By V. Castro
When I sit down to write, my first instinct is to scoop out my heart and guts for everyone to see because I want people to know I bleed red even though my skin might be brown. You might scoff and say you already know this; however, my blood is also tainted. It is the product of cultures colliding in massacre and heart break. My heart is tainted because some of my experiences in life are tied to the color of my skin and gender, I’m a Latina, and unless you have experienced this, you will never know.
When I sit down to write I feel a rush of excitement and relief because it isn’t socially acceptable to stand on the corner and scream until your diaphragm rips in two. My pride will not allow me to fall to my knees and apologize for who I am because I have done that before and I have seen other women do this, submitting to everyone but themselves. If you don’t see anything else, how will you know that your worth is on your feet in a full throttle sprint rather than your knees or a place you have been told is your corner in the world. Be sweet, meek and cute. Nah, I’m an angry woman with a fire that sits between my legs and tits and that is where my stories reside. I feel the need to express my experiences growing up in south Texas because some of those experience I still don’t understand to this day and I am a forty year old woman.
It’s not a horror film, but one of the most memorable Latina characters from my youth is Maria Conchita Alonso as Luisa in the 1998 film, Colors. You are introduced to her as a simple woman that smiles and likes children while she works at a fast food joint. Then there is her other side. She wears a slinky, low cut, pink dress with her brown skin glowing post sex, hair and make-up still on fleek in true chola style. The love interest looks at her in disgust as another man has just left her bed, but she simply holds her head high and screams in defiance, “I’m a home girl, man! This is me, man!” I was only ten, maybe eleven years old, but her confidence fascinated me. I’m a woman now, and I understand that character in a way that could fill a thesis because I am that woman, two residing in one.
Part of who I am is a lover of horror. I seek to entertain through the horror tropes I loved growing up, however, those stories never included me. There were no Latina final girls, villains, heroes, writers, directors or story lines that reflected the little horrors growing up Chicana. So now, all my stories are Own Voices. Why wouldn’t I want to write Latinx characters for every tale? Diversity means stories are filtered through my worldviews and experiences as opposed to someone else throwing in a brown, female token that is just a stereotype. I want to be more than a token and it is something I am willing to fight for. I’m not naïve and only write tales about women in amazing, happy circumstances because that is not what I experienced for half of my life. I’ve witnessed things children should not see, but I write about these subjects from a place I have visited. Well, except the supernatural stuff that I like to mine from my culture because I’m incredibly proud of it and I believe it can bring something new to horror. I want to rip and stretch the fabric of horror so that I might weave my own brown variation. I am a product of colonization and now I seek to colonize horror.
Fighting for space amongst a list of white males isn’t easy. It can be downright discouraging when you receive that “so close but I had to make hard decisions” email. I automatically think of all the ways I’m not good enough and will never be good enough because I choose to write my kind of horror that is one hundred percent Latina. It does cross my mind that I will be passed by for a white author. However, I will never apologize for trying to represent. I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up anthologies or looked at lists and not see a single author of color and if they do, try finding a Latina. That stings and after a while stings leave a sore spots.
But things are changing, and this is good. The horror community has been welcoming and been incredibly kind to me. I’ve met so many people I consider friends even though I haven’t met most of them. When I am asked to participate, I feel elated not just for myself but knowing this could make way for other Latinas searching for the courage to write what they want.
Today I jump on every opportunity I see because I know the time is now. I want my children, especially my daughter, to take pride in her Mexican roots and her mother that didn’t break down from the constant rejection that comes along with publishing. I hope she feels and sees my fortitude with publishing as I saw with the women in my family making something of themselves even when it was hard, even when my mother had to bounce checks to feed us.
When my mother was pregnant with me, we were homeless. She is now her own boss as an attorney. Not all of her story is mine to tell, but her difficult journey resulted in her realising a dream that was inside before I even existed.
I want to share my dark stories of empowerment and pain through horror. I want my daughter to see herself represented.
About V. Castro
V.Castro is the author of Maria The Wanted and the Legacy of The Keepers – her debut vampire novel series and The Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli the Vampire- an erotic novella series. You can also find her horror film reviews on www.scifiandscary.com.
She is a Mexican American ex-pat living in the UK for the past 12 years. As a full-time mother, she dedicates her time to her family and writing.