I was born and raised in a smedium town in Southwest Ohio. I was the only kid that ate arroz con pollo, but I didn’t think I was different. I believed everybody was unique and equal. Everybody’s grandma didn’t speak English. Everybody’s grandma made rice and beans.
And that’s how I found out I was Latina.
I immediately wanted to see other Latinos, but I couldn’t. I saw my cousins maybe once or twice a year. My hometown was too rural for Telemundo or Univision. Dora and Diego weren’t born yet. So I did the next best thing.
I claimed my favorite characters and people as Latinos. Polly Pocket Rodriguez. Superman Santos. Cheetara (Thundercats). Julia Roberts? She has Latina hair and my dad only has crushes on Latinas. (Sonia Sotomayor watch out!)
You could imagine how excited I was when Disney announced that their next princess, Princess Sofia, is Latina. I was pleasantly surprised that they did not just claim her as “Latina” but actually made reference to her heritage. Her mother, Queen Miranda, is from the kingdom of Galdiz, inspired by Spain.
However, I wasn’t surprised when Princess Sofia was criticized for not being a “Real Latina.” Because of Sofia’s light hair and light eyes, many said she looked “white” and didn’t look “Spanish.” They even compared her ethnicity to Mitt Romney. This brought back memories when I was trying to be a “Real Latina.”
When I was Princess Sofia’s age, the only Latinos I could see were in R-rated movies and violent dramas that came on way past my bedtime. I wanted to see other Latinos so bad, I would pretend that I fell asleep on the couch just to see someone like myself. I immediately felt disconnected because I wasn’t like the Latinos on the screen. I presumed they were authentic Latinos and I was not.
I wanted to be a real Latina so desperately that I emulated their characteristics. I faked a bad accent. I called everybody “Mami” and “Papi.” I told my second grade teacher that I had 13 siblings because I believed only Latinos had large families. I even attempted to persuade my parents to move back to the hood because I thought only Latinos lived there. Until I found out I could never be a “Real Latina.”
A family member told me, because I was not born in Puerto Rico, I could not call myself Puerto Rican. Because my parents were born in America, I could only call myself American-Puerto Rican. So I told her I was just going to be Black.
I literally tried to be like Michael Jordan. I read everything I could about the Civil Rights movement. I played outside longer because I thought I could get black skin from tanning. I even convinced my dad to let me watch What’s Love Got to Do with It” because he accidentally let me watch Goodfellas when I was “sleeping” on the couch. But then I saw Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett, and I realized two things:
1) Tina Turner has Latina hair
2) No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t change the fact that I, despite my differences, was always going to be Latina.
Because of the criticism, Disney denied Sofia is Latina. Despite claiming the princess is of “mixed heritage,” it doesn’t change the fact her mother is from Galdiz. It’s like the Little Mermaid claiming she was never from “under the sea.” What would her father say? King Triton would beat her with his triton. The Disney classic would crossover to a Lifetime cartoon featuring the voices of Tina Turner and Chris Brown. (Please make this happen, Pixar.)
And just like mermaids with their tails, Princess Sofia can’t change the fact that she was born with light hair and light eyes. Despite what Disney says Princess Sofia is Latina because all Latinos look different. Cameron Diaz. Carmelo Anthony. Louis C.K. 75% of Major League Baseball.
All Latinos are unique and equal because our heritage and Shakira’s hips do not lie. Neither does Julia Roberts’ hair.