Hinting Palette in the Beauty Aisle of any Drugstore, Pyramid Scheme, Office, or Classroom Near You!

Sometimes people straight up ask me what I am when they can’t place me and others they hint
around it while I skit away. A product of colonization. Two different histories. One side
conquered the other half. Motleys meeting motleys.

  • You’re always tan
  • I like the shape of your eyes
  • I thought you were one of us
  • It’s obvious you’re not one of us. Show me your arm. Place it next to mine. See the difference?
    The way yours is darker?
  • I thought you were one of them
  • Are you sure?
  • We have a bet. This one thinks you’re white. This one thinks you’re Latina. This one thinks you’re Asian. See? I won. (I mean we were colonized by the same people)
  • You’re always so tan.
  • You’re always so pale.
  • I had to work up the courage to ask you
  • Don’t laugh
  • Come on, I’ve been wondering
  • Are you half- Spanish?
  • Are you Italian?
  • Are you Filipina?
  • Come on tell me
  • Are you sure?
  • You can’t be sure
  • Maybe your parents haven’t told you
  • Watch someday you’ll find out
  • What is there to find out
  • Bleached hair suits you
  • You look lighter this way, don’t change it
  • Don’t get tan
  • You’re always so tan
  • Have you tried a skin lightener?
  • You always look like you’ve just come back from vacation, I wish my skin could look like that
  • But you’re white
  • You’re not white, I can tell
  • But you don’t look Mexican
  • It’s obvious you’re Mexican
  • How are you full? Not half?
  • Not this?
  • I can never tell. Sometimes you look like this but then I see you again and you look like that
  • We could never tell what you’d end up looking like
  • I’m not sure I trust that.
  • You look so different without eyeliner
  • Have you tried those ancestry tests? It only makes sense that there’s things in your line that you don’t know about

I know this:
There are charts from the colonization era that clearly label different cultures as if trying to create a
caste-theme color palette. These cultures are strictly defined in these charts and by this point in our
grand old modern new century, we shrug our shoulders to accept we’re a mixture but only a few
of those labels are still used even if the homeland is still so divided by color that the telenovelas
don’t reflect population and I’d spend hours as a kid googling how to look like the actresses just
to discover they were French or German or Rich and no amount of bleach or wishful thinking
would have me waking up a blue-eyed symbol of wealth.

I know this:
I read about people being captured and brought as slaves from non-European continents all over
the world because the Spanish thought this to be fashionable. I read about how my last name was
one frequently given to the conquested when forced to convert. I read that people left Europe in
different waves including those of colonization and empire and settled over different states in
Mexico and you can still see the influences on music till this day. I heard my dad mention Kora
somewhere back in one history and my grandpa mention generals in wars in another history. A
blue eyed great-grandfather on one side. A father boiling at the idea of his elementary-aged
daughter wanting so much to be blue-eyed on the other.

A motley of motleys.
Sometimes people ask.
Sometimes they hint.
My fingers hover over an answer.

Vanessa Bernice De La Cruz is a Chicanx artist and writer from Los Angeles, CA. Her work can be found in Carve, Puerto del Sol, and Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century.