Translated by Katrina Hassan
Last month she got fake eyelashes and dyed her hair platinum blonde, even though she knew she couldn’t hide her mestizo roots. She spent a ton of money on a perm. She saved money for five months in order to curl the straight hair that she inherited from her ancestors.
If she could change her oak bark colored skin she would change it for a lighter tone. In reality Milagros would like to look like a Russian or a Polish woman. She likes that skin tone, the slim and tall physique.
She doesn’t want to look like an Indian. The Indian women she knows are darker than her and have dark circles under their eyes. She would not like to look like a light skinned Asian either. She definitely doesn’t want to look like a black African woman. That dark skin color looks so dark, dirty, so black. Milagros would give an arm and a leg to look like a European woman, with blue or green eyes. This is why she has contact lenses on, even if she doesn’t need them.
She thinks that maybe just maybe, this way people won’t stop her at the supermarket to ask her if she wants to clean houses or flip burgers at fast food joint. This is why she decided to change her look. She believes if she looks like someone else, she won’t look like a Latin American woman. She cannot do anything about her English though, she can barely speak it. This is why she speaks as little as possible at work.
In the morning, from 4am to 8am she works in a bakery. She packs bread into boxes that are shipped to supermarkets. Midmorning, she works in the stockroom of a dress shop. There, from 10-4, she spends her time tidying up rolls of fabric, thread and also cleaning. Her third shift is as cleaner at a shopping mall/center’s arcade and restaurant. It’s the kind of place where parents leave there kids at the arcade while they eat and drink at the restaurant. She works there from 7pm to midnight.
Milagros doesn’t want to be the cleaning lady, but her uniform, broom and dustpan betray her. She would love for one of those gringos that visits the shopping center to see her in another light. It would be great if they talked to her instead of just asking her to clean up their food and beer spills. She wished not to be the one that clean the bathrooms.
This is why Milagros dyes and perms her hair, wears layer upon layer of make up, has fake eyelashes that barely let her see, and wears high heeled boots that instantly tire her feet upon wearing. She also buys the perfume the gringas and Europeans wear. She doesn’t want to look like who she is: a Latin American mestiza. She is just like the other thousands of women that go to the US to work in all the the odd jobs. Her natural appearance being a beautiful part of the world’s diversity.
Milagros has no idea about her origins. She doesn’t know that her desire to be someone else, to look in every way whiter, has been imposed on her and her ancestors for millennia.
Her and her ancestors have been conditioned to be ashamed of their origins. She doesn’t have anyone in her surroundings to tell her this. Milagros is surrounded by other Latin women that have been relegated to domestic work. They don’t have the chance of escape from that world because of their undocumented status.
Milagros sees her reflection in other women’s eyes. Too bad she hasn’t had the luck, yet, to meet any of the US Native American women. If she ever did, they would be a refuge for her migrant soul with essence of the first nations people. They will not allow for Milagros to be defeated from the invaders impositions.
They’d tell her that Asian women are beautiful in their own skin. The blackness of the African women’s skin is one of the most beautiful in the world. One of the first lessons would be to stop violating herself with all that she does to change her appearance and deny her origin. She needs to see through the heart’s eyes, they are the majestic spirit.
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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado