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Hilaria Baldwin and husband Alec Baldwin pose at the opening night of the revival of Ivo van Hove's "West Side Story"on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre on February 20, 2020 in New York City.

In Defense of Hilaria Baldwin and her Spanish Accent

by Deborah Cruz

It’s taken me a week to write this post because I had to suss through all of my feelings on it. Sounds crazy, right? Why do I need to have feelings on it? It’s not me. At first, I was really pissed that people were mad because why is it anyone’s business where Hilaria Baldwin is from or what her ethnicity is? Who is she hurting? But, something wouldn’t let me post that 1st version because I just felt like there was more that I needed to know. Then, I realized, I was identifying with her, as I am a white Latina. The thing is, she’s not a white Latina or a Latina at all. We’re both Americans with dark hair and fair complexions but that is where the similarities end because while I actually do have Spanish roots, she does not.

In Defense of Hilaria Baldwin and her Spanish Accent from a White Latina

In defense of Hilaria Baldwin, I watched her Instagram videos clarifying and explaining herself to the general public because some troll on Twitter was making fun of her seemingly coming and going Spanish accent. I was offended for her, not by her. Also, as someone who has been attacked by trolls themselves and has had her own Latina-ness publicly called into question, I was triggered.

READ ALSO: If Latinas Dancing offends you, you might be a racist.

I’ll be honest with you; I don’t know Hilaria Baldwin. We’re not friends. I didn’t grow up with her. I don’t know anything about her, other than that she is married to Alec Baldwin and had a bunch of beautiful babies with Latino-inspired names. She is called Hilaria, so as a Latina, I assumed she herself is Hispanic or Latina (yes, there is a difference). She looks like me; white skin, dark hair, and eyes, and spoiler alert: It’s hard being a white Latina. I don’t know if she’s Hispanic or not but she could be.

That’s right, I said it. It always has been hard and it probably always will be hard being one ethnicity and looking different than the typical stereotype that Americans expect. You think it’s hard being Latino or Black in America because people can see the color of your skin and you’re a target from the minute they see you coming? It is. It’s true. You can’t hide it. You can try. They make creams, treatments and cosmetic surgeries for just these kinds of things. People are dying trying to be white for some reason. Somehow, white has become a barometer for beauty to many. Not to me. To me, beauty radiates from within.

Yet here I am, speaking out

In Defense of Hilaria Baldwin and her Spanish Accent from a White Latina

I am a first-generation Mexican American. I am a white Latina. At first glance, you’d never consider that I’m a minority. Born in Ohio, raised in Chicago. I don’t have a thick Spanish accent. If you see me, most people have guessed that I’m Greek or Italian. When I was a child, I looked like I didn’t belong to either of my parents. My mom has blue eyes and fair skin and light hair. My dad is golden brown, with dark hair and eyes. He speaks with a thick accent, then again, so does my mom (just his is from Mexico and hers is from Tennessee.) My daughters have blonde hair and blue eyes. They are Latina. Latinos come in all shapes, sizes and shades from alabaster to bronze, so I make no assumptions.

READ ALSO: Racism in America

I was raised on two languages, in two countries with two cultures. I love them both. I am proud of them both. But I was made to feel, by people who didn’t know me, who judged me based on the color of my skin, that I didn’t belong to either. I was always made to feel like I was lacking in both and needed to prove myself. I had to work twice as hard to fit in. Until I decided I just wasn’t going to care about what anyone else, except for those who either gave birth to me or I gave birth to, thought. It was very hard to navigate my formative years.

Why is it so impossible to believe that Hilaria Baldwin could have a Spanish accent?

The result is that when I am around other Latinos, my accent does become thicker because I feel freer to speak Spanish in a way that is more authentic to those around me because they understand me. I actually think that is pretty normal for most people who grew up speaking more than one language. Latino/ Hispanic is not just a label it is way of life. It radiates from within, it comes from your soul and is a receipt on all of your love for your Latino heritage and the Latino way of life. It’s a privilege.

But, I live in the United States and I have been through many years of university, I can speak 3 other languages, so when I speak English, I sound completely American. However, I go between speaking English and Spanish often (so much so that I could count Spanglish as my fifth language), probably from the years of translating it in my head when speaking to my dad or my grandparents, or celebrating Spanish mass or enjoying my childhood, constantly set to a Banda soundtrack and yes, sometimes, I forget the English word for some things, despite it being my first language, especially if I’m excited or nervous.

 This White Latina doesn’t have a Spanish accent but I occasionally forget the English word for things. It happens.

While my friends call me Debi and I was born in Ohio, my full name is Deborah. Deh-BOr-AH. Maybe you say it De-BRA but that’s not how I grew up hearing it. I grew up hearing it in my dad’s rich, thick Spanish accent. Or my mother’s sweet, slow southern accent, calling out for Debi Sue when it was time for dinner. My point is that your name does not determine your culture, race or ethnicity. We are who we are and it’s not anyone else’s business or right to judge whether or not we are enough to prove it to you.

READ ALSO: Judging people based on the color of their skin is a “you” problem not a “they” problem.

I watched Hilaria’s Instagram videos and whether she is Spanish or not, as a Latina, I am not offended. When brown and black people try to “fit in” it’s called assimilation and everyone is cool with that because it’s America and that’s what is expected (always conformity) but the minute a Caucasian dares to speak another language with even a hint of an accent (from living in another country) everyone is up in arms calling bullshit. Madonna’s acquired British accent as a grown-ass woman, I call bullshit on. Someone who spent their formative years living in another country and speaking another language, perfectly plausible. My point is why are all the white people mad that Hilaria might or might not be Spanish? Who gives any fucks? We are in the middle of a pandemic? There are still kids in cages and black men being shot dead in the streets by cops. Hilaria’s (or Hilary’s) accent is the least of any of our worries. If she faked being Latina, the only one who should really be upset is her husband because he was duped thinking he married a Spaniard woman when he didn’t.

If she were trying to dupe people for some gain, appropriating the culture as a native Latino or making a mockery of it and the people, without any of the weight that comes with it, I would be pissed. But I don’t feel that is what she is doing. In fact, I am way more offended by American’s celebrating Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to get wasted, dressing in panchos and straw sombreros at frat parties and sharing those Mexican Word of the day memes than I am by Hilaria Baldwin letting people believe she’s Hispanic. I feel like she loves the culture so much and wants to be a part of it so badly that she let people have their assumptions. If she respects and admires the culture so much so that she has learned the language, lives in the country and embraces its history and people, what is the problem?

READ ALSO: When Racism Happens at School

People assumed that she was from a Spanish speaking European city because she speaks Spanish. Who actually created the issue? Why does it even matter? It isn’t like the situation with Rachel Dolezal who not only pretended to be a black woman but actually took a job that should have belonged to an actual black person. Rachel Dolezal actively lied and stole opportunities from black people; she intentionally hurt them. Hilaria didn’t clear up an assumption; these are different things. So here I am, in defense of Hilaria Baldwin and her Spanish Accent from a White Latina to you.

In the end, Hilaria Baldwin is not a white Latina or a Hispanic woman. She is a Bostonian who speaks Spanish fluently and happens to look like a Spaniard but more than that she is someone who is part of the Spanish community, maybe not by birth or blood but by choice. In the end, why is the world so offended? I’m a Latina and I don’t feel betrayed or hurt by her wanting to belong to my culture. If you are, ask yourself why?

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