Cara de Americana

Strawberry blonde wavy/curly hair, green eyes, pale skin with a reddish hue, freckles.

Dark brown wavy hair, dark brown eyes, evenly tan skin.

What does an American look like? Well apparently, neither my roommate or me. Although, I sometimes get a pass. I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately, but it didn’t start off that way. It started off as pure frustration at many Brazilians’ perception of what someone from the U.S. is supposed to look like.

I remember the first time my roommate and I were out. She is from a family that is also Colombian. She has lived her whole life in the U.S. and speaks fluent Spanish and English…oh and Portuguese, French, Italian and some Chinese…and she’s working on learning Hindi. However, because her features match that of the “stereotypical latina” she is often perceived as almost Brazilian. In fact, when people are asked to guess where she is from, they never once think of the U.S. or any non-Central/South American country. They told her você não tem cara de americana”, “you don’t look like an American”. My blood boiled because I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I felt insulted for her, to have someone question her background based on her appearance. When she told them that her family was from Colombia, they eventually sighed and responded something along the lines of “Oh, that makes sense. I get it now.”.

I am incredibly pale… Lather on sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, long sleeves when it is 100ºF out, pray I don’t burn in the shade…pale. My hair alternates between seeming a little blonde or a little red depending on its mood or the lighting. My face is round and my cheeks adding a pleasantly squeezable touch to my being….at least to Brazilians who treat them like the stereotypical visiting aunt. I too do not have a “cara de americana“, an American face. I must be German, Scandinavian, Irish, or any other assortment of a European combination. Never mind, that there are Brazilians that look just like me. Then, to justify my appearance, I usually fall into the trap of saying, “oh, well yes, both my parents’ ancestors came from Germany”, to which the reply is also “Oh, that makes sense. I get it now.”.

Brazil prides itself in its diverse history, its mixed races, and the richness this adds to their culture. I suppose, most American’s have a certain stereotypical thought of what “Brazilian” looks like too. I’d wager that it doesn’t match the complex immigration, colonization, slavery, and indigenous ancestry that is Brazil’s reality. However, not once did the people that said “You don’t look American” stop to consider the United States’ own rich history with diversity. We too are a people from everywhere, we too have citizens that have ancestry from every corner of the world, that possess every type of hair, with a whole spectrum of skin tones, eye colors, and body types.



At least that’s what I find myself wanting to scream at the top of my lungs. Yet, I bite my tongue or reply simply that we are a diverse people. These individuals, as it is obviously not the entire population, have one viewpoint of the U.S. and that is also not their fault. Although I have no idea what an American is supposed to look like, I do know that according to our media, certain looks aren’t considered “All-American”, but rather have an “exotic, foreign” vibe. That is what we export, that is our own fault. However, people in the US themselves fall prey to these thoughts as well, believing that if you look a certain way you aren’t “authentically American”, leading to follow up questions like “yeah, but where is your family originally from?”…and to them I also want to scream… “THERE IS NO AMERICAN LOOK!”