In 2002 my mum and I moved to the UK, joining two of my aunties living in Brighton. Most people are always surprised when they find out I was born and raised in Venezuela due to my accent, which apart from a few words, passes as British. The question is normally followed by asking me whether I prefer Venezuela or the UK or whether I dream in English or Spanish. As a Venezolana that has always been how I identify. When I speak to my Ma and I call back home, I am Venezuelan, when I get everyone I know to try plantain, I am Venezuelan and when someone brings up Chavez to me and assumes I want to talk politics, I am always Venezuelan.
From the first time I went back to visit my dad and family I always found myself rummaging through my grandma’s room, finding trinkets and photographs, many of which she allowed me to bring back with me. Till this day I do the same each time I go back. These photographs have allowed me to always remember when I’m from and have been crucial to how I identify, inspiring how I choose to present myself. Recently I saw this video posted by We Are Mitú on Mike O’Davis (known as hoodprofet), an Afro-Chicano organiser and artist, talking about how close he feels to his community when he dresses in a way that reflects it. It reminds me of certain moments in last year’s Second Mother, a Brazilian film about Val, a housekeeper to a wealthy family. Close-ups on Val moisturising her hands, getting ready for bed in her night dress with the sound of a small fan and her chancletas on the hard floor gave me such a warm feeling of being at my grandma’s watching a soap opera before bed.
These little moments of self-care that are undeniably Latin American are affirming to see and validate the comfort I take in these small details. To those that think style and beauty are superficial, I would say it has been a way for me to hold on to my nationality and one that I have noticed has become increasingly more important to me as an Afro-latin, morena Venezolana.
Here’s my mum on the left with her friends from college. I don’t know if they intended to coordinate their outfits and lipstick but I love these crisp white t-shirts. You can’t see it very clearly here but my mum used to have a real cute pixie cut and because she was super tiny people used to make fun of her for wearing skinny jeans!
This is my favourite photo of my grandma Iraida being free, happy and brown. I love how she’s wearing this cut-out swimsuit with rolled up pants, knowing her she probably didn’t plan to go in the sea but ended up getting dragged in by the kids. I still love the way she dresses – matching cotton t-shirts and trousers with trainers as she runs errands and sometimes a little bit of lipstick.
Here’s my mum and some of my cousins at the beach with some great swimsuits. In Venezuela, especially in Puerto Cabello (the small seaside town where most of my dad’s family live), a lot of people buy their own fabric and make their own custom bikinis and suits.
I have such strong memories of this stoop but can’t ever figure out whose house it was. Here’s my mum, my paternal nan’s sisters and second and third cousins – there are a lot of us! The greens and browns in this picture give me so much life and feels for this summer.
As you can tell, my family and I spent A LOT of time at the beach when I was growing up. Here’s me and my dad in his usual swag: oversized cotton t-shirts, Levis, gold chain and watch. His whole look was fresh and clean, he was always moisturising and smelling of cologne. Out of everyone in my family I take most of my style inspiration from him and remember him every day when I’m getting ready.