An Instagram Comicstrip Pays Homage To Natural Hair And Curvy Bodies

A Dominican artist from Connecticut is challenging the generic beauty standards that have plagued Afrolatinx communities for eons, like the obsession for straight hair over hair in its natural state, or petite bodies over fuller ones.

Through a comic book titled Pajón Comic, Crystal Rodriguez showcases her own personal struggle with her hair and her curves. She depicts what most Afro-Latinos go through when it comes to viewing their image in society. The 23-year-old started creating the comic book back in April, and has uploaded several pages of her art on Instagram.

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So far, Rodriguez has created two comic books. One focuses on the term “Pajon,” which is a slang term used to describe a Latina’s curly head or afro. The phrase usually has a negative connotation to it, because of the way it’s used to depict afro-textured hair.

“I wanted to highlight the everyday struggle Afrolatinxs go through when developing their self worth,” she told The Huffington Post. “This comic is for the Afrolatinxs [who] have kept childhood traumas locked away in our hearts because good children are supposed to be silent and beautiful with our straightened hair, faldas (girdles) y media panties (pantyhose).”

The cover of the comic book features a set of two cousins. The younger one boasting curly hair look discontent with it, as she complains to her older kin who has apparently straighter locks.

Pajon Comic 🌼Pagina 1. // I’m creating the Pajon series to highlight unique moments in a Dominican/afrolatinxs life. Dominican families like other afrolatinxs families look completely different from one another…for example, siblings express different recessive or dominant traits and cousins can look racially distinctive from one another as well. Navigating within a family and culture that is completely mixed can be beautiful, confusing and difficult because of all these intersecting identities. Dealing with privilege becomes especially sensitive and important. Knowing what to say at the right moment can protect someone from being hurt or their identity oppressed. I hope this comic can help us better understand our intersecting identities, harmful cultural conditioning (mejorar la raza, pajons etc) and how to recognize opportunities to honor our differences whether it be our racial, gender, or sexual identities. I especially made this comic for my possible future children and nieces and nephews to read together. #afrolatinx #decolonize #naturalhair #natural #blackgirlmagic #qpoc #dominican #pajoncomic

A photo posted by Crystal aka shadowbeast (@dominicanbrujaprincess) on

As the issues unfold the older woman spends a chunk of time reflecting on how and why she decides to straighten her hair, but also how that seemingly innocuous choice affects her younger family member.

Pajon comic 🌼 Pagina 3.//You straighten your hair for every important event. And she has noticed this. She wants to be just like you. You spent hours straightening your hair and begin to wonder why you do it? To hear her say she doesn’t love her squiggly hair broke your heart and you realize you are a part of her reasoning. ((The norm for a Latina woman is to straighten her hair when she wants to look especially beautiful. It’s time to deconstruct that norm because it’s hurting little girls…and it probably hurt you long ago when you first decided you looked more special with straight hair.))So you wash your hair that night and promise yourself to make choices independent of social norms. On special days you will wear your hair wild and free and on some days you might straighten your hair to then wear braids for a few weeks…whatever feels good to you🌼 #pajoncomic

A photo posted by Crystal aka shadowbeast (@dominicanbrujaprincess) on

On the second installment of her comic, Rodriguez challenges the many standards that are foisted onto young Latinxs against their usually naturally curvy figures, and conform to a more Eurocentric slim body.

And then lastly, she challenges again the idea of straight hair being the trend to follow.

Pajon comic; Issue 2//Pagina 3: After the hour 1/2 of rollers your hair is not straight enough. Your baby hairs stay resiliently curled. Those will be taken care of…your ears are burning because of the blow dryer and you have been sitting in a plastic silla sweat dripping down your thighs still getting your hair straightened. Meanwhile you watch your brothers get dressed and combed quickly and you wish you could look and be just like them because it is much easier to be handsome then to be beautiful and everyone looks at them like a prize. And you are jealous they are playing cars and you have to be punished with your hair being pulled and hot air turning your scalp red. You cry out and get up off the chair and say you don’t want to go anywhere! #tantrum #genderbinary #decolonize #naturalhair #curlyhair #pajoncomic #beautiful

A photo posted by Crystal aka shadowbeast (@dominicanbrujaprincess) on

Yet regardless of the self-loathing episodes the protagonist in these comics goes through, she ends up finding solace in and acceptance of who she is. “La Niña who once hated her “squiggly” hair grew to love herself regardless of anyone’s actions. She drew strength from a divine well inside her soul,” Rodriguez captioned the picture on the ‘gram. “Listened to an ancient voice that reminded her she was a Queen. Today she is an important figure in black identity and Afro Latinx identity politics. Her research and poetry has been published and widely shared.”

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“I wanted to deconstruct and decolonize my relationship to my body for my sake but also for the little ones in my family that are forming their identities and self-esteem based on the adults in their lives,” Rodriguez said. “I hope this comic can help us better understand our intersecting identities, harmful cultural conditioning and how to recognize opportunities to honor our differences, whether it is our racial, gender or sexual identities.”