Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Pelo Bueno, Pelo Malo and the First Meltingpot Giveaway
So, on our way home from the holidays, my husband struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler who happened to be from Venezuela. My husband swears he cannot remember how the conversation started but eventually the topic turned to hair. Maybe she was looking at my hair, beautiful as it is in shoulder length dredlocks. Or perchance she was fascinated by the different textures of hair on the heads of my two children. Whatever the reason, the terms "pelo bueno" and "pelo mala," entered the discussion.
"Do you know what we mean in Venezuela when we say 'pelo malo,' the woman whispered to my Spaniard. "Pelo malo is hair that is so kinky that it doesn't even get wet. Water just ripples off of it." And she wasn't speaking metaphorically. She meant that in a technical way, that indeed there is a certain grade of (obviously African) hair that is so dense that water cannot penetrate.
She then reached over to pat my older son's head, to ascertain just what type of hair he had. The Spaniard claims my son was blissfully unaware of the conversation going on around him. She proclaimed, "Oh no, his hair isn't 'malo,' it's thick but water could still get through." Really, she said that.
Had I known what was being discussed, I definitely would have jumped into the conversation, but apparently I was too busy drooling in my own seat across the aisle. As it turns out, there are several grades of hair between 'pelo bueno' and 'pelo malo,' where the 'bueno' hair is nice and straight like that of the European conquistadors who introduced it to the Venezuelan double helix. (See image above for visual aide.)
I am so not criticizing this woman, just posting about here on the Meltingpot for public debate and discussion. Anybody who knows anything about Black Americans and our hair knows that as a community we're still employing the terms, 'good hair' and 'bad hair,' where bad hair is ultra kinky and good hair is loose and curly and kind of Indian looking. Right? I just think this story illustrates how similar we all are, despite our desperate and futile attempts to segregate ourselves. Can I get a witness? I feel like I'm about to preach a sermon, but I will refrain from spreading the hairy gospel.
Instead, I will drop some knowledge in the form of a free book giveaway. The first one ever (and not the last) here on the Meltingpot. Post your craziest personal hair story in the comments section by the end of day tomorrow (Thursday January 15) and I will select a random winner to receive an autographed copy of the book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. Yes, I wrote it, but it's a great book that documents the amazing history, culture, politics, and business of Black hair, including the origins of the terms 'good hair' and 'bad hair.' I'll post the winner on Friday, so send in your stories lickety split.
Peace and Hair Grease!