Yesterday it was announced that Disney created a Latina princess character named Princess Sofia. I thought the idea was rather neat, but I didn’t really give it much thought. Today I read that Princess Sofia has caused some controversy among some Latinos in the US because she doesn’t “look” Latina enough. This is an issue that has been bothering me for years. The whole notion of a Latino “look” is a myth and, in my opinion, a very harmful idea in the long-term for the Latino community.
Let me just put it bluntly, there is no Latina “look”. There never has been and there never will be. We Latinos our made up of varying colours, shades, and ethnic groups. This is something that Latinos have to start hammering home more aggressively, because we will start dividing ourselves into subgroups if we don’t. Let me be crystal clear about this; we can not be identified by the colour of our skin. Period. What people always associate as looking Latino are usually mestizos, a mixture of indigenous and white, and at times black. Which I fall into that category. But this is just a segment of the Latino population. If you go to Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and even northern Mexico, you’ll more than likely find Latinos that are blue-eyed or blonde. Go to the Caribbean, Colombia, Panama, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and you’ll find large black populations. You’ll even find Latinos with English, Arabic, and Eastern European surnames in Latin America. This does not make them any less Latino than I am.
As Latinos we must start celebrating the fact that we are different from every ethnic group out there. I define it as Latino Exceptionalism. Why exceptional? Because we are an ethnic group that cannot be identified by the colour of skin or even our surnames. What do Benjamin Hill, Vicente Fox, Alberto Fujimori, and Alexis Bledel have in common? They are all Latino. Even taking a quick look at the Costa Rican soccer team, you see names like Roy Miller, Joel Campbell, Patrick Pemberton, Kenny Cunningham. No matter what their names sound like or what they might look like, they are Latino through and through.
Unfortunately, this mentality of “looking” Latino, has seeped into the Latino culture in the US and many of us who were born and raised there fall into the trap of identifying ourselves by our appearance. This is why it’s so important to keep our language and teach our children Spanish because in reality, our language and culture identifies and defines us. We must not start dividing ourselves into subgroups based on skin tone. Latinos must keep a united front based on culture and language, not by colour.