Anyone who took spanish in school probably knows that "rubia" or "rubio" means blonde....Only it doesn't...at least not in any of the countries I've been to. It basically means "light" person - in color, not weight - and is really in reference to skin, not hair. :)
This took me a while to figure out. I would naturally be called a rubia because although my hair is pretty dark now, it was very blonde when I first went to the DR. I think when I was on summer staff, probably in 2000, I first heard Dominicans referring to our whole group as "rubios" and it drove me crazy. :) We had several summer staffers who were light skinned but had dark hair.
Because of the pride that comes with being "educated," it wasn't even a possibility in my mind that we have all been taught the wrong definition for "rubio". Rather, they were wrong, or silly, or stupid, or not paying attention, or generalizing, or uneducated, or SOMETHING else like that.
So what does "rubio" mean? Someone will light skin...comparitively. Someone who would be called black (or african american?) in the United States may even be referred to as "rubio" in the DR because they are comparitively lighter than all the people around them. Many Dominicans are referred to as rubio, just like us foreigners.
In the Dominican Republic, it is very ok to describe someone by their color or shade or size or appearance, or use it as a sort of term of endearment. If you are at the phone store, the supermarket, the hardware store, or just out somewhere and someone wants to get your attention, it is very likely they will call out "rubio" (light person), "moreno" (very dark person), "flaco" (skinny person), "gordo" (fat person), "mi negro" (my black person), and noone will get in a fight over this, nor will anyone be offended (except the foreigners!).
So, I got very used to being called rubia by strangers and loved ones alike. About a year before I left, something else began happening that felt awesome to me. Every now and then, I'd be out somewhere and someone would call me "mi negra." This literally means "my black girl." I'm obviously not black. :) But, after years of living in a small town, where everyone knew me, as I became more and more Dominican - in all aspects EXCEPT color, and as I really became a part of the community, I was seen as just another Dominican, and thus lovingly called "mi negra."
It was awesome, but sad...since I knew I would soon be leaving and go back to being just another rubia.