By Velia Salazar, Staff Reporter
Growing up, there were times I thought I only existed in cartoons. That’s what my TV told me. While there were plenty of white faces on TV representing every facet of life, the only brown-skinned faces I saw were of cartoon characters.
While very young, the only Latina I saw was Dora the Explorer. Even though she was only a cartoon character, she was one of the few characters I could relate to because she was around my age and had a similar skin tone.
Later on, when I was around 10 years old, there was “Maya and Miguel,” another animated show centering around Hispanic twins, and their friends. It was a comedy. ,but it also accurately reflected people of Mexican and Puerto Rican culture. Watching it made me feel like I was represented. It made me feel special.
Latinx representation really matters. Some might find it silly and think that it is not that important, but we do need it. Not just in cartoons, but in movies and shows. But instead of accurate representations that reflect the reality that Latinx people are found in every occupation and socio-economic level, all we get are stereotypes.
Hollywood’s portrayal of Latin characters has long been mired in unflattering stereotypes, where criminals, gardeners, and maids far outnumber professions like teaching, nursing, and business owners. Just one example of this is the film “Maid in Manhattan,” in which Jennifer Lopez plays a maid at a luxurious hotel and a rich man sees her and falls in love with her. He believes she’s a guest just like him and later finds out the truth.
The only time you see a successful Latinx is when you’re watching novelas (soap operas) or other Latinx movies made by Latinx people. This is something that should raise eyebrows. We shouldn’t be portrayed as successful only within the Latinx community.
Even those shows that accurately reflect some aspect of the Latinx community, where the characters are hard-working and as “American” as anyone else, often portray them struggling, such as “One Day at a Time.” The main character, played by Justina Machado, is a military veteran and a nurse. She’s a single mother raising her kids alone with the help of her mother.
These stereotypes are harmful for two reasons. They limit the opportunities for Latinx actors, and they perpetuate negative images of the Latinx community, which studies have shown play an important role in the immigration debate.
According to Forbes, researchers found that a significant portion of storylines tied to immigration or immigrants centered on committing some form of unlawful activity including murder, human trafficking, and drug dealing.
These misrepresentations can fuel misjudgments of Latinx people, but they can also make young people of color question their own identity.
As someone striving to work for the media, I’m going to do my absolute best to ensure more accurate Latino representation. I’m passionate about how Latinxs needs better representation in the media because these constant images of negative stereotypes are a major factor, I believe, in the racism that infects a large portion of America.
As a society, we need shows and movies that reflect the full range being a Latinx. If someone isn’t around a Latinx, and all they see is Hollywood’s portrayal of Latinos, they’re going to believe that’s all that we are. And they might buy into the divisive fantasy that we’re all rapists, or bringing crime and drugs into the country, or sponging off other people’s tax dollars. That contributes to ignorance, which can manifest in so many areas, from the general disdain of Latinx people to horrifying actions.
It’s time to show other ethnicities that we’re better than that. The time starts now.