Culture

From Being Brutally Honest About Her Insecurities To Embarrassing Her, Only Sisters Can Get Away With These Things In Public

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As far as siblings go, the special bond between sisters is one that’s hard to explain. If you have a sister, then you know that there are certain things you can get away with doing to her that none of your other friends would ever let you live down, or forget. Some of us have messed with our hermanitas, done the unforgivable, and lived to tell the tale.

Here are some things you’ve probably done that, otherwise, would have ended some friendships.

1.Tell her you hate how she looks.

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Friends don’t let friends look like basura in public. To some, you’d be called a hater for noticing that they’re slacking in the fashion department. We love our sisters, and it’s because we love them that we want to make sure that they always feel—and look—their best. While others might hold a grudge, with your sis you know it’s all love.

2. Get into a physical fight.

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If you catch these hands with anyone else, it’s usually the end of a relationship. But with a sister, that’s all just a part of life, even if Mamí hates it.

3. Steal.

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Money, clothes, shoes, food—what’s hers is mine, right? Although there are times that you can’t stand what she’s wearing, it only makes sense that somebody related to you has such great taste. (At least sometimes.)

4. Eat her food without being expected to pay her back.

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You know how they say money is the root of all problems? Some friendships add up to nothing more than nickles and dimes, if you catch our drift. But when you grew up under the same roof, chances are your taste buds are pretty in sync. What good is having a sister if she doesn’t read your mind and order that one other thing you’ve been eyeing on the menu?

5. Encroach on her “me” time and personal space.

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Like climbing into her bed and sleep with the lights in after a scary movie. When you can’t stomach something so terrifying, but are a little too embarrassed to squeeze into  a parent’s bed, snuggling up to your sister is the perfect protection. Plus, you can sacrifice her to the monsters in the closet or under the bed if anything goes south.

5. Get her in trouble with the law…almost.

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If you haven’t done it yet, you’ll do it soon. It might not be right, but in the right situation, there’s only one person you could pull this off with—without getting in too much trouble. Whether you’re an older or younger sister, an old license or beat-up school I.D. can get your favorite plus one in on the action. It’s especially helpful for sisters who love doing just about anything together.

6. Play wingman and get it wrong.

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Nobody knows you like your sister, supposedly. She’s seen you through your first infatuations, rebounds, and most devastating heartbreaks. Who better to introduce you to a new amiguito at the bar or curate the cutest dating app profile pictures for your new profile? At least until they ghost you…

7. Fight and act like you never fought.

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Outside of familia, that’s considered fake AF. But with a sister, you can fight about anything from this list, and chances are that five minutes later you’ll be wandering into each other’s rooms to share nail polish and binge Netflix. Few things are worth fighting over with familia.

8. Spread lies.

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Growing up and even now, a sister can be your closest confidant and biggest cover-up. When you’re not in class like you said you were when you spent the money on some pendejadas when you said you wouldn’t, and yes, even when you get back together with that person your mom hates, your sister will be the one to have your back. And when the time comes, you’ll do the same for her and make sure you’ve both got the story straight.

9. Challenge her with the truth.

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We all hate to be told about ourselves. While tough love may end in heartache in other relationships, with sisters, being slapped back into reality with some truth is a blessing in disguise.

10. Expose her secrets.

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In friendships of all kinds, we expect to be able to talk about the hard things and not be judged. A sister’s room especially should be an open door, a safe space. But, there are times when your sis shares something with you that could be dangerous to herself or others, and you have to break that seal of confidentiality to keep her safe. Some of us have said goodbye to old friends by putting their well-being first and having it be as interpreted as nosiness. Luckily, being lovingly nosy comes with the sister territory.

11. Ignore her.

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Flaking, being left on red, or forgetting to show up to things would bother any person. When it comes to your sister, the fact that you know you’ll talk to her or see her soon puts less pressure on both of you to keep up appearances and expectations.

12. Gossip about her.

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Whether you are the oldest or the youngest, sometimes your sister just gets on your freaking nerves. At a certain point, you have to tell somebody! The good part about gossiping about your hermana is chances are, whatever you’re saying to somebody else is probably something you’ve already said to her face.

13. Act differently around her.

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We all have an outside persona that we project to the rest of the world. Our coworkers, friends, and classmates know one side of us, while our sisters know another. Instead of being called two-faced, with our best friends since birth we get to be our true selves with no negative consequences.

Primos In Prison: Supporting Incarcerated Family Members

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Primos In Prison: Supporting Incarcerated Family Members

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Talking about our primos in prison is taboo. If you ever had a family member in prison, you may avoid talking about it outside your family circle. The incarcerated family member then becomes a ghost, a cautionary tale, or a source of shame. We forget how they arrived in this situation and hesitate to offer support. Looking closely at issues that contribute to mass incarceration in this country can offer insights into the matter. It’s time we take a new approach to incarcerated family, and offer help in ways the correctional system refuses. It’s time to humanize our imprisoned primos and primas, showing love and empathy that we would want to see if we were behind bars.

Considering the U.S. census shows Hispanics make up 18.3 percent of the population, it is bewildering how they come to make up 32 percent of the Federal inmate population.

However, looking at social issues that plague the Latinx community, it is no surprise that low levels of education, poverty, and structural discrimination lead to incarceration. With the latest instances of aggression toward the Latinx community at the presidential level, it will be no surprise if acts of discrimination and targeting of Latinos continues to rise.

What other factors contribute to the incarceration of Latinos?

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The Pew Research Center reports that in 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced in federal court for drug-related offenses, and 20 percent for immigration crimes. Yet, these figures changed dramatically, with 48 percent of sentences for immigration crimes, and 37 percent of sentences for drug-related crimes in 2007.

The incarceration of Latinos is feeding into the conversation around the school to prison pipeline.

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What is the prison experience really like? Netflix series like Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and “Orange is the New Black” help pull back the curtain on the harsh realities of prison life. More than just TV shows, these depictions exposed micro and macro ways the U.S., home to the largest prison population in the world, focuses not on prisoner rehabilitation, but recidivism instead.

When we think about our family members in prison, we need to remember that they could be facing sexual violence, lack of access to mental health services, solitary confinement, and denial of their reproductive rights.

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It may be the case that an incarcerated family member’s situation is shrouded in mystery and whispers, but this need not be the case. It is not only time to confront these matters at the family level, but to address them at the social level as well. The first step may begin with actually accepting that inmate call. Ask what your family member is going through and share that with the family if he or she permits. You may feel a sense of hopelessness, but there is so much you can do to help not only your own family members but the greater incarcerated Latino community too.

Moving beyond thoughts and prayers—although they’re good too—here are substantive ways you can help incarcerated family members.

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  • Visit if you can. Even if it is only a few times a year, the impact of human contact cannot be overstated. Ensure you are on the approved visitor’s list before you go. Bring identification and arrive early. Be a good listener and most importantly, show that family love.
  • The experience of visiting prison can be inconvenient or even traumatic, so if you feel you cannot commit this fully then try a virtual visit. Apps like JPay offer inmate services like email, video visitation, and secure payment transfers. Send pictures of the family or a video of a holiday gathering.
  • If apps prove to be intimidating, try sending a letter. Have picture printed out—old school style—and include them in your letters. Families are full of births, marriages, and so many other beautiful life events. Share them with your primos and primas who can’t be there with you. If you feel like you simply don’t want to communicate with your incarcerated family member, but you still want to contribute to the cause in some way, join a prison pen pal organization and bring a sense of human connection to others.
  • Another way to help the family behind bars is to send books. The organization, NYC books through bars, understands how much books can help with the rehabilitation and the education process in prison.
  • With vulnerable peoples such as the trans community,  women in prison, those with mental health needs, simply raising awareness on their behalf can be a radical act of kindness.
  • Another act of solidarity with your incarcerated family member is to donate to the ACLU Prisons Project. “Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure that conditions of confinement are consistent with health, safety, and human dignity and that prisoners retain all rights of free persons that are not inconsistent with incarceration.”

If you have a family member in prison, it is important to their own recovery and reformation to know they have people who love and support them.

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With an array of opportunities to help our family members in prison, it is important to note that reintroduction to society can pose a major challenge for former inmates. These are areas where you can help too. Our imprisoned family members may have been victims of the system, they may have survived the only way they know how, or maybe they just made a mistake. Whatever the circumstance, the key is to remember they are human, and most importantly, they are familia. So ask yourself, for their sake and the sake of our community, what can you do to help?

READ: Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

Culture

Every Time I Go Back To The Dominican Republic, I Remember The Person I Am And Want To Be

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Anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic this summer has likely been met with the cautionary warning; “Don’t drink anything from the minibar.” Eleven tourist deaths on the island in 2019, ranging from natural causes to counterfeit alcohol consumption, have spurred FBI and State Department investigations. Though news of flight and hotel cancellations abounded, I missed my family and refused to let fear stop me from seeing them. Since I lived to tell the tale, here are a few things I learned about my father, about myself, and about the precarious paradise that keeps calling me back.

Billy Joel and Nas have interpreted the “New York state of mind,” and if you have ever visited the Dominican Republic beyond the purpose of tourism, you’ll know that there exists a Dominican state of mind too.

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Whenever I exit Las Americas or Puerto Plata airports, humidity slaps me in the face, and my Dominican mindset is immediately activated. On this island, electricity does not run 24/7. When the electricity goes, or as we say “se fue la luz,” water doesn’t run from the tap either. All that is left to do is swap your sneakers for flip-flops, and exorcise your need for immediate gratification. It takes practice, and I re-learn this lesson with each visit.

The Dominican Republic is changing fast. 

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There is new construction everywhere you look. I sit on the balcony chatting with my father and stare across the street trying to remember how it looked before the apartment building was constructed in that space. I can see from an open doorway on the ground level that wooden boxes are being stacked, and hauled out in front of a business. I tune out my father’s voice as I focus on the shape and size of the boxes. My Spanish needs work, and I ask my father, “Papi, what does ataúd mean?” The business slogan translates to “Quality Coffins.” I think about magic realism traditions in Latin American literature, and I am reminded that so often a country like this juxtaposes disparate images and experiences in such a casual manner. I don’t think I would be able to live across the street from a constant reminder of death anywhere else but on this incongruous island.

We drive to the countryside of El Seibo for a few days.

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My father syncs his playlist and he directs my sister what song to play next. The first song is by Boy George. I watch my father sing along, and I can’t help but think about the Dominican Republic’s homophobic culture steeped in hyper-masculinity. Same-sex marriage is not recognized on the island, and members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination and violence. I talk to my sister about this later that night, and she tells me small changes are coming to the island. The city of Santo Domingo hosts inclusive events like Draguéalo, where you can even sign up for a Vogue class.

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My father’s playlist continues and I’m struck by his selections ranging from Taylor Swift to A.I.E. (A Mwana), a song by a 1970s group called Black Blood, featuring lyrics in Swahili.

I watched this Dominican dad jam across continents, decades, cultures, languages, and race. I realize there is so much I don’t know about him, and so often we shortchange our parents’ knowledge and experience, reducing them to stereotypes and gendered tropes.

My next lesson is on staying sexy.

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After a few days in the countryside, my sister and I rent a hotel room in La Zona Colonial. We ready for a night out when she looks at my outfit and asks me, “Um, is that what you’re wearing tonight?” I thought my yellow jumpsuit was poppin’. My sister pulls out a little black dress from her overnight bag and kindly suggests I wear it. The dress is tiny. It’s skimpy. It’s super short. It’s absolutely perfect. I channel my inner Chapiadora, Goddess of Sex Appeal and Free Drinks, and dance all night. 

Growing up in the 90s, I styled myself in oversized men’s clothing. It wasn’t until that one magical summer in the Dominican Republic when the heat was too oppressive to wear jeans, so I wore—gasp—a skirt. That was the first time I felt sexy, and learned the power of sex appeal. Though I wielded that power throughout my twenties, it fell away in my thirties. Wearing my sister’s LBD I realize I still have “it,” and in the Dominican Republic, sex appeal is ageless. Be careful when you come here. You may fall in love with a local, or you may just fall in love with yourself again.

The island leaves me with one last lesson.

It comes late one night, sharing a few bottles of wine with my father and sister. No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver—the worst blind person is the one who refuses to see. I could say the current political landscape in the U.S. reflects this willful ignorance, a refusal to see; yet it is the same human experience felt across space and time.

I come away wondering about my own blind spots.

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I board my return flight thinking up ways to combat willful ignorance at home, thinking about maintaining that flexible DR state of mind and thinking about buying a little black dress. As tourism in the Dominican Republic picks up again, and unfavorable headlines drop out of the news cycle, this changing island stands in its own plurality welcoming visitors, and offering endless opportunities to teach us something new.

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