On my quick jaunt to Colombia, my husband and I took advantage of a long lay-over in Miami and explored South Beach. We had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants and strolled down Lincoln Avenue though so many boutiques have been forced to close or relocate because of astronomical rent prices. This is how we met Josie. She was stationed to run a fitting room at one of the stores.
Josie, a Cuban native, and my Colombian husband sang a melody of Spanish accented by hand jesters and smiles. I followed along the best I could. Rosetta Stone does not prepare you for these sorts of interactions. While trying on outfits that no one dreams about let alone wears where I live in the Midwest, I deduced that she lived in South Beach and was 53 years old though looked more like 33. Josie had a rich African Cuban ancestory evident by her copper undertones, coco colored skin. Her long, thick, wavy black hair cascaded down her back. She stood altiva, or strong and tall, as John translates.
“Oh, I sorry honey,” She said realizing that my Spanish was limited.
In Spanish, I said, “That’s okay, I need to practice my Spanish. Please speak in Spanish.”
I spoke Spanish in vain. Josie ignored my request to speak in Spanish and offered a Spanglish version. I’ve noticed this about Latinos. When they find out someone doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, they speak in English out of politeness.
“What do you think of this?” I asked John and Josie. I emerged from the dressing room wearing a short, tight, sleeveless black dress which Josie had picked out. “I think it’s too small. I wear a size larger,” I said.
“Oh honey, that is beautiful!” Josie exclaimed and clasped her hands to her face. I noticed my husband’s eyes sparkle.
“But, it’s a size too small for me,” I said again. I also felt extremely pasty and naked since I matriculated to South Beach’s 75 degree weather from Kansas City’s 25 degree temperature.
“Honey, this is how you wear it here. You want to look good, no?” Josie said.
Yeah, I thought still feeling naked, pasty, and squeezed into the dress.
“You see honey, these womens wear the dresses tight here. I promise you. You gunna look wonderful.” She said again.
I tried on another outfit still beyond edgy for the Midwest. It was a bandeau with tan leather bellbottom pants. My waste was naturally showing. I felt more comfortable in pants but I still extremely naked.
“Nice honey,” Josie said. John nodded.
“Yeah? I feel so bare,” I said.
Josie brought me a real top which suited me much better. “What do you think?” I asked again.
“It’s okay but, I don’t wear pants ever,” Josie said looking at John. “Pants are for men. Dress like a woman!” She accented the word, woman and her whole body swayed.
Ah, so this is the secret of Latina women and their strong sense of sensuality. They embrace all the overt and covert aspects of what it means to be a woman from wearing lipstick as if it was tattooed on their luscious lips to wearing high heels even to the grocery store to showing their legs because they are always wearing a dress. Ah, I see. Such poignant advice, a white American who married a Latino and a Black Latino at that and given on the precipice of my Colombian journey. It was my cultural lesson that I missed since I didn’t have a Latino mother to guide me in these nuances.
“But what about when it’s cold,” My darling husband asked since we live in a tundra. I was wondering the same thing.
“You wear the hose and boots,” She replied.
That answered that question.
Josey came back with an elegant and still extremely sexy and flowing, camel colored, long jacket to wear with the black dress. I felt less naked.
“Perfect! I’ll take it,” I said.
I decided to wear my new outfit out of the store. I would enter Colombia dressed like a proper Latina, complete with lipstick and high heels.
I imagine that all Latina mothers, sisters, aunts, and the like teach younger women about how to be proper Latina.
Thank you Josie for teaching me! Besos.