Okay, so I admit I’m always a little taken aback when I am visiting a school and see Latina kindergartners wearing frilly dresses and high heels. I’ve heard more than one teacher snicker at this; it makes it hard to sit criss-cross applesauce and participate in P.E. But after EWA’s meeting on Latino youth issues with the Pew Hispanic Center earlier this month, I get it.
Linda Lutton, a Chicago Public Radio reporter who lived in her husband’s Mexican hometown for three years, told of how her daughter’s report card there was great but for one blemish: a low mark for cleanliness. Cleanliness! Apparently her ponytail was too mussy; rows of straight comb marks should have been evident. Claudio Sanchez, of National Public Radio, who was born in Nogales, Mexico, mentioned a saying he heard often in childhood. No matter how poor you are, no matter how tattered your clothes, no matter if you are stuck in the middle of the desert, you need to act purely and appear como gotas de agua fresca—drops of fresh water.
If I came from a country where kids were graded on neatness and appearance were a treasured virtue, I’d send my child to school in a party dress too. Can somebody please write a story about this? It would go a long way toward greater cultural understanding in our schools. Plus, great art!