Many Latinas can relate to being encouraged, if not outright told, to date within their own communities. But in an age where popular dating rules are no longer dictated by nuances like color, gender or religion, where does this leave Latinas navigating the waters of interracial dating? Does it even matter anymore?

First, it’s important to note that racial distinctions between Latinos are more complicated than most are willing to admit. Mainstream culture is just now acknowledging that Latinos make up all colors and sizes; considering this, what exactly does it mean for a Latina to date outside her race?

The answer: whatever she wants it to mean.

For example, a Latina who can trace her roots back to African origins might not see dating a person of African-American descent as “interracial dating,” while the outside world might have a different opinion. People unfamiliar with the intersections of racial and ethnic identity might see no worthwhile distinction between two brown or black people, or even care to for that matter. Keeping that in mind, the concept of dating interracial is entirely up to her.

How Latinas view themselves and the glory of their identities and lineages often conflicts with the way the rest of the world sees them. And when outsiders see people of different colors in love, judgements are innocent at best. Depending on her ethnicity and how she identities, interracial dating could just be simply “dating”. Other Latinas with more conservative cultural ties might have to grapple with the fact that for them, looking outside of their race for love is “a thing” that comes with genuine challenges.

For instance, a white-passing Latina might not think anything of dating another person of Latin decent who is slightly darker than her. That person might even be the same ethnicity as her. However, what the world sees (a light person and a darker person together which means they’re most likely interracial), might not reflect the reality of how her and her partner view themselves. Her family might even have stronger opinions about the fact that she’s dating a darker Latino, but that kind of discrimination (colorism) is a Pandora’s box to open on another day. With all opinions on race and identity aside, a modern-day Latina might just find it more in her interest to silence outside voices that echo into her life in favor of her own sanity and happiness in love.

Moral of the story: being as diverse as they are, Latinas are one of few groups who can breathe a sigh of relief from knowing the “truth” about what it means date outside racial boundaries. And that truth is extremely subjective and entirely their own.

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