culture/multiculturalism · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · race/racism

Hispanic Woman Walking

“Mami, pero tu si ta buena!” a tiguerito yells in the first chapter of my book that opens on a scene in Washington Heights. My Mom is pushing a stroller down the street while my sister B. and I walk on either sides and despite her brood, the hoodlum on the street can’t help telling her she’s fine. Even now when I think of Washington Heights, I can’t get the picture of leering men on the street corners out of my head.

I’m currently trying to find a home for a piece called “My Mother Wore Tight Pants” which follows my travel from a culture of tight pants in the Dominican Heights to a culture of long skirts in the Jewish Heights. I went through many phases with those leering men. When I was young, I saw them as an affront to feminism. When I was a teenager, I needed their attention to boost my ego. And finally, when I was converting to Judaism, I was too covered up to have to suffer their gazes.

But my new modest wardrobe hasn’t spared me completely. I have still been hollered at walking down the street in a long sleeved shirt and a long skirt. The first time, I remember looking back at the guy and being mortified. I looked myself over. Nope, still dressed modestly, I noted. But that hadn’t stopped the guy on the street from making me into a sex object. And the guy on the street is always Hispanic or African-American. I’ve never gotten catcalled by a white guy. In fact, in college, some white construction workers nicely pointed out that my underwear was tucked into my skirt.

I really identified with “Black Woman Walking,” a clip from You Tube, that chronicles the daily advances African-American women put up with when walking the streets. It could just easily have been called “Hispanic Woman Walking.”

5 thoughts on “Hispanic Woman Walking

  1. I feel your pain. I do not like the cold so I cover everything but my eyes when I am outside now and guys say “Hay que chula”… how do they know?? When I was very young, I was running down the street, and a man yelled “damn, shorty is kinda big” and it made me feel like a cartoon with a little head and huge breasts and butt. Needless to say, that was the last of my running down the street. It is like these men cannot help themselves. I used to get upset but now, sadly, I simply pretend they are talking to someone else.


  2. Well this is coming from a guy, I live in Washington Heights and I can’t stand the harassment. I remember once with an old girlfriend there were guys still trying to talk to her even though they clearly saw we were together. I don’t know how these street guys developed this extreme machismo but it is sad. I would definitely not raise my daughter here. It’s one of my biggest ‘beefs’ with the Heights, that and occasional loud music of course.


  3. You make it sound as if white men don't cat call.They do,they probably just don't cat call at women of colour.


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