While the majority of people of East Asian and European descent are straight hair stunners, the rest of the world is full of curly-haired beauties. Especially in Mexico, more than half of the entire population features waves and curls.
So, to answer your question, yes, it is quite common for Mexicans to have curly hair. What’s more interesting is that, in this post, we’ll discuss all the ‘why’ and ‘how’ relating to Mexican curls. Let’s begin!
How Common Is It For Mexicans To Have Curly Hair?
A genetics study has revealed that Mexicans have an interestingly diverse ancestry. It is no surprise to us that Mexicans feature all the types of beautiful curls, from 2A waves to kinky 4C.
Over 50% of Mexican residents have curly hair. The prevalence is much more in the Northern parts than in the South. Among Europeans and Asians, curls are less common, i.e., around 12.7% among Europeans and 12% among east and west Asians.
Where do Mexicans Get their Curly Hair From?
Curls are most common among Africans. In a study performed on 39 Africans, about 94.9% of them had curly hair.
Curls are believed to have first originated in African ethnicities, and as people migrated to Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, human genetics have evolved to accommodate straight hair phenotype.
Some experts state that curly hair evolved in our early human ancestors to help keep hairs away from the scalp. This way, the scalp was kept cool, and the puffy hair acted as a radiator to prevent our scalp from sun damage.
Others argue that the curls are a mere side effect of mutations in other vital organs that helped humans adapt more easily to the then environment. Therefore, the purpose of curly hair hasn’t yet been established.
Mexican curls are often traced back to the Africans as well. The racial mix is speculated to have happened during the slave trades in which the curly hair genes were passed down to the interracial offspring. A million or more Mexicans identify themselves as black or Afro-Mexican.
What Makes Hair Curly?
Our hair is a long shaft made up of keratin protein fibers. The hair follicles allow hair fibers to grow out with circular and symmetrical cross-sections in straight hair type. The keratin protein is evenly distributed here.
However, in curls, the hair follicles are often diagonally placed and, therefore, result in hair fibers with asymmetrical or oval cross-sections.
The protein is not evenly distributed, resulting in more cysteine accumulation on the same side of the hair fiber. It leads to the formation of more strong and permanent disulfide bridges between polypeptides.
The more the disulfide bonds are formed, the curlier the hair is. Curly hair has more S-S bonds than wavy hair, and wavy hair has more of these bridges than straight hair.
The Science Behind Curly Hair
Like any human phenotypic trait, curly hair is also the result of interactions of complex genetic components. To be precise, the actual genetics behind the formation of asymmetrical/oval hair follicles, and therefore, the curly hair, hasn’t yet been clearly explained.
Some of the genes predicted to be responsible for determining your hair shape are:
- Trichohyalin gene (TCHH),
- Ectodysplasin A Receptor gene (EDAR),
- GATA binding protein gene (GATA3),
- Orofacial Cleft 1 Candidate 1 (OFCC1),
- Fraser Extracellular matrix complex Subunit 1 (FRAS1),
- Wnt family member 10A (WNT10A),
- Late Cornified Envelope 3E (LCE3E) and
- Serine Protease 53 gene (PRSS53).
TCHH genes produce Trichohyalin protein which links the keratin protein fibers together for strength.
Trichohyalin polymorphism has been predominantly related to straight hair in European and East Asians. Similarly, a 2019 study has concluded that the loss of PRSS53 function results in curved hair in animals.
Likewise, in East Asians, a variant of EDAR associated with straight hair is prevalent. Nevertheless, the actual role it plays in determining the shape of hair follicles hasn’t been yet explained in humans.
Curly hair: Is it a Dominant Trait or a Recessive Trait?
Humans have a half parental chromosome set and half maternal chromosome set. In general, when heterozygous paternal and maternal gene copies are present for a certain trait, one of the traits remains dominant and the other recessive.
Typically, the phenotype of the dominant trait is what the individual will most likely feature.
For instance, curly hair is a dominant trait. This means that even if only one of your parents contributes to your curly hair gene, you’re most likely to have stunning curls adorning your head. Despite having the straight hair phenotype, the other parental gene copy stays silent.
Can a Child with Two Straight-hair Parents have Curly Hair?
Nevertheless, there are instances where the child of both straight-haired parents features curly hair. This is possible due to the biological phenomenon called incomplete dominance. In this case, non of the gene copies are dominant, and the resulting phenotype is actually a combination of both.
While both the parents might look like they have “straight hair”, they might in actuality have inconspicuously wavy hair.
That means that both these parents carry at least one copy that favors the curly hair phenotype. That being said, pure-bred pin straight-haired parents can not genetically pass curly hair genes to their children.
Can a Child with Two Curly-haired Parents have Straight Hair?
As we’ve already discussed above, curly hair is a dominant trait. That means that even if both the parents have curly hair, they might still have a silent recessive straight-hair gene copy. The child of such a couple has a 25% probability of growing straight hair.
If both the parents pass the recessive copy to their offspring, the child will have straight hair, unlike their parents. This type of inheritance is called autosomal recessive inheritance.
Is Curly Hair Looked Down Upon in Mexico?
Most of the world is trying new beachy waves and curly hair trends these days. People are encouraging curly-haired beauties to embrace their gifts.
On the other hand, the Mexicans seem to disagree. Not until long ago, people with curly hair were deemed the most unattractive in Mexican societies, especially among older generations.
Even today, most Mexicans prefer straight hair to curly hair, given how easy it is to tame and style straight hair. What saddens us the most is that curly hair is called ‘Pelo chino’ in Mexico. This term has many negative meanings, which we will discuss in the next section.
Why do Mexicans Call People with Curly Hair Chinos?
Many often confuse the word ‘Chino’ with Chinese people. The majority of Chinese people have pin-straight hair, and it almost makes no sense to call curly-haired people ‘Chino’, now, does it?
African people or enslaved people are called chino. This word was associated with someone black and with curly/kinky hair in the past. However, these days, the word is no more associated with the color of the skin and is only used to categorize curly-haired Mexicans.
Moreover, the term ‘chino’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘Cochino’, meaning pig or someone dirty. This term was mostly associated with African slaves in the past.
Likewise, Spanish settlers gave the caste ‘Chino’ to individuals born out of indigenous Mexican and African slave interracial relationships, deeming them unclean.
Therefore, although curly-haired individuals are not disdained and discriminated against among Mexicans today, they aren’t celebrated either. The racially motivated categorization of curly-haired people as ‘Chino’ in Mexico is definitely not a positive stride towards equality, and this stereotyping should be discouraged and unlearned.
How to Care for Mexican Curls?
Here’s a bitter truth – curls are needy, to say the least. However, if cared for rightly, curls are undoubtedly the most stunning hair type ever. That explains the modern trends surrounding curls, doesn’t it?
Start by learning your curl type, surroundings, and hair goal. These three things determine the types of hair care products you should use. Often, curls are dry, dehydrated, and frizzy, given how the hair sebum cannot distribute evenly on the hair strands.
The key is to use moisturizing hair care products and not subject your delicate curls to constant heat, sun, and environmental damage.
If not cared for, your curls will become uneven and frizzy. Worse, if the damage is irreparable, your curls start to disappear, leaving hard to tame patternless and frizzy hair behind.
Moreover, make sure you use Curly Girl Method (CGM), be wary to not over-strip your scalp during cleansing, and make curl gels and stylers your best friend. You should be good to go!
We hope we were able to provide you with all the necessary information regarding curly-haired Mexicans, their history, and social status.
It’s good to know that the younger generation in Mexico are definitely learning to embrace their curls and are encouraging each other to do the same.
However, racial stereotyping of curly-haired people as ‘chinos’ can be quite demotivating and offensive, given the negative connotation of the word ‘chino’. What is your say on this?