I Do Not Have 'Pelo Malo'

"Ignore the prejudice and hatred."

“Pelo malo” is a defamatory term used to define curly hair in Spanish-speaking countries. Translated to English, it means “bad hair.” As a little girl born and raised in Puerto Rico, I was often called “pelo malo” because of my curly hair. My self-esteem as child was really bad, and it created a bad perception of myself. It made me ashamed of having this type hair, and that hatred followed me through my teen years until now.

Latina women are obsessed with straight hair.

As many Latinos can agree on, Latina women are obsessed with straight hair. So when I was 7 years old my mother took me to the beauty salon and had my hair relaxed. I hated the smell of the cream and horrible burns of the hair dryer. That agony will become, for the next 11 years, a routine that I will detest. Now as an 18-year-old young woman, I will remember with sadness the odyssey that I was put through as a child. In Puerto Rico having long straight hair is considered beautiful and having curly hair is consider “pelo malo.” Even though there were a lot of people who loved and embraced my hair as a child, the negative comments always got the best of me.  

A year ago I decided to quit relaxing my hair and start a process of transition, because I wanted to start loving and accepting the hair that I was given. Also my hair was terribly damaged and unhealthy. So I needed to stop with the hard chemicals and damaging with heat every week. It was a hard decision, because I was afraid of what people will think and didn’t know what to expect.

It's a long journey, but at the end of the day you will be satisfied and comfortable in your own skin.

At first I didn’t know my hair and, therefore, didn’t how to take care of it. With that decision made, I started studying arduously the science of curly hair. With the help of many amazing women who take their time to help girls like me (who knew nothing about taking care of curly hair) putting videos on YouTube and giving some needed tips on many blogs. My routine consists of washing my hair once a week and two times a month putting intense deep treatment masque. My new best friend is co-wash. I love it. It is an amazing product. For me, a busy college student, co-washing is an easy way to style my hair without damaging it or drying it.

As my natural hair grows, I have started a beautiful, loving and healthy relationship with it.  I still need to cut my relaxed ends and will do soon enough... when I am ready. I have to learn a thing or two about patience when it comes to my transition, because it’s a long journey, but at the end of the day you will be satisfied and comfortable in your own skin. Surprisingly many of my high school classmates and other people have been giving me positive compliments on my new hair style. Even though personally I feel confident and beautiful with my hair, it makes me happy when people see how comfortable I am this way.

Even though I am not black, I still have African roots, and I am ready to embrace them.

Seeing and hearing the stories of many strong, independent woman about their transition makes me feel empowered and strong. Amandla Stenberg ― a young African American actress ― helped me in many ways to feel comfortable of my natural hair. Even though I am not black, I still have African roots, and I am ready to embrace them. I think there are not enough Latina role models for young girls who have embrace their natural hair. Hopefully that will change and little girls won’t feel so different because of their hair. To many young girls, my advice to you is to love and accept that beautiful attribute that you were given and ignore the prejudice and hatred that ignorant standards and people say to you. Let your hair be free and healthy!



In Praise Of Curly Hair