Testimonies to Our Hoops

When I talk about my hoops

I’m not just talkin about a piece of metal.

It is more than a fashion statement

Because for me they’re more than just jewelry.

You see a fashion accessory; I see my upbringing, a reclamation.

When I wear my gold hoops

With my brown skin

And my black eyeliner

In a white institution

I’m wearing my life story on the sides of my face.

I’m wearing my resistance for everyone to see.

 

My hoops remind me where I come from.

I come from games of tag in the alley behind my apartments, my mom’s worn-down hands and aching feet, and long visits to Mexican prisons

Because even after almost four years of this place with its pretty buildings and eliteness, the images of crossing the border every weekend when I was a little girl to visit my father are still burned into my memory.

Because even our own moms and abuelas have told us since we were little girls, “casate con un americano para mejorar la raza” [“marry a white man to improve our race”]

Because you wouldn’t think the style of a chola [from the hood in Southern California] would be trendy enough for your sheltered white home if you hadn’t seen it on the cover of a Vogue magazine.

 

My hoops are the very first pair of little gold ones my mami bought me when I was in the first grade.

My hoops are the smile on my face every time the small, dangly, metal manifestations of my mother’s spirit sparkled in the bathroom mirror in which I was just tall enough to see my reflection.

 

Black and brown women have been using hoops for centuries

As a testament to our struggle

As a testament to our identity

And our solidarity with one another

The hoops in my ears

Represent the hoops that brown women have to jump through

Every - Single - Day

Just to survive.

My hoops help me remember the struggle.

The struggle of a family plagued with suicide, drug addiction, and incarceration.

My hoops remind me of growing up in Long Beach and watching my tias getting ready for the club, always making sure their hoops completed their outfit

My hoops remind me that I was never safe, walking down that street every morning to catch the city bus to get to school.

They remind me that nothing was easy.

 

my hoops are not the darker years in middle school when I met girls who flattened my hair with their hot irons and their bitterness, and boys who called me “border hopper” in science class when they found out where I come from, when I neglected to wear my hoops at all, to such an extent that the holes in my ears for which they were meant nearly closed shut.

And my hoops are not the mold that it was clear my high school teacher could not seem to sand down my edges and corners to fit me into when she looked at me with surprise, accusing me,

“You’re not Mexican.You can’t be,” after which I decided I wouldn’t buy another pair.

They are not the mocking, irritated cries of “is there like something else I can call you?” when I introduce myself to white people. They are: “Citlali,” the name my parents gave me to remind me that my very existence is a form of resistance and that I am the pride and joy of my ancestors.

 

My hoops keep me grounded. Grounded despite all of this whiteness, ignorance, and hate

Or when a white boy tries to put his hands on me on the dance floor and says, “Damn, you’re Latina so you have to be a good dancer right?”

 

My hoops are not and will never be the white girl in my theater class who smirked at me and mocked, “the bigger the hoop, the bigger the hoe, right?”

But they are my ancestors’ subsequent laughter at her inability to understand the truth of my identity and my beauty

 

When my hoops are not respectable enough for you

When my hoops don’t meet the expectation of “professional”

When I wear my hoop earrings

I’m saying fuck your respectability politics

Yo soy una sucia, una malcriada, una chingona

That makes you the chingada

With no say as to whether I am worthy of your respect or not

 

“Dear white girl,” you think you have every right to wear my hoops

But yours are hollow, empty, and copied from the other white girl next to you who also thought she’d also join the club

While mine are heavy with the spirits of the women who came before me

Yours are heavy with the weight of your appropriation

Your hoops haven’t seen the struggle

 

Because, white girl, it ain’t enough for you to take off your hoops

You need to understand that

The bigger the hoop, the more resilient the woman wearing it

The bigger the hoop, the fiercer the spirit

The bigger the hoop, the prouder my ancestors

The bigger the hoop, the stronger the resistance

The bigger the hoop, THE MORE DANGEROUS I BECOME.

 

Me and my ancestors are rolling our eyes at the headlines that announce “hoops are back in style, ladies!” because we know that our hoops have always been here

Even when you refused to notice them

We have always been here

And we will be here long after your trend is outdated.

Because our hoops span generations.

 

Cocijo the rain god of my people

Was a powerful bearer of lightning

And they too wore hoop earrings

Migrating 2000 North didn’t change that tradition

My hoops are a connection to my past

To my present

And to my future

The continuous struggle for liberation

For happiness

And for healing

 

Our hoops are our pride in our culture and the shame we’ve felt every time we have turned our backs on it.

Our hoops are our mothers, our tias, our abuelas, and ALL the women who have suffered, laughed, cried, sung, danced and made tamales before us.

Our hoops are our childhoods.

Our hoops are our home.