What perception does the culture at large have of Latina women? In my observation of the roles that my Latina sisters take on, there are traits that seem to be continually ascribed to our depiction. Stereotypes are not new to us, as we are surrounded by them constantly. For the Latina, I feel the stereotypes most associated with us in the media are similar to the ones our African American sisters have. The common ones are the jezebel, a sexually loose, hot, erotic woman; the mammy, a loyal servant and nurturing mother figure, usually considered asexual; the sapphire, an overbearing, demanding women, likened to what we would call a bitch; and finally, the tragic mulatto, who reflects a mixed-race child attempting to pass for white and are usually unhappy.
So what do these stereotypes of African American women have to do with Latinas? From researching the different characters that have appeared on television shows and movies staring women such as Jennifer Lopez, Judy Reyes (Carla from “Scrubs”), Michelle Rodriguez, I was able to apply most of the aforementioned stereotypes to many roles. For example, Jennifer Lopez starred in “Maid in Manhattan” as a servant, a common role that can be seen for Latina women. Often, the maids on television shows are not nearly as attractive as Lopez but are older, maternal figures that ascribe to the mammy stereotype. One such example of the typical Latina mammy is Lupe Ontiveros, who has been cast as a maid countless times. There is one that is pervasive for us Latina women and that is the saucy Latina stereotype. The saucy Latina is gossipy, bitchy, curvy, manipulative and eroticized, combining the jezebel and sapphire stereotypes. Judy Reyes’ character is a perfect reflection of this, as well as the aggressive women that Michelle Rodriguez depicts in practically every role she plays, as seen in “Lost” and “The Fast and The Furious”.
What do these stereotypes do to our younger generation? How are we as Latinas treated because of the ideas that our other counterparts get from television? There is nothing wrong with the growing representation of our Latina sisters in the media. I applaud and support the fact that we are becoming more visible in our society. I am proud of the success that all our Latina sisters are having in Hollywood, yet I can’t help but to be a bit concerned that we are getting pigeon-holed as just saucy Latinas who run their mouths a mile a minute, rolling our eyes and being seen as spicy and hot in bed. This may be part of who we are, but is it all we are? Is all we are as Latina women overly sexual and abrasive? What are your thoughts?
by Carmen Mojica