C is for (Colorism)


Word of the week: “acostumbrarse”  or “to get used to”

Yes, C stands for Costa Rica. But C also stands for colorism. Which is what we will discuss this week. Colorism in Latin America is not as widely spoken of, but it sure to have an impact on the way locals view visitors or even one another. As an African American female, I am sure to know I stand out compared to my lighter skinned peers and counterparts on this trip. In public areas I am sure to stand out compared to everyone else, often being referred to as “morenita” or “negrita“. After speaking with locals and host families on why or where this came from, it proved to be a circle I felt I was running in to find answers. In the upcoming weeks, I plan to dig a little deeper on the roots of why, how, who this all came from? These names aren’t called with ill or derogatory intent, which is what I initially thought, or at least not to my knowledge. Is this something to get used to? Is it something to let roll off my shoulder? Again, it hasn’t seemed to come off as something I should take immediate offense to. However, colorism in the United States is a lot deeper taken in a different context than locals may know here. Life, as we know it in the states, would call for a public social stance, potentially boycotting businesses, having been called these names in public places of service and hospitality. A country of such rich cultural history deriving from both European and African descendants, the physical roots of Costa Rican (social) history is more than complex than one would imagine. But stay tuned as I sink my teeth into the whereabouts of these nicknames. Below I found an interesting take on these names from a site we millennials look to when unsure of slang terms: urban dictionary.

Above are images from popular slang dictionary site: UrbanDictionary.com

Confirming the words above, locals and host families in my area have assured our travel group that adding “-ita/-ito” suffix to the ending of any word adds to its endearment or origin of deriving from a place of warmth and innocence. Initially, I thought this was a way of easing the air, but slowly I am seeing the commonality in its presence in many words. Throughout the week I will be sure to keep an open eye, ear, and heart as I continue to explore the Costa Rican culture!

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