Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Before delving into this blog, we believe it is crucial to define our interpretation of the word "stereotype" thus giving you, the readers, a better understanding of the foundation we are building from. We will be using Merriam-Webster’s second (cultural) definition of the word, which reads as follows:

“Something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.”

We are taking a more liberal definition of the term seeing as the true meaning of the word (also according to Merriam-Webster) is “A plate cast from a printing surface,” and would obviously lead to much confusion. In this blog, we will focus more on the negative stereotypes and the “prejudiced attitude” part of “stereotypes” definition the general public has concerning Latino/as, though we realize there are existing positive stereotypes. According to a research paper done by psychologist Linda A. Jackson, “Stereotypes, Emotions, Behavior, and Overall Attitudes Towards Hispanics by Anglos,” most studies of “Examined stereotypes of Latinos suggest that perceptions [of Latinos] are generally unfavorable.” (1) Our blog will offer insight into why the general public is bombarded with stereotypes of Latino/as carrying very negative connotations by posting examples seen in media outlets such as movies, news shows, TV shows, and other sources that are mass distributed to the public.

1 Jackson, Linda A. “Stereotypes, Emotions, Behavior, and Overall Attitudes Towards Hispanics by Anglos.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 31, no. 12 (2005): 1-13.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Melting Pot

In a recent interview, author and professor at UIUC Isabel Molina-Guzmán speaks on the issue that Latino/as are looked at as all the same by the general public, instead of being looked at deeper for the many layers that make up the big picture. To put the next three blogs into context, Professor Molina-Guzmán sets it up perfectly:

"The tendency [of others] is to lump all Latinos together by ignoring key differences between them. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, [Dominicans] and Mexicans, the big [four] Latino groups in the U.S., who have very different claims to citizenship, are all similarly implicated in the backlash toward Latino immigration." (1)

This "negative lumping of Latinos" is detrimental to Latino/as progress and below are mechanisms and explanations on why each group is becoming more and more indistinguishable from each other.

1 Chamberlain, Craig. "A Minute With...." December 9th, 2009. http://illinois.edu/lb/article/72/27530/page=4/list=list (accessed December 10th, 2009).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Puerto Rican Flame

The general misconceptions and unwarranted stereotypes towards Latino/as holds true for Puerto Ricans as well. When I was in grade school I had a few classmates that came from a Puerto Rican family and to this day I can still remember some of the racist jokes that floated around amongst ignorant groups. These jokes (I won’t repeat) poked fun at their brown skin, their sneaky nature, the clothes they wore, and I can even remember one instance of a fellow classmate accusing one of our Puerto Rican peers of stealing his wallet. The wallet never actually left the owner’s pocket, but I think it is obvious what stereotype was being assumed in this instance. The kids all laughed with little regard to the damage towards self identity they were causing. What is so mind-boggling is that I am almost certain that the vast majority of the students in my class had no clue that he was Puerto Rican. The physical characteristics were there, the Latino label was slapped on him, and he was no more to them than a walking stereotype. I hope that through maturation those students will grow out of their ignorance, but so is the nature of Latino/a stereotypical labeling. However, there is one particular stereotype that separates Puerto Ricans collectively from all other Latino/a groups and that is homosexuality.

Before I sat down to write this blog I asked all five of my roommates which ethnic group they thought had the highest percentage of homosexuals. Four out of five of them responded Puerto Ricans and I think one of them wasn’t paying attention. I don’t hold it against my roommates for responding this way, the cues are everywhere. Puerto Ricans are represented in this light in the media everywhere you turn. The 1994 film "Go Fish" directed by Rose Troche is an independent-drama film depicting the lives of a small group of lesbian friends living in Chicago. Rose Troche herself is a Puerto Rican lesbian and though if asked, 9 times out 10 those who have seen the film are no familiar with this fact. The film’s only Puerto Rican character Evy, was the last to be cast in the movie due to Troche's "significant amount of prerequisites for the person who would play this part." (1) While the majority of the film focuses on the relationship between the two white women, there are a few scenes where the audience gets a glimpse of Evy's character (for example the emotional scene where her mother kicks her out of the house for being a lesbian, or her code-switching while on the phone with her mother.) "Furthermore, Troche's desire for the actor to not only be Puerto Rican but also speak Spanish implicitly suggests the director's awareness that not all Puerto Ricans know that language; in fact, that speaking Spanish is not a definitive trait of Puerto Ricaness; and this, that Puerto Rican identity has to do with something else. At the same time, it suggests her belief that one is perceived as 'more' Puerto Rican if in fact one does speak the language." (2)

The book Queer Ricans by Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is an example of Puerto Rican’s association with homosexuality in the media. In his book, La Fountain seeks to celebrate the artistic and cultural expressions of Puerto Rican gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender migrants. Queer Ricans illustrates how sexuality has influenced the lives of Puerto Ricans in the United States. La Fountain depicts his arguments through artistic expressions and theatrical performances of queer Puerto Rican migrants.

What many people are ignorant about is that those born in Puerto Rico are U.S citizens since 1917! Yet the typecasting of Puerto Ricans as immigrants and un-American is ridiculous. There is a tendency to lump Puerto Ricans in with Dominicans, Cubans, etc., even though their citizenship statuses could not be more different.

1-2. La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence. "Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora", University of Minnesota Press, 2009. p. 111-112

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Dominican Way?

Dominican stereotypes are strongly represented in the book The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oscar himself strongly enforces these stereotypes by ignoring and not following the typical stereotypes for a Dominican male. His family and friends mock him for his lack of promiscuity and for his introverted behavior. “Anywhere else his triple-zero batting average with the ladies would have passed without comment, but this is a Dominican kid were talking about, in a Dominican family: dude was supposed to have Atomic Level G, was supposed to be pulling in the bitches with both hands. Everybody noticed his lack of game and because they were Dominican everybody talked about it.” (1) In the book the typical male Dominican is supposed to be an outgoing ladies man with a good physique and short hair. However, Oscar’s nerdy lifestyle leaves him overweight and self-conscious with no hope of getting a girl. He is constantly antagonized and alienated by peers and family for not meeting the standards of the stereotypical Dominican male.

The reflection of Dominican males in Oscar Wao depicts the stereotypes of Dominican men held throughout the United States. The average U.S. citizen’s view of the Dominican male is that of a promiscuous party animal. When asked what the average Dominican man would look like most would describe a dark man with a buzzed head who loves dancing and going to the clubs. Interestingly enough, it is not only outsiders who hold this general misconception, but Dominicans themselves have engrained it into their own society. Not only is this stereotype held within Dominican culture, it is even encouraged. In Oscar Wao, Oscar’s mother is constantly encouraging him to get out of the house and she portrays her disappointment with Oscar’s difficulty with the opposite sex. It is no surprise that Dominican stereotypes are perceived by outsiders as Dominican families encourage each other to live up to them.

1. Diaz, J. (2007) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead Brooks, New York City. p. 24

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Day Without A Mexican ≠ A Day Without A Latino

Numerous Americans, Caucasians in particular, have this ridiculous perception that all people of Latin descent living in the United States are originally from Mexico. Alberto Ferreras, owner of Latino Media Works, an independent media company, states, "there is such a strong stereotype... that all Latinos are Mexican and Catholic and that we all look alike," (1). Last time I checked there were other Latino/a identities than just the Mexican one.

There are three explanations for this utterly incorrect statement.

First off, Latino/as that recognize themselves as Mexican-Americans make up about 64% of the United States population (2). Granted, it seems like a great percentage. However, as of 2008, there are about 46.9 million Latino/as (2). This means that approximately 16.9 million of them do not consider themselves Mexican-Americans, an undoubtedly huge number of individuals.

In addition, Mexico is located immediately south of the United States. Therefore, people probably know more about Mexico than any other country with the majority of its population being from Latin ancestry. Yet, this is absolutely no excuse, which ties in to the last and perhaps most valid reason.

Ignorance. If you think about it, it just makes no sense. How could all of the 46.9 million Latino/as come from Mexico, one country? They simply cannot, as it would be practically impossible. There are numerous Latino/a backgrounds besides Mexican, such as Cuban or even Puerto Rican.

Thus, Americans who think that all Latino/as are Mexican are not thinking at all. They are being unbelievably rude and need to start paying attention to other ethnic groups besides their own. After all, Americans do not refer to all Asians as Chinese, so what makes Latino/as any different? We call the United States “the melting pot” for a reason. Some people need to start acting like that holds true.

1 Literanista. "Author Connects CNN's Soledad O' Brien with Latino Voices."
2 U.S. Census Bureau. "Hispanic Heritage Month 2007: Sept. 15 - Oct. 15."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Elbows Up, Side to Side - The Gangster

The origin of the “gangster stereotype” of Latino men easily dates back to the period of World War II. In 1942, the term “pachuchos” was introduced to the United States (1). Pachuchos were Latino rebels and thugs involved in gangs. Viewed as menaces to society, they were blamed for every problem that occurred. For this reason, police targeted “pachuchos” specifically. Zoot suits, which were extremely baggy, boldly colored, and often times accompanied by a hat, became popular among these men in addition to other minorities. Because constructing one takes a lot of cloth, the men who wore them were seen as unpatriotic, especially due to the terrible economy of the United States from the war (1). Unfortunately, the label that every Latino man is a “pachucho” lived on. Consequently, numerous Americans continue to see all Latino men in this negative light today, more than 60 years later.

Latino men, in particular, are constantly associated with crime and poverty. The media wrongly overrepresents Latinos as criminals and drug addicts. Recent studies show that only one percent of the stories aired on the news each year have topics that in some way connect with Latino/as (2). Furthermore, about 80% of these accounts depict Latino/as in a negative manner (3). Most of the time, the issues discussed are about Latino men in regards to crime, drugs, and being illegal immigrants. The United States has overcome so much racism from the past. Yet, this statistic is simply pathetic and shows that as a nation we still have a long way to go in order to beat discrimination completely.
1 Dr. Anthony Mora's Lecture: Latinos and Latinas in WWII, October 21, 2009
2 Serafín Méndez-Méndez; Diane Alverio (December, 2003). "Network Brownout 2003: The Portrayal of Latinos in Network Television News, 2002." National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
3 Cohen, Jeff (1999-10-01). "Racism and Mainstream Media". Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. Retrieved 2008-06-04.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dios "Mio Antonio" - The Latin Lover

Similar to many teenage girls in the U.S (and many of those middle-aged women out there) I am guilty of watching my fair share of trashy bachelor shows. The 20-some women chosen will make fools out of themselves to try to win the heart of the man, and the bachelor will narrow them down to one lucky woman eventually (with the fairest judging system of course.) I have sat back and dealt with this, until this fall when VH1 took it too far with their show “My Antonio.” It shamelessly plays up the stereotype of the Italian Latin Lover, and shows no substance or use for Antonio other then his good body and dimples.

This idea of the Latin Lover is traced back to the character of Don Juan. Believe me, Antonio is a regular Don Juan on this show and is portrayed as the ultimate womanizer. In the book, Beyond the Latin Lover, by Jaqueline Reich, he states: "In contrast to the Latin Lover, just being an Italian male was enough to secure a future as a 'Latin Lover' for Italian stars in Hollywood" (1: Reich, 29). Antonio definitely falls into this category, seeing as his whole life has been centered around show biz. The entire premise of the show is that he is stringing along these 13 women. The description under the first episode is “Antonio swims ashore to begin his quest to find true love.” The fact that he has to “swim ashore” onto the mainland in order to get to these women gives a familiar allusion to the waves of Puerto Ricans in the great migration (see video up until 30 or so seconds.) The episode starts off with him labeling himself as the “hunk with a heart” showing model shot after model shot. He even sends away a woman who works for NASA in favor of a playmate, which only works to enforce the notion of the Latin Lover only being interested in one thing: sex.

Although this show has Antonio cast as the main role (which is uncommon for Latinos), he is nonetheless typecast in the role of the Latin Lover with the producers banking on the age-old saying: sex sells. I cannot believe I am saying this, but this show has too much drama. Latino men are perceived as being suave, cunning, and passionate. This show does not prove this stereotype wrong by any means which is a shame given that the producers were given a perfect platform to change the way we view Latino men.

1 Reich, Jacqueline. Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Hips Don't Lie...Or Do They? - The Latina "Spitfire"

As a kid growing up one of my favorite games to play was called broken telephone. The rules in a nutshell are as follows: You whisper a word into somebody’s ear, then they whisper the first word that comes to mind and pass it on to the person sitting next to them, and this goes on until there are no more people left in the chain. At the end you get to see how different the beginning and ending words are. It is basically just a word association game that might as well be called “Name That Stereotype.” Most people are unaware of this, but there is an adult version of this game that we are all guilty of playing, and it goes by the name Google. A little while ago I decided to play this updated version of the game and typed “Latinas” into the box to see what words my computer came up with next.

The results were not that surprising. The first thing that comes up when you search “Latinas” is a link that reads “Sizzlin Latinas: Sexy Latinas, Spanish Girls, Hot, Models…” (When you search this you will understand why this is the adult version of broken telephone.) The links go on and on using adjectives such as “Fiery” and “Hot” and when you type in Latina to Google images you get a visual representation of how people view Latinas in general.

<-- First Image that comes up in Google

There is a certain exotic look that people associate with Latinas such as the perfectly tan skin, curves, and long, dark, hair. However, what people do not realize is that Latinas come from a very diverse background when it comes down to it. Still they are viewed as sex objects, going as far as having entire sites dedicated to JLo’s butt.

In the 2008 movie “The Women,” Eva Mendes plays the sexy “spritzer girl” who is having an affair with an Anglo-man and has no qualms about it. The part plays up the common Latina stereotype in Hollywood (and real life) of the exotic other woman. Mendes (of Cuban-American background) wears tight fitting clothes, strolls around in lingerie, and has the saucy attitude to boot, and that’s just in the two minute trailer!

We as a society may think of Latinas as looking one certain way, but we are devastatingly mistaken.
To make this as clear as possible, here is a demonstration of four ways the broken telephone could go branching off from the same word “Latina.”

I could post hundreds more pictures, but I think the rules of the game are pretty apparent now. As you can see, Latinas come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and thus the idea of the "Latina Look" should be thrown out the window.

Good Housekeeping - The Domesticated Latina

To this day, Latina actors face discrimination when it comes to what roles they are selected to portray. While many would like to acquire the female lead, it seems that the only jobs that they can book are for the position of the maid. For some reason, American society has the notion that all Latinas are domesticated women. Numerous people do not believe that Latina women have the ability to possess jobs, such as being a lawyer or an executive. However, Caucasian women in the United States frequently have these professions.

Some Latina women, who audition and do not get the part that they had hoped for, are also United States citizens from birth. Referring to Hollywood’s view on Latinas, Lupe Ontiveros, a well-versed actress who estimates to have played the role of the Latina maid between 150-300 times, states that “It’s their continued perspective of who we are. They don’t know we’re very much a part of this country and that we make up every part of this country” (1). Lupe is even forced to put on an accent that her family lost over a generation ago in order to be the maid. If Americans want to make the argument that solely Latinas who are not proficient in English are getting the roles of the house cleaner, this completely removes the validity of their case.

The stereotype of the Latina maid is filled by others besides Ontiveros (which is hard to believe since she seems to have taken up the majority of the roles over the year). Many Latina maids serve as background noise with the occasional witty foreign comment or to fall in love with the leading (white) man, as is the case in movies such as "Maid in Manhattan" and "Spanglish." In the TV show "Will and Grace", Karen's maid, Rosario, plays up the stereotype in a different way. She is mistreated by Karen with all kinds of stereotypes thrown out, speaks in a thick accent, and is never to be found outside of uniform.

(watch up to 2:05)

It seems quite absurd to judge the talent that someone has based on the way he or she looks. One would think that the goal of casting directors would be to give the position to the person who deserves it the most, not to risk a successful production based on a fictitious stereotype.

1 Navarro, Mireya. "Trying to Get Beyond the Role of the Maid." The New York Times.