Saturday, May 24, 2014

Portrayals of Latinos ... what they don't know about us by Odilia Rivera-Santos

What they don't know about us Latinos is that a lot of us went to art school. 
While there are plenty of Latinos interested in the traditional, many of us have never adhered to prescribed roles or expectations. The 'norm' in my culture was to marry in your early twenties, have children, have a family gathering every week and never divorce. A woman was not to focus on herself, her goals and even self-care could be viewed as selfish. She was to pin herself to the cross and happily resign from her role as a woman and give up any hopes of self-actualization -- if she had the opportunity to learn about self-actualization prior to her headlong dip into 'womanhood.'
As a kid, I started reading and writing and decided, by age eight, to pursue being in the here and now of thinking over any traditional role. I learned to cook, clean, sew, crochet and take care of babies, and it was not enough for me.
I dated a man once who said 'I know you want a child. All Latinas want kids.'
This was one of those moments at which I questioned dating non-Latinos because the statement was so incredibly stupid and simplistic. 
I never dreamt about a wedding or having kids. As a child, I dreamt of an artistic partnership. Being with people who were as creative, smart and hardworking as I was. 
We went to art school and met others who were born like us: creative, independent-minded, strong sense of self, and not tethered to others' constructs of reality or self.

All of the Latinos I know are bilingual, autodidactic college educated and at work at creating a life/work balance that allows for the expansion of an old vision of who they might become and what they might accomplish in the world.

Laughing at our accents and our hopes and dreams
It is acceptable to have a Latino with a heavy accent as a 'sight gag' on TV because we don't make hundreds of thousands of calls to television stations or send hundreds of thousands of letters or emails or protest in front of a studio, and because everyone, including Latinos, says 'the guy is making a lot 
of money doing that. How many Latinos get to be on American TV?"
If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Sofia Vergara and the sidekicks on late-night talk shows: Chelsea Lately, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.
Ricky Ricardo played the buffoon card well -- representing himself as a clueless Latino and being in complete control of an empire behind the scenes, but why do we have to be smart behind the scenes?
Why are we not representing ourselves as smart and instead choosing to continue the buffoon roles?
Jokes about Latino immigration are also considered acceptable. Were people to read what the immigrant from a poor family endures to come to the United States in the hopes of obtaining a menial job, they might not see humor in their plight. But a stone-cold racist would not be softened by any story of a person of color's suffering. 
But the idea of playing dumb for the cameras to make your money, in 2014, is absurd and unacceptable. The Latinized Sambo to appease those who could not see a Latino as an equal or who is a gatekeeper whose goal is to prevent Latinos from being seen as equals. 
And the real question is what are we doing for ourselves?

We accept crumbs and we get crumbs

Photo Credit: Rebecca Beard

Photo Credit: Rebecca Beard
Love When You Say Love, Poetry by Odilia RIvera-Santos

No comments:

Post a Comment