And Speaking of Whitewashing Latino Identity: Have You Seen Disney’s First Latina Princess?

Princess Sofia. Not Quite Latina Enough

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I hate to beat a dead race horse (pun intended), but sometimes I can’t help it.  Have your heard all of the excitement over the fact that Disney was about to introduce their first Latina princess, Princess Sofia?

I’d heard faint rumblings about it here and there, but it wasn’t until folks got a glimpse of the cartoon princess that the twitterverse blew up with cries of whitewashing. Apparently this Latina princess has milky white skin, blue eyes, and reddish-brown hair. She doesn’t speak Spanish, is voiced by a White actress and, well, doesn’t seem all that Latina. Of course, the controversy comes back to the issue we’ve all been talking about here on the Meltingpot regarding the race of Latinos. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Latino is not a race. It refers to a group of people living in the United States who come from Mexico, Central and South America (not including Brazil) and parts of the Caribbean. Latino people can be black, white, brown, and other. So, of course, some people think it’s okay that Princess Sofia looks like every other White Disney princess and pixie. Some Latinas look like that too. This is true.

But. And there is a big but in this story.

Princess Sofia, according to Disney, has a mother from a made up kingdom based on Spain. Her father is from a made-up kingdom based on Scandinavia. If a Spaniard procreates with a Swede or a Dane, for example, the resulting child is not Latina. She’s Spanish and Swedish. Racially, she’d be White. You could also call her a European. You could stretch and call her bicultural. What you could not call her, is Latina. I don’t care what she looks like.

Somebody at Disney has clearly realized their ginormous faux pas and is trying to do damage control by stating that Sofia isn’t in fact, Latina, but rather, she’s of “mixed heritage.” But they should really get a new diversity director over there because not only is ‘mixed heritage’ misleading when you’re talking about a kid with two European parents, they used the following line in their explanation of Sofia’s background.

For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain […] this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the right kind of message to all children..” 

I’m sorry, I love Spain, but ‘diversity and inclusion’ are not the words I would use to describe its culture or its people. To read more about the Disney backtrack on Sofia’s Latina heritage, check out this story on the Huffington Post.

After the great commercial success of  Disney’s first Black princess, Princess Tiana, I guess Mickey and dem decided it was time for little Latina girls to have their moment in a glass slipper. Not to mention, it was time for Disney to have a product that would entice Latina mothers to spend insane amounts of money on Princess Sofia merchandise. Just in time for the holidays. Nice try Disney, but I’d call this one an epic fail.

Suddenly, I have a new appreciation for Dora the Explorer.

Peace!

8 comments for “And Speaking of Whitewashing Latino Identity: Have You Seen Disney’s First Latina Princess?

  1. Melanie Carbine
    28 October, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I find their statement highly problematic: “All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.” They mean except of course for Pocahontas and Mulan who were real people in North America and China, never mind the way they changed those stories. And, while I would be thrilled to see a multiracial princess, they clearly didn’t mean to do that with Princess Sofia. Anyway, 1) They are not all from fantasy lands. And, 2) Can they just not imagine a fantasy land that isn’t Western European?

    I was super excited when I noticed Kristin Kreuk on the new Beauty and the Beast TV show. They didn’t highlight her multiracial identity in the story but they did cast her with an Asian mother and a white father.

    • Ms. Meltingpot
      29 October, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Melanie,
      Good points all around. I haven’t heard about the new Beauty and the Beast. What station is it on? I’ll check it out.

  2. Mi
    25 October, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I heard this story on the local news – which also included Facebook comments left by Hispanic viewers. The comments were wide-ranging.
    According to that segment, Princess Sofia, the doll, is based on Queen Sofia of Spain (who was Princess of Greece and Denmark before she married King Juan Carlos I of Spain). The doll, like the real queen, is light-eyed, light-haired and light-skinned. I don’t know if she qualifies to be a Latina. But she may qualify to be a Hispanic at least by marriage, no?

    P.S.: If you have not watched it, I highly recommend the PBS election special, Race 2012. http://video.pbs.org/video/2289501021

    • Ms. Meltingpot
      29 October, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Mi,
      Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out. And Queen Sofia may be married to a Spaniard but that doesn’t make her Spanish. If it did, than I’d be Spanish too. Ha! Imagine that.
      LT

      • Mi
        29 October, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        LT,

        “If it did, then I’d be Spanish too. Ha! Imagine that.” Yes, that is what it means. As the years pass, you are becoming more and more Spanish and your husband is becoming more and more of an American. His cultural transition will be more fluid than yours because you live in America. Remember we live in a world “Where Cultures Collide, Co-Mingle and Cozy-Up” and our culture is a big part of our identity, more than our physical appearance.

        • Ms. Meltingpot
          31 October, 2012 at 12:31 pm

          Okay, Mi. I’ll be Spanish by proxy :)

  3. Wendy
    25 October, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Diego, Dora, and Alicia are the bomb! Yeah, the shows get insipid after a bit, but We loved some Dora in my house.

    Never been a fan of Disney. My daughter has already been to Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, France, Spain, Canada and many states here at home, but we have zero plans to take her Disney World.

    • Ms. Meltingpot
      26 October, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Wendy,
      Dora’s voice used to give me a headache. Plus my boys just weren’t that into her. BUT they loved Diego for awhile. But suddenly, after this Princess Sofia nonsense, Dora is looking like the real deal. Thankfully babygirl has yet to discover the joys of television. Ya verémos!

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