Gabriela Sanchez is of Hispanic descent; her family can be traced back to Venezuela and Nicaragua. I asked her to discuss the differences and similarities in perception of beauty between the Hispanic and American cultures.
She initially pointed to the different processes in coming out as a woman in the two cultures. She says this is when parents allow female children to participate in the conventional beauty treatments we see today.
“In America, you have the sweet sixteen. We have the quinceañera. That’s when girls are allowed to do their eyebrows, get acrylics/fake nails, and things like that.”
The girls have photographs taken for their fifteenth birthdays to display their transformation into women of society. Gabriela called it “coming out as a beautiful butterfly.”
Gabriela mentioned a non-physical element that defines attractiveness in Hispanic culture: cooking.
“Everywhere, women are taught to have a lot of experience in the kitchen or cooking. I think Hispanics put a focus on that. They are taught to make elaborate dishes and a wide variety of dishes.”
Gabriela went on to discuss what separates physical attractiveness in the two cultures.
“In American society, I see in magazines the tall, thin, lean look.” She gave the example of actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
“In Hispanic culture, the curvier you are, it’s a big deal.” However, Gabriela does not hesitate to point out that this is not as wholesome and inclusive as it sounds.
“I would say that Hispanics idealize the curvy where basically everything’s tiny but the butt, the [breasts] and the hips.” She believes that this is one of the ways her culture’s perceptions of beauty reflect those held in America.
“Lots of Hispanic women have that body, but not the majority. It’s very hard to achieve.”