Carolina Contreras’ accustomed beard salon, Miss Rizos, sits on the additional attic of an old colonial architecture in the affection of Santo Domingo’s “zona colonial,” the celebrated colonial commune of the Dominican Republic’s capital. The salon itself is ablaze and airy, the amplitude amplified by floor-to-ceiling windows and lined with chairs adverse ample console mirrors. Unfinished board bassinet shelves and adorableness stands authority a boscage of abridged plants, an army of beard articles and a closet abounding of Miss Rizos commodity formed with the byword “Yo amo mi pajon,” or “I adulation my afro.”
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In the Dominican Republic, admiring your beard doesn’t appear easy. “I accept to go through a action with my clients, of acceptable them that their accustomed beard is admirable and giving them permission to cut it,” Contreras said.
Read more: When accustomed beard becomes a adventure to oneself
Contreras, a Dominican-American activist, administrator and influencer, launched Miss Rizos in 2014. The amplitude is the aboriginal of its affectionate on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola: a beard salon for Afro-Latinas and Afro-Latinos who appetite to abrasion their coiled beard naturally, rather than accept it chemically airy — a best that’s still stigmatized in abounding genitalia of the world.
More than that, the communities Contreras has fostered — both online and in absolute activity — accept spurred on the accustomed beard movement in the DR and beyond Latin America, arduous amusing attitudes and allotment women to bypass and capsize the adorableness standards they’ve been aloft with.
Good beard vs. bad hair
There’s a carefully activated beard ability in the Dominican Republic. Big, coiled beard (a “pajon”), has historically been apparent as ugly, unruly, and associated with Afro-Dominican roots. Bodies will bung blame at women and men who abrasion their beard natural, sometimes calling them bedraggled or disgusting. Women who appetite to assignment in “professional” jobs — in a bank, as a teacher, as a advocate — are accountable to abrasion their beard straight. A 2016 abstraction by the Perception Institute in the United States accepted that atramentous women with accustomed beard acquaintance bent in the workplace.
The salon’s aggregation is fabricated up of stylists from beyond the country who specialize in acid and administration coiled hair
In the Dominican Republic, such attitudes accept to do with the complicated history of the country’s Afro-descendants and the access of European colonization. Issues of race, chic and Eurocentric adorableness ethics are circuitous up in the way bodies abrasion their hair. Historically, “pelo malo” — bad beard — has been beard that is deeply curled, base and kinky, like an afro, while “pelo bueno” — acceptable beard — has been beard that is cottony and straight.
But to Contreras, it’s added complicated than that. “I don’t anticipate it’s aloof that I’m Dominican, and so I appetite to abolish my negritude and affirmation my Europeanness,” she said. “It’s added that society, including the apple at large, and not aloof the DR, is sending me these letters about what success looks like.”
And “success” comes at a cost: The actinic adequate action is painful, expensive, and can booty hours. Contreras recalls adequate her sisters’ beard back she was younger. “Not alone was it my mom and these stylists who were inflicting affliction on me, but I was additionally inflicting affliction on my three sisters,” she said. “I bethink cogent my sisters, not that continued ago, ‘Your beard looks bad and it looks ugly, so let’s fix it, because you accept academy tomorrow.’ And now I’m arch a accustomed beard movement.”
Contreras talks a applicant through the intricacies of how the appropriate cut will change the way the curls abatement about her face
At Miss Rizos, audience like Larissa Lembert Archivald adulation to see Contreras and the stylists cast the “pelo bueno/pelo malo” dichotomy on its head. “The women are so balmy and enthusiastic, and they action so abundant affinity to their clients,” she said. “They accept in detail back you call what you want, and it aloof makes me feel at home.”
The accustomed beard movement began in the US in the aboriginal 2000s and advance to the Caribbean, Latin America and genitalia of Africa. Now the bounce of Eurocentric adorableness standards and movement appear all-embracing one’s accustomed beard accept been taken up by advocates about the world.
Read more: South African schools beneath advance over afro hairstyles ban
Lembert Archivald works as a doctor in Seville, Spain, but was built-in in the Dominican Republic. She says back she comes home for a visit, she’s absolute abroad by how abundant things accept changed: “It’s absolutely bewitched to access and see bodies — from the association booths at the airport to added ‘formal’ offices — assuming off their admirable hair,” she said. “When I was growing up there were no salons or assets for accustomed hair, or to brainwash ourselves about how to move advanced and adulation our blackness, which is so stigmatized.”
Filling a gap
In Contreras’ case, her area — a salon and association outreach, talks and workshops, online communities with a afterward of added than 130,000, and a aggregate stepping-away from the acceptable hair/bad beard dichotomy — began as a claimed blog.
After Contreras fabricated the ‘big chop’ — when women cut off all their beard that has actinic relaxer in it, abrogation aloof the new advance — she says she was accountable to name-calling and insults. But anon bodies began abutting her in the streets, at work, at the grocery store, allurement her about her beard and how she maintained it.
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“People would ask me questions like, ‘How did you do it?’ ‘What was the action like?’ ‘What articles did you use?’ These were accidental bodies endlessly me in the artery — but beard was this huge taboo. So I thought, I should alpha a blog,” she said.
Alongside the cutting concern for coiled hair, Contreras realized, there was a charge for Spanish-language assets on how to affliction for it, what articles to use and how to appearance it.
At Santo Domingo’s anniversary ‘Afro Feria,’ or Afro Fair, which celebrates the character and ability of coiled and afro hair, a army watches a ball performance
Opening the salon seemed like a accustomed addendum of Contreras’ advancement work. Miss Rizos is abundant added than a abode to go for a crew — it’s a amplitude for women and men to allotment admonition and hair-care tips, seek out the aggregation of agreeing bodies and apprentice how to abode the bigotry they face about their own “pajones.”
Empowerment via accustomed hair
Contreras tells the adventure of a 16-year-old babe from Santiago de los Caballeros who wrote to her attractive for advice. “She said, my academy arch is cogent me that alone prostitutes abrasion their beard coiled like that,” she said. “So I told her, ‘you’re activity to acquaint your arch this, this, this and this,’ and I listed a few responses. And the abutting morning she told her arch aggregate I told her to acquaint her, and this babe was set! She was acceptable to go. Sometimes bodies aloof charge the tools.”
The beard salon has become a battlefield in the war bodies of African ancestor are waging adjoin the cultural cachet quo.
“I try to empower women by authoritative them apprentice how to adulation and affliction for article that they were accomplished to hate,” says Contreras. “In that, they feel bigger about who they are. It’s powerful.”
Lembert Archivald can adjure to that: “We accept to adulation ourselves for what we are: a admirable mix. It reflects the struggles and eras of our island.”
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