I get nearly all my produce at our local market. It’s roughly a block and a half from our house and everything is delicious. I assume I will have dreams/withdrawal nightmares about these mangos when I return home, but this actually isn’t a post about fruit. Or food. Or even the market really. It’s about being black. Which is quite a novelty here.
My first solo trip to the market went really well. I successfully found everything I needed, learned how to say scallion in Spanish (cebolla china if you’re curious), and managed not to get lost in the labyrinth of stalls. As I left, merrily shouting “adios!” to the vendors I knew, my vegetable lady shouted back, “ciao Negrita!” Now, you might think that’s what threw me off, right? Having someone shout something sorta reminiscent of the n word at you in a public market? Nope. Luckily my friend Karina hipped me to this term endearment before I left, so no issue there. What did throw me off was the subsequent record scratch-esque moment that followed. If it had been a bad television show, all the lights would have gone dark, with just a bright spotlight shining on me. All of a sudden, everyone in the market was acutely aware of my blackness. Maybe in their own bustle of shopping they hadn’t actually noticed me, but they damn sure did now. Esperanza is a small district, so maybe the news that there’s a black girl bumming around has spread quickly. My subsequent trips to the market have been slightly comical. I have become accustomed to being observed a mix of wonder and apprehension, which I chalk up to my fabulously huge hair and too many dubbed cable TV movies. People nudge each other and exaggeratedly nod in my direction, making very sure that their companion knows that there’s a black girl walking by. The only one in Esperanza. La Negrita.