3 Couples Open Up About Interracial Dating in the Latino Community
Three couples open up about stereotypes, family, and finding love outsidesu cultura.
Jilliannie Hamburgo, 26, Dominican, casting director, and Jarrett Couser, 28, African-American, advertising account executive, dating four years
Jill: Jarrett was the first black guy I ever dated. It wasn't a big deal to me. We vibed on the fact that we both have really crazy work ethics. And we understood what was working against us. The daily struggle — sometimes when we would walk into the room, I would be the only Latina or I'd comment to Jarrett, "You're the only black guy here."
Jarrett:We are definitely both successful in our fields and able to pay our rent on time. But I'm very conscious about how I'm perceived.
Jill: I was a little bit wary of how my family would be toward him. Any guy I'd ever brought home was a Spanish-speaker. Jarrett isn't. It was like, "Oh, my gosh, how is he even going to talk to anybody?" And with Dominicans, there has been so much hatred of ourselves. Dominicans have, almost, a trauma of being identified as black. We all have those old-fashioned relatives who are not able to move past it. I just had to rip it off like a Band-Aid. "Hi, everyone. This guy I'm dating is black, and get used to it."
Jarrett: When I first met Jill's family, I made sure I was wearing a blazer and that I was buttoned-up. I wanted them to take me seriously. But the next couple of times, I made sure I was down. I wore sneakers and a snap-back. I'm both of those people.
Jill:I'm going to be honest. I would have been praised for dating a white man because my babies would have come out with green eyes and "good hair." I know my family isn't ignorant, but I didn't want them to think he was a thug. I wanted them to know that he is college-educated, has ambitions in life, and has his shit together.
Jarrett:Yeah, but at the same time, if you brought home a stereotypical Clark Kent, Superman-type, what you probably would have been getting is, "He's not cool." The urban synergy is innate between African-Americans and Latinos. That said, one of the major challenges for me in dating a Latina is the language barrier.
Jill: He's so open and willing to make mistakes. That helped my family understand. "He's sticking around and obviously trying to understand what we're saying, so let's give him a shot."
Jarrett: Both of us proved to our families and friends that we are nothing like the stereotypes.
Jill: I feel like I have to fight twice, for the Latinos who came to this country, and for the black people like him who have been here for generations. It was a small fear of mine that some ignorant racist would try to pull some stupid shit on us, like insulting us or getting violent.
Jarrett: I'm thinking of a time where we were in a social setting, and a white male decided to call me "my nigga." I knew this person, but he wasn't my friend. I don't talk to people in that way. Jill instantly understood. She called it out. "Yo, that's racist," and we decided to peace out. In the past, I wouldn't have let it slide. But this time, I decided to just remove myself from the situation. I've realized how much more of an activist Jill is than I am. It's not to say that I took any of the recent racial tragedies lightly, but she's been to a lot more rallies than I have.
Jill: People say, "If you guys are still together down the road, you need to start thinking about what your kids are going to look like." I just say, "What do you mean? I'll love them regardless if they're white, black, yellow, green — it doesn't matter." Our country has some catching up to do.
Jarrett:You have beautiful mixed babies out there that people are going gaga over. My plan is that this country continues to have multicultural babies until they're all a shade of brown. Now that I'm thinking of it, I'm gonna have me a North West baby.
Christine Carballo, 29, Peruvian-Argentinian, attorney, and Juan Lombert, 27, Dominican, graduate student in biology, dating five years
Christine: We'd talked about the fact that Juan is 100 percent Dominican, born there, and then came here when he was little. And I was born here and my mom's from Peru, and my dad's from Argentina. We speak differently with slang, or our accent. I grew up in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania. I was in a rural setting. I went to a Catholic school all my life. I think I was the only Latina in my class.
When we started dating, I was exposed to how a lot of Dominican women like to get their hair done. It's a weekly or bi-weekly ritual. They go to a salon or at home, they wash their hair and put it in the rolos and they sit under a hot dryer. I wasn't raised that way. I wash my hair and let it air dry — put it in a bun, braid it. In the beginning his mom asked me, before we went out, "Oh, what about your hair?" I just said, "I wear it like this."
Juan: I always thought that was normal; I thought every girl did it like that.
There's that difference between [Latin] cultures in the islands and those on the [U.S.] mainland. This is an ongoing conversation within the Latin community. It's like, "Oh, I was born in the homeland, and you weren't."
Christine:An unnecessary competition of who's more Latino.
Juan:We have some political differences. Dominicans, we came from the whole Trujillo era. He was a dictator. He could come into your home and kill you. So I grew up with the mentality that we need more liberties. Christine has a different mentality because of the way she grew up in America. But I've come to realize I'm probably more American than she is!
Janet Zambrano Kessler, 31, Puerto Rican-Ecuadorian, and Ryan Kessler, 37, Jewish-American, married three years
Ryan:We really clicked the first night [we met]. I am ridiculous. Janet's ridiculous. We're both the type who would leave a fancy, romantic restaurant to go get a slice of pizza.
Janet: Ryan was the first white guy I dated, but I've always been attracted to white guys. Even as a little girl, I had a crush on Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block. I grew up in East Harlem, and my high school was mainly Hispanic and black. The guys would constantly tease me: "Janet doesn't want to date any of us. She just wants to date a white guy."
Ryan: I dated Latinas previously. There's a stereotype that when you see a Latina ... behind closed doors, things are going to be fun.
Janet: I guess I'll take that as a compliment. Stereotypes do come up. It's terrible, but everybody always says Jewish people are cheap. Even I wondered after we first met, "Is he going to be really cheap and have a lot of money?" I was wrong on both. Ryan is wonderful. He's cool, down-to-Earth, low-maintenance.
Ryan:There is a stereotype that in Latin families there's 100 kids running around. That one might be true. I remember the first time meeting Janet's family, I went to her aunt's house and there were 10 adults and 50 kids. It took me months to learn everybody's names, if not longer.
Janet: And your side is, like, three people. I'm like, "Where's the rest of your family?"
Ryan:The first time that our races really started coming up is when we had our son, Connor.
Janet: When I was pregnant, I said to Ryan, "Do you realize that your baby could be brown because I am brown?" Ryan looked at me and said, "I never thought about that." He seemed to think that if the baby were brown, they wouldn't be able to relate.
Ryan: How do I put this? My family is very small, and Janet's family is very big, and they live 10 blocks away from us. Connor is going to get more than his fair share of his Hispanic side. I guess I wanted to have something more in common with my son.
Janet: In some ways, we also clash when it comes to our faith. I was raised Christian, Pentecostal. My faith is what helps me during hard times. But I don't need him to have the same beliefs as I do.
Ryan:Janet's a big fan of Jesus. I'm Jewish but I am more ... reformed. I believe more in science. I have laughed atFamily Guypoking fun at religion — you know they say, "Jesus is magical." That's not cool. I can't disparage her homeboy.
Janet: I don't want to label Connor any religion, but I do want to teach him about God and Jesus. I also feel that Ryan should teach him about the Jewish religion. When he's older, it really is up to him what religion he wants to be.
Ryan: I feel like that's horseshit. If you take the child to church every Sunday, you're not letting them choose. He's going to be exposed to 75 percent of Christianity and 25 percent of nothing. It's never going to be a fair decision. I'd rather teach him, "Just be good to people, and if you want shit to happen for you, make it happen." But every couple has its differences regardless of race.
This story was originally published as "I Thought About Our Races the First Night We Met" in the winter 2015 issue ofCosmo for Latinas. These interviews have been edited for length.
Video: Interracial Couples: Our stories I BBC Newsbeat
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