The intra-racial caste system illustrated through the straight hair fiXation
The popularity of the Dominican salon -- even in Washington, which has only a microscopic population hailing from the Dominican Republic -- embodies a perfect storm of racial aesthetics, cultural conditioning and a strong hand with a blow-dryer.
Burbling under the surface is a shared legacy of slavery and miscegenation, of ancestors who survived the Middle Passage, ending up in different ports of call all across the Americas. Dominicans, the descendants of Africans, Europeans, Taino Indians and a few other strains thrown in for good measure, are famous for knowing their way around highly textured hair; because of this, Ana and Carmen Marmolejos boast on their business cards, "YES, WE ARE DOMINICANS!" They add: <<Back home in Santo Domingo, there's a beauty shop on every corner. Office workers are expected to adhere to a strict dress code, Marmolejos says -- carefully coiffed hair, no ponytails, or buns -- and so women haunt salons, popping in every few days for a touch-up, trying to beat the heat and humidity.>>
In the Dominican Republic, where it is estimated that 90 percent of the population has at least some African ancestry, straight hair is revered as a symbol of beauty. Over the years, Dominicanas developed techniques to manage curly hair in a tropical climate, mastering the art of the roller set and concocting conditioners in the kitchen.
Read the whole article entitled of curls and culture: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071302138.html
Sometimes, of course, a hairstyle is just a hairstyle. But some see this obsession with straightening hair as a desire to erase all traces of any connection to the Mother Land. In his upcoming novel, "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," Dominican American novelist Junot Diaz writes about the color complexes of Dominicans at home and abroad, how straight hair is a status symbol, something to indicate that you are more Taino or European than African, and therefore somehow better.
Observes Bernadette Sanchez, a Dominican American psychologist in Chicago: "Based on my own experience with my family and with other Dominicans, there is a complex about having black ancestry. There are many Dominicans to me who are clearly black but will not identify as black. A lot of shame in the Dominican culture about having black heritage." And historically, Sanchez says, that attitude translates into prejudice against black Americans. (including Hatians)