I am Latina.
I grew up in a Latin country in a latin family where my native language was Spanish. I started speaking English around the time I entered Kindergarten. I always went to a school where English was the primary spoken language despite living in a latin country.
Even though English is my second language, it quickly became the language I felt (and continue to feel) most confident in. I continue to be fluent in Spanish and I feel comfortable speaking it, but English has become the language I express myself with.
I still feel an enormous connection to my Latin culture.
When people meet me, they are very taken aback when they find out I am Latina. They are mainly surprised when they hear me speak English because my accent sounds American. People are surprised to know that I am Latina because I am shy and reserved- I’ve had people make comments about my lack of salsa dancing skills. I have had people tease me that I am not ‘Latina enough’ by their definition.
People make assumptions of what it means to be ‘Latina’ due to how we are portrayed via the media. Latina’s are expected to be loud, voluptuous, sexy, confident, dancers who speak English with a ‘broken’ accent. There is nothing wrong with being the person described in the previous statement. The problem is the statement has become a stereotype for how we define Latinas.
Over the past few years, I am happy to say that I have noticed a much more diverse representation of Latina characters in television. I want to give recognition to Latina actresses who play Latina characters- Latina characters that are in no way defined by the Latina stereotype:
So what do the above characters all have in common which allows them to defy the media-built Latina stereotype? Their personalities are not defined by their Latin backgrounds. Whether it be Jane’s kindness, Rosa’s deadpan persona, Amy’s career-driven determination, or Laurel’s quiet demeanor- none of these attributes have anything to do with being Latina.