What is Beautiful ?

By Melissa Alvarez  |   From : Pacioma, California  |   School : Social Justice Humanitas Academy

“ Mija ya levantate es hora” those are the words she recite every morning  since school became a part of my everyday life. The first day of 5th grade was the year when my eyes were opened to society, but it all really started since the day I was born, I was  put in a category, a box of who I was and what I was to believe in and what was beautiful . A Mexican-American girl born to immigrant parents, a soon to be success story because it’s not normal to not be in gangs if your Mexican or be involved in school. I am a Mexican girl I am automatically thought to be a believer of the Virgin Mary if not it’s weird.  

I remember as I walked through those school doors the smell of newly cleaned floors and desks hit my nostrils, as I searched the room for familiar faces I found one of my old friends, his name was “Alec.” The day progressed pretty normally until he started staring at my gums. “Why are your GUMS PURPLE?” he said. I stared at him in disbelief I never noticed how my gums where different than others, but it didn’t stop there, “Why is your skin so brown like your sweater?” So many WHY’s I had no answer for, so I did the only thing that I could; I started asking myself the same questions. Why was I not light like the other kids? Why were  my gums different? I started asking my friends if they thought I was too dark or asking if I could check their gums trying to find someone who looked like me.

My birthday came around “I bet you wish for your birthday to have pink gums” , Alec said,  those words echoed in my mind for a very long time. I still remember them today almost 5 years since they were said. I started hating the way I looked, asking the dentist why were my gums like that.he only answer I got was because of where my ancestors were from, it was normal … normal. There was nothing I could do, so I started to tell myself not to smile in photos or if i did not to smile too big. I trained myself to not show what I believed to be an imperfection.  As for my skin I put on sunscreen and always compare myself to my lighter skinned sister asking her if I was getting darker. She started to notice my problem of self hate so she started telling me that I looked pretty everyday until I didn’t need someone to tell me my skin was beautiful or the color of my gums were a beautiful symbol of my family before me.

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