy to decolonize the mind but it’s not impossible

It’s even more difficult when so many people around you discourage you because of their own oppression, because of their lack of knowledge of the histories of my African ancestors. Some Dominicans are blind to see that our country is the cradle of Blackness in the Americas. Our country was populated by more African enslaved people than by Europeans. We Dominicans tend to be blinded by Western stories that only teach us about the European ancestors and the native ones, pero no de nuestros ancestros los que llaman the “third root” our Black ancestors.

“I’m sorry but you have black people’s hair” a so called friend comments

Well, I am black

No you’re not, you’re Dominican

Why can’t you accept I am more than just Dominican? I am an afro-descendiente. I come from enslaved Africans brought to the island to work the fields. This skin this body this hair comes from the African diaspora. This hair, MY hair is beautiful in its most natural state and I will set it free from those 12 years of slavery it had to endure.



Photo from Tony Peralta's installation "Complejo." Source:
Photo from Tony Peralta’s installation “Complejo.” Source:

Yo soy Afro-Latina! 


*Girl! Shut up!

What the hell are you talking about?

What the hell is an Afro-Latina anyways?

You aint black…You’re straight from Dominican Republic….



I am from that beautiful isla with warm sands and blue beaches.

I’m from beautiful sunsets in el campo de mis abuelos

I come from : [ platano con salami!! ] *dances*

I am from the Dominican flag–ARROZ, HABICHUELA Y CARNE


My first language is NOT Ingles. My lengua is FIRE HOT Spanish,

the language of the conquistadores.

Yea, you’re right I AM STRAIGHT from Republica Dominicana.


BUT, I also come come from the kidnapped black slaves,

brought to my bella isla to work the fields because

my lovely Taino’s backs couldn’t take it anymore so they died…

I come from the slaves ships full of black men and women not knowing where they were being taken.

I come from the lashes of slave masters in Hispaniola.

I am from sugarcane fields, filled with exploited black slaves.


I am from a society that seems to celebrate Cristobal Colon and his “discovery” of the New World.

But  SERIOUSLY what discovery?

My peoples had already been in the island for five thousand years!

Senor Colon, thanks to you “discovering” us, my beautiful Tainos ceased to live.

Together with your ambitions & brutality, you brought your deathly diseases.

& OF COURSE!!! You had to bring the black slaves because WHO was going to dig for gold for you?

WHO was going to work your fields?


I am the essence of Tainos…

I can’t really claim Taino ancestry, because by the end of the 16th century they were all dead.

I’m definitely NOT claiming European/white, NO GRACIAS, besides look at me, do I look white to you?

By the 18th century majority of the population in Hispaniola were black slaves.

I COME from black slaves.

You CANNOT tell me what I am or what I’m not.

I may not be YOUR definition of Afro/Black,


Te guste o no!…. 


About the author, Aymeé Malena: I was born in the Dominican Republic and migrated to the United States at the age of 13. I am a graduate from Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts and concentrated in Sociology and Latin@ Studies. For my senior thesis I developed an ethnography on internalized oppression within the Dominican community exploring issues of racial prejudice and homophobia. I am currently a case manager at a non profit housing agency in Boston working with families who were previously homeless and are now transitioning either into permanent housing or have some type of housing assistance. I am interested in working with the Latin@ community in NYC, more specifically with families and immigrants and will be pursuing a Master’s Degree of Social Work in order to accomplish my goal of working with these communities.



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