“Cuando sea grande va a romper corazones”. You have probably heard this saying or some variation while you were growing up and now as an adult.
It is often used to refer to a child considered “good-looking” even at a young age. This “unexpected beauty” makes adults assume that they will have many romantic partners lined up as they grow older.
You’ve seen and heard it time and time again. You go to family gatherings and notice a hyper fixation on a child’s physical appearance — comments about a girl’s physical development as she undergoes puberty, the “if only she were older” remarks, and the open discussion about how young she is to have already started her menstrual cycle.
But why are some adults looking at children with these eyes? Why are these comments socially acceptable? Or have we simply turned a blind eye to them because we do not dare disapprove in public?
As if this weren’t bad enough, family members instill this behavior in children. The seemingly innocent question of your tia asking if your seven-year-old son already has a girlfriend is problematic. Putting pink blush on your young daughter to make her cheeks seem rosier and catch the eye of boys is problematic. The issue becomes even more apparent when you realize this is a trend in the Latino community.
There is a clear problem with the hypersexualization of Latino children. Hypersexualization is essentially giving increased importance to an individual’s sexuality.
By constantly making these remarks, you are essentially programming a child’s mindset to be fixated on physical appearance. You can be teaching them that affection and physical appearance go hand in hand. After all, what can you expect if they witness tios catcalling and showing a blatant disregard for others’ boundaries?
The hypersexualization of Latino children further fuels the stereotype of the beautiful Latina woman needing to have large breasts and the womanizer Latino man with the perfect six-pack and strong biceps.
But this is nothing more than a skewed view of reality. What’s more, is how this can damage a young child’s self-image and remove them from the joys of living their childhood. Instead of playing with toys and watching cartoons, they will be plagued with sexualized thoughts about their appearance, yearning for the day their breasts grow, or they have the look of a BBL.
Does this seem like childhood to you? The innocence that embodies a child would have been lost to the yearning for these hypersexualized characteristics that adults brought to their attention. Their self-esteem would have been tarnished due to these unrealistic expectations.
It is our duty as adults to do better to protect our Latino youth from the problem of hypersexualization. After all, they will be exposed to this for the rest of their life, so why start so young?