I am near Obese! (26.4% Body Fat)

 
Yesterday was the day I decided to get my ass kicked. I will admit that I didn’t join a gym to get a personal trainer. But when a free session was offered to me, something inside me told me that I should at least try it.

What I’ve come to find out is that running can only get me so far. Sure, I can build stamina all day but if I cant lift a simple box around the office than what was the point? I started doing light arm and chest work outs with weights in addition to my ab workouts. the problem is never knowing when you are doing something wrong. Twice last week I ended up tweaking something and I knew that if I am not careful, I could be in some real pain.

So the whole personal trainer idea was not sounding so bad. I made sure to run hard last week (3 days = 7.5 miles) and get four days rest leading to this fateful day. I was not going to disillusion myself, I knew what I was in for and I expected the worse. The fact that she was a short woman who seemed nice made it worse. I wasn’t falling for a sweet face of a person that could quite possibly know how to do a helicopter kick (i.e. Street Fighter).

Without going into the gratuitous and sweaty details of the slaughter that took place to my physical being, the work out was good. I had two goals in mind, the first was not to scream like a baby when I couldn’t do it anymore and the second was not to beg her to stop. I accomplished both, but I was pushed to my physical limit. I felt the muscle soreness right away. Thank God she was not berating. I had images of Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser) yelling at me to get my fat ass in gear. But I survived it and only had one thing to do after getting stretched, and that was to discuss future appointments.

This is the part I hate the most. The debate on whether I should pay to have my own personal trainer. There is no question that this woman would help me get to a certain weight and body type. But the price was too much for me. It was something like $380-400 and that was payment #1.  She questioned my motivation and my immediate response was that money is my motivating factor for not continuing considering that she wanted me to make a payment right away. That wasn’t happening

She measured my body fat and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. This is an area about my health that I know the least about. A man my age should have an ideal body fat percentage of about 13% – 20%. The average percentage is 20.2% to about 25.6%. Anything above these can be considered obese. Of course mine is 26.4%. She tells me how bad this is for me and that she can teach me the proper form in exercise, which is true. I learned new ways to work out that I am still feeling. The body fat percentage is a big thing to me. I joke about how fat I am (even though I really don’t think I am) because I know my family history.

However, I think my motivation is in the right place. I pay for a membership to a gym where I go 3 times a week. Paying an additional amount of dollars when I still have bills to pay and an apartment to hunt for is not the best way to go. Even when I mentioned that I was on a budget, I got this look like I will never train with her again. Which I did say that I still could, just not right now (it’s not you, it’s me). Very simply, the budget that I share with the girlfriend will be compromised by a decision to pay for something thing without consultation. While that may have come across as me being whipped, I would challenge any man who shares expenses with their partner to make a big payment without checking and see what occurs.

Of course I won this argument, but I lost the war. I am obese by all indicators and yet I don’t feel that way. I know we live in a country that subscribes to an anorexic style of beauty but I also have to consider science. My mother’s heart attack was very much about her diabetes. My Father’s cancer may not have been avoidable but I know that taking of myself now can help me in the future. Does this mean I need a personal trainer? I am not sure. Maybe I do. But, I do have additional motivation and that is to be as healthy as I can.

P.S. My BMI is 27.7. You can calculate yours here.

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Man Survival Guide: Arroz con Pollo Recipe

Believe it or not, it really isn’t that hard to cook you just have to be motivated to do so. Most men have this stigma that they cannot cook and rightfully so. In the traditional Latino family I grew up in, the men are generally catered to by the women. Of course, I grew up with mostly women in my life so I have been privy to a lot of good food. But I never learned to cook from any one of them.

It was my dad who got me interested in cooking. It was no secret in my family that my dad cooked better than my mother. I would even venture a guess that outside mi abuelas, he was one of the best cooks on both sides of the family. I remember telling my friends in grammar school that my dad was a chef in the Navy, which was a lie but at the time I thought it was the truth. The truth is, he learned from his mother and has been been cooking ever since.

When I started to live with him at sixteen, he would instill in me one basic principle: you do not need a woman to survive. He was hell bent on teaching me how to clean, do laundry, and cook. I think he was secretly grooming me for college because it was a hilarious sight to be in a residence hall laundry room and watch guys mess up their clothes one load at a time. Ironically enough, I didn’t really care to learn about cooking but I ended up grasping all the things he showed me anyway.

My father also believed that if I can cook for a woman that my single days would be heaven. I cannot confirm or deny this, but I will say that women can be generally impressed by a man that can throw down in the kitchen. So in college, I decided to take a cooking class because there was some basic stuff that I just could not seem to get. This is where I was able to really understand the science of cooking. Granted, it was only one class but it made me respect it so that I wouldn’t randomly burn any thing down.

Since then I have mainly cooked mainly for survival purposes. Every now and then I would cook for someone but it was never for the art of it. When I got married, I felt I didn’t need to cook because she did it well enough and often enough that I just disregarded it. I know it got to the point where she questioned if I could even cook and I would just laugh and make some pasta. However, it was after the divorce that I truly began to see the benefits of having some culinary skills.

Every so often I have talked about my survivor mentality and my desire to make more money. Much of this is due to the fact that finances are not what they were and I have had to come up with ways to save money. One of those ways to stop getting take out. I have also talked about how fast food just doesn’t do it anymore but how I can truly stretch my dollar and eat somewhat well on a daily basis. I have come to find out is that if you shop smart and on somewhat consistently, the savings can be felt almost instantly. I wont get into the frequent trips to the dollar store because that would be a whole separate blog, but needless to say you can get just about anything if you go to the right place. The smart consumer should just rely on the basics.

The best thing for me is just to make enough food to last for 3-4 days. I have gotten really good at it and    it is some thing that I can eat it over and over without having to worry about dinner or spending money.  This week’s treat for me is Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice). The reason this works is because this is a basic meal that you can have come out of one pot. For a man that relies on himself that is ideal.

Arroz con Pollo y Maduros

This is my basic recipe:

Ingredients:

A small pack of Chicken Breast (3 pieces is ideal)
2-3 cups White Rice (Medium or Long Grain)
A small can of Corn
Vegetable Oil
Sofrito (A Spanish cooking base that contains peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, etc)
1 tsp of Salt
2 packs of Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote (Coriander & Annatto)
Goya Adobo

I start with cutting the chicken in to small bite size chunks and trimming out the fat.  I usually season the chicken after I cut it with Adobo. Lightly coat a medium skillet with vegatable oil. Add 3 tbsp spoons of Sofrito and let it simmer for a few minutes until the pan is hot. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until the chicken chunks are a light brown. Lower heat.

Standard Caldero

I usually cook my rice in a medium caldero, so coat the bottom of that pan with Vegetable oil. I don’t measure this but if I had to I would say 1/4 cup. Turn the fire on medium then add the can of corn. It is very important to save the water from the can so make sure you drain that into a separate cup. Add 3 tbsp of Sofrito, 1 tsp of salt, and the 2 packs of Sazon Goya. Give that a stir and let the corn cook for 2-3 minutes. Mix 2-3 cups of white rice (wash it first). Now I know that may sound weird to put dry rice but the purpose is to mix everything first before you add the water so that your spices do not end up on the bottom. Once you hear it sizzle, then add 3-4 cups of water and turn the heat up to high.

Note: People usually make rice different than me and that is fine, but in these case you should at least know HOW to make rice.

This is the point where you add the chicken. Be careful not to dump it all in at once thus splashing everywhere. Add the sauce created as well. Mix in the water from the corn. You want to mix this well because you want the chicken to not only cook with the rice but you want the chicken on all levels of the rice not just the top. Cover the pot. Once the water is at full boil (and you will hear it because steam will cause the water seep from under the lid and hit the fire) turn the heat to low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes.

If you did not add enough water you will be able to tell. I check it about 20 minutes in. If the rice is hard…just add small amounts of water. If you added too much…you better take a large spoon and start dumping…lol

The final result will be great! I hope you enjoy. I know I did. Let know what you think! (The check out my Huffington Post blog from this week)

P.S. I bought the Frozen Goya Maduros. Microwave 3 minutes.

LHM – Musica Latina

I will never have the type of music collection that my father has but I try my best with the limited knowledge that I have. When I originally thought about writing yesterday’s blog, I was more thinking about the picture above. I love listening to Musica Latina, which is clearly not limited to Salsa.

I often find myself searching for music that I grew up with while trying to keep in touch with music that is current. The jury is out on which is more difficult for me. I am often reminded that I live in Syracuse in which diverse music gets lost somewhere.

However, as the above picture shows, I am have a pretty decent playlist. The unfortunate thing is that I lost a lot of data and a few songs when my PC laptop died earlier this year. That has not stopped people from asking me to create CDs for them. I have put together some pretty decent playlists together of Latin Jazz, Afro Cuban Jazz, Salsa, and sometimes Merengue. I do have some Reggaeton but that is something that I cannot get used to.

I am a fan of the old school Salsa. I like the big band sound which is why I have a serious appreciation for Jazz and Classical Music. People laugh at me because I love musical scores from movies like Inception and Star Trek (as only two examples) but it has so much to do with the composition and way all instruments come together to sound so amazing.

Of course, I would be remiss to not mention how much I love the drums and the Afro-Caribbean sounds of Musica Latina as a whole. There are several songs above that I could point out as something so groove inspiring that dancing in my seat while listening to it at work is an absolute must.

Even though I do love live music. I have no problem settling for my ever growing music collection. I make it a habit that when I visit my dad in Florida to jack some of his CDs and copy them on my iTunes. More importantly, he as this device that allows him to create a cd from his vinyl collection. I may have to convince him to let me copy a few (like 20 or so) CDs to add to my collection.

LHM – Fiesta Latina

I have to admit that I certainly love salsa music and I am completely psyched that Fiesta Latina is happening this week. This is an event with music and food. I think about my early years at Syracuse University when I noticed that Latino/Hispanic Heritage month was barely a blip on the calendar. I wanted do something that would remind Latino students of home.

When I lived in the Bronx as a kid, my father would often take me to these fundraising dances every year in Co-op City. The funds would go to The New York Emperor’s Stickball League. To say that my dad took me to these events is inaccurate. I worked them. This was probably my first taste of what working events was like. I either served drinks from the cash bar or I worked the coat check. In either case, I was privy to some of the best salsa I have ever seen. More importantly, I realized how much better live salsa music sounded than when my dad played it on his record player.

What never gets old is the bass. The constant beat that you feel on your feet when you are on the dance floor. The rythm that you can practically feel in the airwaves. When I did coat check, I could feel the beat from coat room. I remembered all this when I first came up with the idea of Fiesta Latina. I wanted students to come to an event that they can dress up and dance the night way much like their parents did at one point or another. My goal was to have a live salsa band and, at the time, it really didn’t matter who played.

I also made it a point to make sure the dance floor is big enough to accommodate the hordes of people that will be dancing to our featured guest, Frankie Negron. I feel as if I have promoted this event to no end and I will continue to do so until it is over. The food will be on point, which is something that is always understated.

Now I am less than a week away from seeing the best Fiesta Latina yet. Over the past eight years, this event went from a reception in a conference room to a sold out event with music and dance performances in one of the largest venues at Syracuse University. Sure, I had help. I wont say that it is all me. The Office of Multicultural Affairs has taken this idea from the inception and ran with it. I am just glad to be here to see where it is going.

Independently Single

When I started on the venture of living alone, I was not sure exactly what to expect. It was with a heavy heart and a almost naive sense that I thought that being single again and living alone would be hard. But, I realize as I head to my ninth year living in Syracuse that it is all mental.

The thing is I had lived alone before and it wasn’t all that hard. But, I was like 25 and I really didn’t know any better. I was living in a basement apartment in the soundview section of The Bronx and thought that it was the greatest point in my life. I had a job and I lived alone. I could come and go as I please and had no one to answer to. The funny thing is I barely remember what I did for food everyday before I started dating.  I think I had take out many many nights. Quite simply, I didn’t care. I had like two bills: rent (which was all inclusive) and cable. That was it!

Fast forward a decade and things are so much different. Juggling finances can make anyone crazy with the mortgage, car note, cable/internet, insurance, credit cards and anyone else that I happen to owe money to. I had so much fear that I would not be able to deal with just life in general. I remember sitting in my office, alone, on the verge of tears thinking “how am I going to get out of this?” I thought life cannot be all this hard. Of course it wasn’t. When people say that we all need to take things one day at a time, that is so very true. That is why I feel like this year is going by slower than years past. I have had more time to think and contemplate life.

The funny thing is that being a single man is actually not all that hard. Once I figured myself out and all the things I like and do not like about myself, everything fell into place. It allowed me to set the goals that have gotten me to this point. What I am grateful for is all the things my dad taught me when I was in high school. He was also a single man living in a house and trying to get by. While it may not have seemed that I was not paying attention to him and all the things he did or cooked, I was taking everything in while have that nonchalant teenage attitude.

My dad was the one that taught me how to live life independently. He told me that I should never assume that I would be with any one woman for the rest of my life. How could I argue with that at the time? He was divorcing my mother who was his second wife. So there were lessons on how to clean clothes and cook for myself. He is a Navy man so everything had it’s place and unfortunately I never picked up his neatness.

It was my stepmother (whom my dad was dating by the time I graduated high school) that supplied me with the “women’s touch”on things. Again, it may have seemed that I may not have been paying attention but I was.   Nuances like ironing a certain way and shopping for clothes that made sense was something I got from her. Sure this was a long time ago, but when I was in my twenties, I thought I knew everything I could know about life and myself.

While I discovered, after the break up of my first love, that my dad had been right about women and life in general, it isn’t until now that I am able to really fully understand everything. I am fully self sufficient. I do not need a woman to do anything for me. I always felt bad for guys in college who couldn’t do their own laundry. I always wondered how crippling it must be if they were to lose whatever appeal they had that allowed girls to wash their clothes for them.

I can cook anything I set my mind to…which my dad told me that once I start cooking for women that I will never truly be alone (he is so right about that). I laugh because he always had an issue with the way I clean and I will tell you that I hated to do it. Now, I have two roommates and it is all I do. The funny thing is, I do not mind this. I want things in my house cleaned the way I want it to be cleaned. I was just cleaning the stove today before I made some chuletas (pork chops…don’t judge) and I smiled thinking that at one time you could not pay me enough to do this.

Now, as I set my sights to the complete my final goal of getting out of Syracuse, I find that being a single man is not hard at all. I just need to enjoy my independence.

Dating Game

The words the I remember the most from this weekend is “I don’t want you to get hurt”. These are words uttered to me by my father who called me this weekend because he wanted me to know that he was thinking about me and my upcoming free agency. It would make sense if you think about it. He was there to pick me up during my very first heart break.

I am very interested in seeing what the fuss is about. I want to sit here and say that I have not dated since the 90’s, but the real deal is that I have never been good at dating and I pretty much winged it. I met my ex wife through Yahoo personals because I was tired of going to bars and meeting superficial women who would not give me a second glance because I wasn’t a thug or rich looking. Granted, I was probably going to the wrong places and I get that, but in when you are single and in the 20’s where else do you really go?

Time is on my side and I am wiser. I am more confident in myself and quite frankly anyone woman would have a great time with me on a date. While I do not have much money because it seems that all I do is pay bills, I know how to have fun. I love to drive so the chances of me getting drunk are low.

What I have figured about myself is that I am a very patient person. I have seen loads of bullshit over the course of my life from women I know and have witnessed bullshit that other guys have gone through as well. So, I know there are pitfalls. I love women. I have grown up my entire life with them and I have come to realize that women lie better then men. They remember their lies and keep them together and quite frankly they tell better lies then men do.

I will continue to say that men are dumb. We do the dumbest things and tell the dumbest lies. Women are more sophisticated and will tell lies so that they do not lose ground, such as hiding the fact they care or flat out pretending that they do not care when in reality they do. However, women will also lie to make a man feel better like faking an orgasm. Either way, these are things that I have kept in mind.

My father has been such a great source in this process. I am not trying to figure out women all that much because that task is simply impossible. His simple advice is just to observe and listen. Listen to what a woman says because chances are whatever she is saying is not only important to her but could be important to me as well. Women love it when men listen to them because it shows they are not a sexual object. Observe what a woman does because body language is important. A woman’s actions speak louder than her words. She may lie but her body does not.

I have made up tons of excuses of why I have not gone out there and I know the time is coming for me to really start thinking about myself. I used the Hitch reference above because I saw this movie about 2 weeks ago after not seeing it for along time and I realized that anything is possible in the dating game if I simply remain who I am.

A Story about Dad

My Dad and Step Mom at their wedding reception last year

Like most teenagers, I was rebellious.  I didn’t want to hear what my parents had to say because I was absolutely sure that they both had no idea what it was that I was going through. Sure, they had been in their teens before but that was a different time. The world was different and it was me who was stuck going through a divorce with parents who seemed to almost hate each other.

Even in college, I felt relatively the same way. By then, I was living with my dad and we would clash over just about anything. My need for freedom and his need to protect me would produce angry words and tears. There was a point in which we may have both felt that we were never going to see eye to eye on anything! I found myself not asking for advice because I thought that I need to get through my life by myself. After all, I had friends and they knew me just as well.

Then it happened. The first time my heart was broken and I did not know how to deal with it. I struggled with the pain and the torment for days that lasted into weeks. None of my friends could really help but listen to me. They  would try their best to help me find my way. I knew deep in my heart that there was one person in this world that may understand the pain I was going through.

So, fighting the tears in my eyes, I called my dad. Right away he knew…this man knew how much my heart was hurting. I told him everything. I felt for the first time in my life…he listened. Not to say that he didn’t listen before but this time it was so very different. When he spoke, it was the softest tone that I had ever heard him speak. He said… “Son, I know what you are going through. I have been there. I have had my heart broken too at your age”. Tears rolled down my face. I had to put the phone down just enough to so he could not hear me sobbing.

That was the day I connected to my dad. That was when I realized that he had always been right about everything in my life. Everything about women, everything about sex, and everything about LIFE. We would talk on the phone for hours that day sharing stories and how everything I was feeling…he felt. He convinced me that I will be ok and I was.

I am 36 years old and my father is still right about everything and I am ok with that. We rarely fight and we just learned to talk. He does know me better than anyone else. My dad has always tried to make sure that I do not make the same mistake he has, but sometimes that cannot be helped. In either case, he is always there to pick me up when I need it.

I have learned to a mentor to my students because of him. Happy Father’s Day Papi. I love you.

Updates and Such

I know that I have been slacking on this blog. I have been drawn to poetry and my goal to finish what I start. However, during this time, life has been happening. I have not been able to really focus on one subject or another to formulate a good blog. So I think it would be best to summarize the things that have been happening in my life.

April is always a tough month at work. I consider it to be culmination of all the efforts from the semester happening at once. My life outside of work has been ok. I am on survival mode right now. I have been searching for a roommate for sometime now and the search has been disappointing to say the least. I equate that search to my faith in people. I realized that over the years I have trusted people and allow them in my life so that I can have people to talk to. As I have slowly come to shed those people, I have to realize that I am closer to solitude. The good new is that it looks like I have one guy moving in this week. I am crossing my fingers because I have already had one person flake on me in the last day.

Which brings me to the job search. What do I say without saying too much? This one position that I really wanted never panned out. I felt I had done everything I could to put myself in a good position to get this job. In the end, it was not enough. I took it hard because I am a determined individual who is looking to complete my goals. Of course just when I thought all my options were spent. I found another potential opportunity. I will take the lessons from my first failure and apply it to this. I am one to believe that we have to fail first in order to succeed.

I also have to smile because when I talked about my opinion on women, I had some people talk to me about whether I was right or wrong about this subject. What really makes what I wrote hit home for me is seeing first hand how manipulative some women can be. Witnessing the pieces of a puzzle come together. I shake my head at her. This is the type of women my father has always warned me about. I can now consider her the benchmark of ulterior motives. I can thank her for trusting people that much less, but I want to thank her for providing me fuel for poetry. Poem 21 is dedicated to you.

Speaking of poetry, my dad told me that he read the poem I wrote to honor him. I have no idea why I am so caught off guard about this. I know he reads my blog as a matter of fact he has a correction that he demanded I make! One I figure out where those corrections are to be made I will write a retraction (You know how parents are). Which brings me to my question. Are my poems really that good? I only ask this of myself because there are poems that I don’t think that are that good. There are some I feel I could have done better. I work hard on all of them and they are always as long as they have to be. I do have my favorites. I never would have thought I would write a poem in Spanish.

I am about a month away from my trip to the Dominican Republic. This will be a much needed break for me. I have had a lot of ups and downs so far this year in every aspect of my life. I will give me a chance to look at this beautiful island while celebrating the start of my cousin’s marriage. This will be my time to reflect on what I need to do in the second half of this year to get back to NYC.

Poem 11: That Man

Only a boy
can look up to
a man
and feel safety
in his presence
only a man
can admit
to a boy
that he is not perfect
and that all men
are not created equal
but encourage the sequel
to do better
than the original
it take that boy
to grow
and see that
this man had
always been right
about love
about life
and everything in between
do as I say
and not as I do
can only be described
as a father
being real to a son
so now I live
to make that boy
be everything
that man wanted
to be
and when I look
into the mirror
I see me

I see him
and I know
I will make it
because he did
and maybe when
I grow up
I can be 

that man

Latinegr@s Project: Being Afro Latino

The various concepts of Latino can be debated as a racialized identity, a political identity, or a cultural identity. In thinking about Latinos as a body of people, there has to be a thought revolving countries of origin. Just the mention of the words Latino or Hispanic brings out a broad spectrum of cultures and lands that are with the Latin American Diaspora. . The term Hispanic is problematic for many reasons and although it is widely used throughout the Southwest, Latino is a word that can have an assigned gender like most words in the Spanish vocabulary.

Latino is also a racialized identity that presents a series of social issues that I will focus on. Many Latinos are fighting for the right to not be categorized as “non white” for fear that being considered less than that would forfeit their perceived privileged. Theses would be the groups of people that would be identified as “White Hispanics”. This is a struggle that many White Hispanics fight for to maintain their social status. These are also the Latinos that popular culture identifies with.

Latino is also a political identity that many sub origins identify with. Chicanos may be used more by those Mexican Americans who refuse to be racialized by the vast majority. They deal with many issues of assimilation and immigration. Militant Puerto Ricans choose to use their origin as a political identity when dealing with issues of colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States. Political organizations like the Young Lords popped up in New York City in the late 1960’s during same time as the Black Power movement.

Afro-Latinos can be identified as dark skinned Latinos. Often times they will be referred to as Black Latinos. In the various Latino cultures throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, they represent the bottom of the social ladder. They are normally the poor and uneducated. I call myself Latinegro because it is something I feel best represents what I am in relation to other Latinos.

The social status of Afro-Latinos really depends on the country. In the United States, they are simply seen as part of the black minority, even though their ethnicity is Hispanic. However, when focusing on countries such as Mexico and Cuba the social standings are a little different. Mexico treats their Afro-Latinos as if they do not exist. They are not considered to be citizens. Cuba, on the other hand is 90% black. When Castro took power, many of Cuba’s white elite fled to the United States.

When I was a kid, my identity was clear; I was Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. I was raised as such by my parents. We would listen to Spanish music and eat Latino food. Everything we did revolved around something that had to do with Latino culture. Yet, the in the public realm, I was felt there was something a little different about me. My father looks like a typical light skinned Latino. He enters the Navy and a young age and is proud to be American. My mother is a Afro-Latina and I get my dark complexion from her. She, like my father, was born and raised in the Bronx. Much of what I think being Latino is revolves around my parents. I never had much of an issue when I went out in public with my mother. However, I always felt that I got looks when I was out with my father. In school functions, I felt I had to say to people that, “yes, this is indeed my father”; after all, there was no other kind in the entire school who had parents that were two different shades of color.

The idea of considering myself black never entered my mind. It was quite obvious to me that I was Latino. My mother’s side of the family, including my brother, is just as dark as I am. There are a just few cousins here and there that are light skinned. However, on my father’s side of my family, I was the darkest. Everyone is fair skinned. In most Latino families this could be a very big issue. However, I can honestly say that I was not treated differently from my family because of the color of my skin. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any prejudices. I can recall on several occasions, being told that I should not marry a black girl. It was never explained why. The unwillingness to accept African roots into Latino Culture is nothing new to Latinos. This type of false sense of “whiteness” has been indoctrinated in too many Latinos since birth.

As, I grew older my parents separated and later divorced. My father and I became very close. He would tell me many stories about how his mother (who represents the Ecuadorian side of the equation) asked him not to date my mother because she was too dark. I almost get the feeling he may have done it out of spite. There was a fear from my grandmother to not darken the family. After, lighter skinned Latinos have made their place in society. When she babysat me, she would obsessively watch Novelas (Spanish soap operas) on Univision. Since I never really knew Spanish, I would watch them with her and try counting how many Latinos looks like me. I never saw one. My father once mentioned to me that he was always welcomed in my mother’s house because my maternal grandmother was proud that her daughter took a step up in marrying him. I always found it ironic that I am just as dark as my grandmother.

I never paid attention to Latino relations in the community. When living in such a melting pot of New York City, I didn’t think about those types of relations. I was taught to be more aware of people who may not look like me, such as Italians or immigrants. It wasn’t until college that I began to really see how Latinos are indoctrinated into the white binary. Trying to complete an undergrad degree at Syracuse University is not an easy thing for a person who doesn’t fit in. Due, to my skin color I found myself not having the ability to be comfortable in any one group. White people automatically assumed I was African American. The idea of me being Latino was incomprehensible.

In certain classes I found myself speaking for the wrong ethnic group. I also realized that I could not find any comfort in being with Latinos because I was just way too dark for them. There were clicks that I did not fit into; I was always felt to be the odd ball. African Americans, was the closest group to accept me, however, I never truly fit with them either. My culture is vastly different and I could not relate too many of the black experiences I was being told about at the time. My identity felt fluid. I could fit in when I needed to. Dating seemed impossible. My father would always ask me about why I was always alone or not hanging out with more Latinos. I would try to explain it to him, but deep down I knew he didn’t understand. I was called a late bloomer.

However, I did notice a change. When I started dating a light skinned Colombian in my junior year, I felt differently in the Latino student community. It was almost as if I was welcomed into the fold because I was now truly a Latino with a good looking Latina. I remember asking her about the prejudice of dark Latinos in her family, since I didn’t see any all the times I have met them. I was told by her that she didn’t think it existed in her family or her country for that matter since there was so many blacks in Colombia. Which I think was just her opinion.

As I have grown older I have become to understand the fluid nature of my identity. In college, I never fully understood that being fluid meant being able to identify with more than one type of culture. Within my current work at Syracuse University’s Division of Student Affairs, I am able to understand and mentor both African American and Latino males while having mutual respect from both. I have also had time to think about my place in the Latino community due to my volunteer work. I have yet to find a place, in large part because I still feel that the Latino identity with the city of Syracuse is in question.

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