The Beatdown

Women In Puerto Rico Are Going Natural After Hurricane Maria Left Them Without Power For Their Hair Styling Tools

For chicas who straighten their rizos, no electricity means no access to that hot comb. So in Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane Maria era, where power, if it ever returned, is unsteady, women with curly hair have been going with natural hair

Laura Om is a salon owner from Puerto Rico who says that straightened hair has long been a cultural norm on the island.

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In a recent interview with National Public Radio, the salon owner behind OM Studio Beauty City spoke about the effects the hurricane has had on women’s hair as well as her business.

In the weeks after the hurricane, Om shared that a lack of access to electricity prevented women from harnessing the blow driers they often used to straighten their curls. “A lot of people decided, I’m not gonna deal with that anymore,” Om told NPR.

While some salon business owners have struggled because of a lack of electricity, Om, who specializes in styling curly hair, has seen hers flourish. Mostly because, without electricity to charge up their straightening tools, many women are opting to go with natural hair.

Om says that the first time most of her naturally curly haired clients come to see her, they have no idea of what their natural hair looks like.

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It’s a phenomenon most women of color who’ve used chemical straighteners and blowdryers on their hair can likely relate to. Mostly, as Om points out, because Latinas are often conditioned to believe that “if you don’t have straight hair, you’re not well put together.” So many of us spend our whole lives straightening them.

Of course, the impression that pelo rizado is “desordenado” or “despeinado” is one of the biggest falsehoods.

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Just look at this elegant head full of curls styled by Om herself!

Om’s words and efforts have recently had Latina Twitter pretty hyped.

https://twitter.com/gabresto/status/1003733820925992963

Hundreds of Latinas on Twitter are talking about Om’s interview and are expressing their excitement over the prospect of embracing their natural hair curls and shedding the labor that comes with straightening them.

Some of her clients are even taking the opportunity to give Om their official stamp of approval.

https://twitter.com/gabresto/status/1003731239373885440

On Yelp, the stylist’s studio has a 4 out of 5 star review rating (just so ya know).

And many women are just completely all about the decision to embrace natural hair.

“I’m very happy that I can help young girls love themselves the way they are and it’s not always easy,” Om told NPR in her interview. “A lot of times it’s harder to wear your natural hair, but we help them get there. And we are mixed so we have to embrace that. We have to be happy with that.”


Read: San Juan Mayor Carmen YulĂ­n Cruz Says It’s Time To End Puerto Rico’s Colonial Relationship With The U.S.

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The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair

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The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education Fired An Educator For Speaking Positively About Black Hair

On Tuesday, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education released a campaign video directed at youth that shattered harmful attitudes surrounding “pelo bueno, pelo malo” — the idea that thin, straight hair is beautiful and afro-textured coils aren’t.

“In the Ministry of Education, no little girl, little boy or grown adult should be discriminated because of their physical appearance. We are committed to guaranteeing the equality in identity,” Marianela Pinales, then director of Gender Equality and Development at the Ministry of Education on the island, said in the video, as young Black and brown boys and girls send similar messages about loving their hair as it is.

The 52-second PSA is long-overdue in the Dominican Republic, one of many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that has held tightly to the white supremacist belief that skin and hair texture that aligns closer to European standards of beauty are both more attractive and deserving of better treatment than those with hues and locks that are darker and thicker.

For that, many on the island and diaspora celebrated the video, including Edith Febles, a respected journalist and natural hair advocate, who aired it on her show, La cosa como es. However, just after the video debut, Febles said Pinales was discharged.

While the Ministry of Education said that Pinales was fired because she missed several recent events — a claim the educator denies — and not because of the video, which some have considered controversial, many find the timing around her termination questionable.

“The timing is very *very* suspicious to say the least,” Amanda Alcántara, the digital media editor at Futuro Media Group, wrote in an article for Latino Rebels.  â€śMuch like the roots of anti-blackness in the country itself, the people in power seem to stop at no cost to maintain white supremacy. This confirms that even as consciousness grows, the problem is systemic.”

On social media, many others have shared similar sentiments.

The campaign, however, is reaching audiences in and outside of the Dominican Republic, where it has the power to challenge beauty ideals and young people’s relationships with their hair.

Read: 6 Afro-Latinas Open Up About What Headwraps Mean To Them

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San Juan Mayor Carmen YulĂ­n Cruz Running For Governor Of Puerto Rico In 2020

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San Juan Mayor Carmen YulĂ­n Cruz Running For Governor Of Puerto Rico In 2020

Last week, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital city, announced that she is running for governor in the 2020 elections.

Cruz, who gained national attention after criticizing President Donald Trump’s slow and shoddy response to Hurricane Maria, announced her run at the Caguas Botanical Garden on Friday.

“I’ve been thinking for a long time, what’s the best way I can serve Puerto Rico … I’m going to do so by becoming the next governor,” she said.

Cruz, who was sporting a t-shirt that read “¡Sin Miedo!” — which is Spanish for “without fear” — began her address by discussing her great-grandfather, who worked as an agricultural laborer, and how the legacy of slavery still impacts Puerto Rico today.

“We have to break away from the chains that tie us down in order to have a promising future and break our cycle of poverty,” Cruz, speaking on Emancipation Day, a Puerto Rican holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery on the island on March 22, 1873, said.

In Puerto Rico, the political party system is linked to the island’s political status. Those who support statehood, like sitting Gov. Ricardo RossellĂł, are part of the New Progressive Party, more commonly known by the Spanish acronym PNP. People who want Puerto Rico to remain a US territory side with the Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, the party that Cruz is running in. Finally, those who want the island’s independence from the US often support the Puerto Rican Independence Party, or PIP.

After the Category 4 hurricane ravaged the island on September 20, 2017, Cruz, not Gov. RossellĂł, became the face of the island, wading through flood water to help those devastated by the storm and publicly feuding with the president. When announcing her candidacy, she reminded the crowd that Gov. Rosselló’s administration “was unable to count deaths after Hurricane Maria” and “stood by Trump when he threw paper towels at people [in Puerto Rico].”

Cruz also took the opportunity to voice her position on other pressing matters on the island, like repealing the Jones Act, which prevents foreign ships from embarking on the island and thus raises the cost of imported goods, eliminating the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board and calling for an audit of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion public debt.

“The reality is that we still live in an island that fights for food, liberty and land,” she said, referring to the PPD’s Spanish slogan “Pan, libertad y tierra.” “We’re building a new movement within the Popular Democratic Party.”

Last month, Cruz also announced that she would co-chair Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the 2020 presidential race, saying the candidate could create “a new path toward the resolution of many of the issues facing Puerto Rico,” including establishing a “new relationship” with the United States.

Read: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Believes Bernie Sanders Could Create A “New Relationship” Between Puerto Rico And The US

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