There are many ways in which books and films present an interesting perspective of Latin American culture – both the good and the bad. The problem, however, lies in that Hispanics are more often than not portrayed through excessive stereotyping and stale tropes that are offensive and, quite frankly, just downright cringey. Let’s take a look at a few overused Hispanic tropes that we really wouldn’t mind saying goodbye to.
1. The Spicy Latina
The classic stereotype of stereotypes. Most people have heard of this trope in one way or another, and honestly? It’s getting old. It almost sounds like a cheesy name you’d find on the sandwich menu of a gentrified restaurant. The sexy, olive-skinned, and hot-blooded depiction of Latin characters may seem like a compliment to Latinas all around, but it actually does more harm than good. Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X delivers a brilliant perspective on how internally destructive the Spicy Latina stereotype can be, all through the eyes of 15-year-old Xiomara Batista. And what’s more? We share the same name!
2. The Comic Relief
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Fez from That 70’s Show; I would also argue that he’s the sitcom’s best character! But there are just some things about his role that would not fly in today’s climate as it did back then – and rightfully so. Just like Fez, many Hispanic characters often serve as the class clown or the butt end of the joke, which ultimately only appeals to non-Hispanic audiences. I’m not going to lie, Hispanics are some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. I’m just not a fan of the whole let’s-make-a-spectacle-out-of-Hispanic-culture-through-comedy trope, if you ask me.
3. The Help
If anything is cringey, it’s got to be this trope. Especially when the trope further extends itself to a romance between the rich white master and the Hispanic maid. I don’t think a story can get any more cliché than that. These servant-type characters have overwhelmed literature and pop culture for decades, and unfortunately, many of these roles are played by Hispanic women. Again, this is the kind of portrayal that is viewed through a white lens, so it’s high time we shatter this stereotype once and for all.
4. The Immigrant
Last, but certainly not least, we have the newly arrived immigrant trope. As an immigrant myself, I think this plot device has got to go. Not only is this characterization unoriginal, but it also shapes the public’s attitudes towards Latin Americans as the “exotic”, or the “foreigner”. Not all of us are first-generation immigrants; in fact, many Hispanics don’t even speak Spanish! So, I’ll end with this: Dear future (non-Hispanic) writers, you don’t need to make the Hispanic character in your story a walking stereotype to diversify your narrative. There are plenty of other ways to create a fresh storyline without excluding us in the process – just do your research!
Thanks for reading! For more bookish content with Hispanic representation, click here.