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Latinas in Media

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One media-related issue that is still a current problem in today’s society is the misrepresentation of Latinas in media. It’s an issue that has been ongoing for years and not just affected this particular group but has also affected many groups in America. For years, there has been a lack of genuine representation of what being a Latina in America really means. This goes far beyond what we see on TV, the headlines we read, and the people in charge of approving what is being exposed to the public eye. Latinas are often portrayed negatively or not depicted at all. The negative portrayal of Latinas in the media affects the way we ultimately treat and perceive one another.

When we watch characters such as Marisa Ventura portrayed by Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan, Lucy (Aida Linares) in Clueless, Lupe Ontiveros in As Good As it Gets and Paz Vega in Spanglish, we all think one thing; that Latinas represent the help in this country. Actress, Lupe Ontiveros, reported that she has played the maid in Hollywood films at least 150 times. That’s 150 chances for Hollywood to get it right. The issue here is not that we are ashamed of being represented as the help, the issue here is that we only represented as the help. There have been countless Latina women who have been heroic and strong in our society. What’s happening with representing them? Hollywood fails to give the proper representation of Latinas. Between the 1930’s and 1950’s, Brazilian dancer, singer and Hollywood actress, Carmen Miranda, was one one of the highest-paid actress of her time.

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She was known as the “Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat”, and became the representation of a generic Latina. Her flamboyant look, exotic latin accent, and friendly personality gave birth to the spicy Latina stereotype. A stereotype that does not coincide with the diverse culture of women in Latin American. When representing women in Hollywood films, TV, or any sort of media, Latinas are often seen as a spicy temptress. Take Sofia Vergara in Modern Family for example. Here we have an American show with one of the main character of latin decent. And although her role in this show is an enlightenment for the Latino community her representation can be seen as a stereotype. Vergara plays Gloria, an outspoken, loud, and vigorous Latina who has been shamed for her stereotypical portrayal of Latinas. “I am grateful for the opportunity because the gringos have let me in with this strong accent I have. Eight years ago nobody had an accent like this on television”, Vergara stated during an interview with Hola! US. She has gone on to play a similar role in Hot Pursuit (2015). How do we define what proper representation is? Do have the right to shame Vergara for embracing her high pitch Spanish accent? Perhaps, the issue is that this sort of representation creates an idea that this is how ALL Latinas are. Latinas are so diverse that molding into one type is nearly impossible.

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