Protecting Roots

Tata remembers working at a beauty salon since she was 16 in the Dominican Republic. For almost 20 years, she’s run her own salon in a carport she converted next to her garage behind her house in Bowling Green, Ky., Tata’s tiny salon is a hub for the growing Latino population in Bowling Green to foster community, where Latina women gather to talk in Spanish about topics ranging from work, family-related stresses to religion and politics while getting their hair done, waxed or nails painted. Tata gets to the salon space from her backdoor and her clients, her friends, park in her driveway. Standing in Tata’s kitchen, her voice can be heard from inside the salon. “I’ve been doing this since I was young, since I came from my country,” Tata said. “I do it to work and make money, I don’t need the money to live, but I do it to feel useful and to keep working and make myself a little money because in this country everything has a price.” 


Tata styles Daylis Diaz, 22, in her salon on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The technique she’s using to style Diaz’s hair is coined the Dominican blowout, which straightens curly textured hair without the use of chemicals. Tata’s hair is naturally curly, but she straightens it often.
Tata returns to the salon after pouring herself a cup of coffee and fixing some stitching on a dress for her granddaughter on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. A client waited for her while her hair dye set in the salon behind her house.
Tata tells Martha Garcia Hernandez, 9, and her grandmother, who she’s named after how similar she thinks their personalities are, while Nicole Guerrero, 15, sweeps hair from off the floor before her brother Johan Guerrero, 11 months, sits down on the floor again . “I like how she brushes people’s hair. It’s smooth and it gets longer when she puts the stuff in my hair,” Martha said. Martha, or Marthica, as Tata calls her, was born in Cuba and has lived in the United States for one year.
Daylis Diaz, 22, reacts to something Tata said while blow drying her hair on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Diaz visited the salon to get ready for her first night out since her only son was born one month ago and for the first time since her pregnancy. Tata told her to send her pictures of the Dominican musician she planned to see and meet as a VIP guest with her friends. Tata mimicked Diaz taking a selfie and told her to send her a text that said, “Look Tata, die of envy!”
Tata takes a phone call from another client while a client waits for her to finish styling her hair on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Jissel Guerrero tries to hold her son Johan Guerrero, 11 months, still for his first haircut at Tata’s salon on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. Jissel, who is from Honduras and has lived in the United States for 18 years, is one of Tata’s regular clients of 14 years. Tata started working as a cashier at a salon when she was 16 in her home country. “I like what I do - I love it,” Tata said. “It’s not a public salon, I do it for my friends and my friends’ friends.”
Tata makes time to go grocery shopping and send money to her niece in Dominican Republic in between hair appointments on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. She sent her niece $25 to buy a lotion to treat an allergic reaction, which is the equivalent of $1000 pesos RD.
Tata styles Veronica Ordinola’s hair while Paulina Henriquez finishes Leslie Ordinola’s make up on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Leslie celebrated her quincieanera months after her birthday in February due to the better weather.
Tata wears a necklace she bought with her given name on it, Altagracia, after washing her hair which brought back her natural curly texture on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.  The three hearts above her name represent her three children, who were all born in her home country although their dad is from the United States. Altagracia is a common name in Dominican Republic and women with the name are given the nickname Tata. The name Altagracia signifies highest grace in Spanish in reference to the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus, according to the Bible. The predominantly Catholic country reveres her as the protector of the island.
Charlie greets his mom while she waits for her hair dye to set and takes a dinner break in between clients on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. A family portrait hangs on their living room wall. After her husband’s job required their family to move from the Dominican Republic to South Carolina to Florida to North Carolina, they decided to settle down in Bowling Gree Ky., where they inherited his grandmother’s home. They stayed in town for the kids to have roots somewhere instead of continually having to move although her husband’s job requires that he lived in the Dominican Republic. “He’s good there, he can stay there and come on vacations,” Tata said jokingly. He visits his family monthly.

Tata styles Daylis Diaz, 22, in her salon on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. The technique she’s using to style Diaz’s hair is coined the Dominican blowout, which straightens curly textured hair without the use of chemicals. Tata’s hair is naturally curly, but she straightens it often. Tata returns to the salon after pouring herself a cup of coffee and fixing some stitching on a dress for her granddaughter on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. A client waited for her while her hair dye set in the salon behind her house. Tata tells Martha Garcia Hernandez, 9, and her grandmother, who she’s named after how similar she thinks their personalities are, while Nicole Guerrero, 15, sweeps hair from off the floor before her brother Johan Guerrero, 11 months, sits down on the floor again . “I like how she brushes people’s hair. It’s smooth and it gets longer when she puts the stuff in my hair,” Martha said. Martha, or Marthica, as Tata calls her, was born in Cuba and has lived in the United States for one year.  Daylis Diaz, 22, reacts to something Tata said while blow drying her hair on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Diaz visited the salon to get ready for her first night out since her only son was born one month ago and for the first time since her pregnancy. Tata told her to send her pictures of the Dominican musician she planned to see and meet as a VIP guest with her friends. Tata mimicked Diaz taking a selfie and told her to send her a text that said, “Look Tata, die of envy!” Tata takes a phone call from another client while a client waits for her to finish styling her hair on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Jissel Guerrero tries to hold her son Johan Guerrero, 11 months, still for his first haircut at Tata’s salon on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. Jissel, who is from Honduras and has lived in the United States for 18 years, is one of Tata’s regular clients of 14 years. Tata started working as a cashier at a salon when she was 16 in her home country. “I like what I do - I love it,” Tata said. “It’s not a public salon, I do it for my friends and my friends’ friends.” Tata makes time to go grocery shopping and send money to her niece in Dominican Republic in between hair appointments on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. She sent her niece $25 to buy a lotion to treat an allergic reaction, which is the equivalent of $1000 pesos RD. Tata styles Veronica Ordinola’s hair while Paulina Henriquez finishes Leslie Ordinola’s make up on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. Leslie celebrated her quincieanera months after her birthday in February due to the better weather.  Tata wears a necklace she bought with her given name on it, Altagracia, after washing her hair which brought back her natural curly texture on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.  The three hearts above her name represent her three children, who were all born in her home country although their dad is from the United States. Altagracia is a common name in Dominican Republic and women with the name are given the nickname Tata. The name Altagracia signifies highest grace in Spanish in reference to the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus, according to the Bible. The predominantly Catholic country reveres her as the protector of the island. Charlie greets his mom while she waits for her hair dye to set and takes a dinner break in between clients on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. A family portrait hangs on their living room wall. After her husband’s job required their family to move from the Dominican Republic to South Carolina to Florida to North Carolina, they decided to settle down in Bowling Gree Ky., where they inherited his grandmother’s home. They stayed in town for the kids to have roots somewhere instead of continually having to move although her husband’s job requires that he lived in the Dominican Republic. “He’s good there, he can stay there and come on vacations,” Tata said jokingly. He visits his family monthly.
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