By now you may have heard that Disney is set to debut their first Latina princess on November 18 in a Disney Channel TV movie targeted for children ages 2-7. You may also have heard the criticisms of Sofia, as the new princess is called, that immediately followed.
The first is her name, which is, as Roachele Negron, one of several Latina mom bloggers that NBC Latino interviewed recently, called it, a “Spanish imperial rule name.” Another connected criticism is her appearance – Sofia is light-skinned, with auburn hair and blue eyes. Without getting into the issue of whether she “looks” Latina, because as we know there is no one way to look Latina since we are not a race. We are an ethnicity that encompasses White, Black, Asian, Indigenous and mixed people.
The issue is that we already have plenty of White princesses – it would have been nice to have one that Latinos with Indigenous or mixed ancestry could physically identify with. We have to wait and see if the “Latin influences” of her mother’s country of origin will translate into a representation of Latino culture. Without it, there is little left to identify her as Latina, besides the assertion by one of the movie’s executive producers that she is.
These are all valid critiques, but I would like to raise one more. Unveiling a new princess that introduces a new ethnicity to the increasing diversity of the Disney franchise is a big deal – so why is Sofia the First not getting her own movie theatre premiere? There is nothing that prevented the company from revealing Sofia the First with all the pomp and circumstance received by The Princess and the Frog, which introduced Tiana, Disney’s first Black princess. And there is nothing that prevented them from casting a voice-actress for the tiny princess of Latino descent, in the same way they cast Anika Noni Rose as the voice actress for Tiana.
But now a new question has arisen after Disney’s reaction to the backlash. They have revealed the heritage of their new Princess, and it certainly isn’t what many would identify as Latina. If her mother is from “an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia,” what in her heritage or experience makes her akin to a Latina?
The term Latino is largely a United States concept, but without a United States context, since the two countries that served as inspiration are European, and with no promise of cultural signifiers to establish a Latino culture, since the “fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities” in Disney movies are not “meant to specifically represent those real world cultures,” do we have to accept Sofia the First as our first Latina princess?
Or can we get back to demanding a non-toddler princess who represents a greater range of the Latino experience and who merits her own movie theatre debut?