Things That Matter

Yalitza Sparks A Conversation About The Derogatory Term ‘Prieta’

Prieta. It might translate literally to brown but the word holds quite a bit of weight in the Mexican community where it is viewed as a racist term for dark-skinned people.

Recently, Roma actress Yalitza Aparicio opened up about having the term used against her as a child and again as she’s obtained celebrity status.

This week, Aparicio spoke out about racism in Mexico in a post called “Recuerdos De Mi México” to her Twitter page and explained why she had reclaimed the word “prieta.”

In a post shared on Twitter, a user by the name of Rosario Estrad @rosario55920512 a poem reclaiming the term prieta read “They call me prieta and think it is an insult. Prieta, like the fertile soil under my bare feet. Prieta, like the night. Prieta, the bronze race.”

“That’s right, I’m brown, pretty brown and with my head held high,” Aparicio wrote in a retweet about the post. “I share this text for those who use this word offensively.

Prieta is a word with different connotations in different cultures and countries.

As Remezcla points out, in Mexico “prieta” is used as a derogatory for Brown or darker-skinned people. The term is most often used by lighter-skinned people and in Caribbean countries and Central America, the term is used in an alternate form “prieto” but still with derogatory undercurrents. Aparicio’s decision to reclaim the word has sparked conversations about whether it is okay for non-Black people (no matter how dark or light) to use or claim the term.

Last month, Aparicio penned a New York Times op-ed about the discrimination she’s been forced to endure in and outside of the Latin American community.

Writing about how her role in Roma gave her a platform that allowed her to speak about racism in the Latin community, Aparicio wrote “At that time, Mexico was experiencing political and social upheaval. National turmoil brought to the fore problems that still persist to this day, namely the normalization of classism, racism, and denigration, along with other forms of segregation and belittlement based on skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or social class.”

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