Joanne M. Despres jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Wed May 22 14:03:53 UTC 2002

My Latina friend, who's from the Dominican Republic, tells me that
race is a more fluid (and, she says, a less important) category
within her community than among Anglos.  In the DR, she says,
white and black individuals can appear within same family, along
with every shade in between. I certainly don't get the impression
that Dominicans are unconscious of skin color, though.  When
speaking of family members, my friend tends to describe them as
"lighter" or "darker,"  and she's told me about a particularly dark-
skinned cousin nicknamed "La Negrita" (lovingly, of course).  I have
to admit that I've found her racial self-identification a bit puzzling
and even self-contradictory at times.  She describes herself as
white, but is decidedly more brown than most Anglos -- in fact, if I
were asked to describe her skin tone, I'd probably call it mulatto.
She considers my skin "very white" (suggesting, I suppose, that
she falls somewhere on the browner end of the continuum of
whiteness) yet describes our friendship as "interracial."

Another friend of mine, a white Cuban-American, gets annoyed
when Anglos assume she can't be Latina because of her skin

I suppose this confirms Michael Newman's point that Latinos tend
to self-identify more in cultural than in racial terms.

Joanne Despres

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