We were at a Manhattan water park when it happened. I was with my then 3-year-old daughter, Luna, playing in a sandpit on a foul, chilly morning beneath clouds that looked like ripped paper. It was no day to be outside, but living in a city of small apartments, it was no day to be inside with a child either.
A little girl approached the two of us, clearly interested in playing. But when she arrived, she addressed only Luna. Pointing a finger at me, she asked her, “Is that your baby sitter?”
I’ve been mistaken for baby sitters all my life, or waitresses, sales clerks, even the occasional cleaning lady—but it’s a whole new experience to have it happen in front of my child.
It’s not that there are no Latinos in Manhattan who wouldn’t upset the stereotypes. There are just too few of us in the upper middle class universe where I live who aren’t, well, baby-sitting or selling things. I get where this idea originated. I even understand why little kids are so frank.
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Then her dad walked over. “I’m her mother,” I told him, and he looked perplexed.
“I don’t think we know anybody Hispanic who isn’t a baby sitter,” he said.
Luna is much fairer than I am and has dead straight hair that becomes a soft brown in the sun. I have dark curly hair like most everyone in her extended family. Luna is well aware that we don’t look alike.
Even today, at 6, she sometimes sits on my lap and weaves her fingers through my curls and the lines on my face searching for a resemblance. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her not all mamas and little girls look alike—for any number of reasons. She still wants to look like me. It’s her tiny effort at solidarity.
A contributor to Mamiverse, Rose Arce is a senior producer with CNN and is leading the upcoming documentary In Her Corner—Latino in America, about a Mexican American amateur boxer, Marlen Esparza, fighting to become the first woman to box at the Olympic games. Read the full article on CNN.