I was walking through the hood in El Salvador when I was 28, wearing a basic sleeveless top, black jeans, and wedges. My
hair was long at the time, and I looked just about as regular as I am ever going to look.
As I passed a group of three young Salvadoreñas, I did not smile. I didn't intentionally NOT smile, I just moved as I move through the world. Yet right as I had passed them I heard one of the three middle-school age girls say: "Uy, que fresa." And they all laughed. I did not turn around, I just felt my jaw drop. I also smirked knowing that my cousins would totally call me that, on any given day. But mostly I was in shock, because I had done nothing but simply exist.
You ask anyone what a fresa is, and everyone in our cultura will tell you it's a girl who thinks too highly of herself, who thinks she is too pretty, or thinks herself too above her status.
I ask: What is wrong with thinking that you are too much of anything? Maybe if we valued our bodies, minds, and lives more, we would not allow any regular-schmegular schmo to come into our lives and treat us like we are inferior to them. Maybe if we valued our ancestral lines we wouldn't have to unlearn self-hatred.
I am too much. I am too brown, too loud, too tatted, and I dress too sexy for a lot of people's ideas of good girlhood! Essentially: I am fresa. I know that underlying all these projections of not “good enough” are issues around not being humble enough, quiet enough, or cute enough.
I have accolades that I should not have because of the color of my skin, my class, and my immigrant status. I am proud of them BECAUSE I am not suppose to have them. It is like I found a pot a gold and I cannot just keep that information to myself. I want people to know I found this pot of gold. I want to share it but mostly I want you to know that I FOUND IT! It is a miracle. Where I come from, we share miracles. I do this intentionally, because I want brown girls to have someone to look up to. I want them to see my brown female body when they think of their favorite writer, or an activist they admire. I want them to see themselves reflected in things they like or enjoy. People do not like a woman who is impressive because of what she has accomplished; women who think they are la ultima coca cola del mundo. They do not like that I might have something to say, and that somehow even without a man by my side, people might care about my opinions.
I am not quiet. People from my class have been told to simmer down, to act appropriately, and to class up. I have been told that my class indicators, like my hypervisibility, were something I should be ashamed of. That I should reign it in, and act like a lady. As if my womanhood is at stake, as if I know nothing about the world and how to move through it. My loudness is drenched in femininity and class performance and I refuse to whittle it down for the male ego or societal ego, that demands I make myself less than so as to not be threatening.
I am not cute. I will not blush or say cute things to complete strangers in the street. I will talk class, religion, politics, and race at the dinner table because my identity is wrapped up in those. I will rep my country and where I currently live because I am proud of where I come from, and I am a big city girl and wont pretend to love your rural lifestyle. I find small towns scary for POC’s in general; so I do not and will not pretend to like anything because I am supposed to like them. I have very intentional opinions around a lot of things and I will not silence myself to impress you. I have been impressive for some time now. I do not dim my shine for some second hand respect I am supposed to desire from anyone.
I never say the right thing because I am ME. I think we forget that people can think differently and come from different backgrounds than the one you and your cute little family come from, please remember that policing anyone is actually very damaging and try to hold complexity in your hand as you meet someone like me. We are not mean people; we are just trying to exist without having to shed any bit of our existence for you or your son. I will scare you, because I will not play these roles that we are all supposed to play.
To be fresa means that you are a Latina who loves her work, speaks her mind, owns her body, and has opinions on social issues. To be fresa is to be disliked, but also means to move through the world with a fury of a tornado. A fresa might stumble when you say you do not like her, but then she reminds herself that she is not up for consumption, and will just shake your projected insecurities off.
I only wish more girls work up to embracing being super cherry, because we deserve it. We should and can believe that we deserve the best and that we are flawless.