If Latinas had a nickel for each time we were described as spicy, or caliente, or as any type of object to be consumed, I believe we would go above and beyond closing the pay gap before the projected year 2206.
Our bodies, like those of other women of color, have been portrayed as something to be consumed and to fetishize. At the same time, we have been told both indirectly and clearly that we do not fit the standard of beauty to which the world adheres: white European.
Two years ago, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira performed at the National Football League’s Super Bowl halftime show. It was the most-viewed Super Bowl show of all time and, while the show did not seem to intentionally create scandal, the response from many was that the performers put on a show not suitable for the family.
It was too provocative, people said. But if you grew up in a body that is outside the standard of western European beauty, you know what these reactions were actually about: people that were meant for the consumption of the majority chose to own their power and presence and did so unapologetically; dancing and moving in ways not controlled by someone else. They could not be controlled or consumed, and the response was outrage.
This outrage does not stop in popular culture or in the media. So often Christians standing up for morality are at the center of the outrage. Christianity has a history of body shaming, and I often wonder if it is because of our relationship to the cross.
I was taught that “nothing but the blood of Jesus” could wash away my sins. I was told that as often as I sat around a table and ate bread and drank grape juice, I ought to remember his broken and bloodied body on the cross slowly dying to pay the price for my sins. Sins as big murder or premarital sex or as small as stealing your friends favorite Lisa Frank eraser.
Whatever it was, God required a blood sacrifice because that’s how God showed love for us – God’s creation made in the divine image. And we too would also be asked to take up that cross just as Jesus did.
So, what good was the body I was in if I was eventually going to heaven to gain a heavenly, “better” body? Perhaps a bright, white body like that of white Jesus in the pictures.
It is truly life-altering to learn at a young age that the foundation of your belief system rides on the sacrifice of a human body. Between the stories of Jesus loving all the little children, letting them come to him while teaching, and healing small girls, the same Jesus dies a gruesome death, and the mechanism is our symbol of faith.
I wonder what Christianity might have been had we not let Constantine the Great have the first pick of the Christian symbol. What if we chose the ichthus or a table? Bread or a chalice?
Would there have been less violence in our history as Christians? Would we have honored the bodies we are in and those of our siblings or enemies?
I often wonder what this world would look like if the symbol of our faith was not a cross, but a table. Ironically, I think the table would be for fellowship rather than the consumption of resources and lives of those who were considered “savage.”
Poetically, the table lends its space for creative feasts where the table is not scarce, but filled to the brim for all to join in on and where each person must look into the eyes of a person created in the diverse image of God.
The table is a reminder that God did more than die on a cross, and I fear that the cross has given us body image issues.
I think about this each year when “Hispanic” Heritage Month rolls around, a time when even the name of the holiday is called into question.
What do you call a community so diverse and rich in history? One that perseveres despite the terrorism of colonialsm under the guise of “Christian witness”?
How do we celebrate us without making ourselves the object of pandering from corporations and organizations yearning for a slice of diversity cred? How do we as people who get an allotted number of days in a month begin to celebrate our resilience while shedding the complexes imposed on us by oppressive powers?
I think it begins with knowing that we are not something to be consumed, but honored.
Embodying heritage is more than a 30-day celebration. It is standing firm in our poder and knowing that we are not just vessels of blood to be spilled or sacrificed for God. It is embracing ourselves, who were created in the image of God long before 1492 and beyond.
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series this week to call attention to Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month.