20 pages 40 minutes read

Elizabeth Acevedo


Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2015

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Symbols & Motifs

The Black Body

Descriptions of the Afro-Latina body are a motif that develops the theme of Celebrating the Black Body. For example, the texture of Afro-Latinos’ hair symbolizes a diverse heritage and its impact on identity. Afro-Latinos are “not a cultural wedlock” (Line 109), because their hair is “too kinky for Spain, / too wavy for dreadlocks” (Lines 110-111). “Wedlock” (Line 109) subsumes two people into one unit, but for the speaker, the Afro-Latinidad identity seeks to celebrate difference and unite people across lines of race and ethnicity. Acevedo also describes other parts of the Afro-Latina body—“[c]aramel-color skin” (Line 44), “hips” (Line 90), “backbones” (Line 97), and “palms” (Line 112)—to enumerate the ways that history and culture have shaped perceptions of the Black body. Ultimately, Acevedo describes the bodies of Afro-Latinos as a “bridge” (Line 124) among many cultures. That body represents a coherent identity based on self-love and knowledge of the history that shaped it.


The motif of food develops the theme of Culture, History, and Identity. Early in the poem, the speaker describes rejecting Dominican culture to embrace an “American” (Line 40) identity, but she uses the figurative language, saying she chose “Happy Meals / and Big Macs” (Lines 24-25) over “habichuela y mangú” (Line 23), beans and a traditional Dominican cuisine.

Related Titles

By Elizabeth Acevedo