On Alt.Latino, we pride ourselves on being a Latin culture show with a strong musical focus. While we always listen to amazing songs, we also like to delve into a wide range of topics that affect Latinos, from the Caribbean diaspora to immigration to race relations within our communities.
This week, we decided to take the discussion a step further, so we've invited two of our favorite Latin bloggers to join us and discuss the news stories they've been following closely in the last month. Julio Ricardo Varela is the founder of the blog Latino Rebels, and Marisa Treviño is the publisher of Latina Lista. So, while we include great music from the likes of Cafe Tacvba, Ruben Blades and Los Tigres del Norte, this time the weight of the show is on conversation. If talk isn't your thing, please make sure to check out some of our past shows.
We begin the conversation by talking about an upcoming television show on the Lifetime network — created by Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives) and executive produced by Eva Longoria — which features five main characters, all Latinas. So, what's not to love? Well, many in the Latino community take issue with the fact that the show Devious Maids is all about, you guessed it, sultry Latina maids.
In an op-ed, Michelle Herrera-Mulligan, editor-in-chief of Cosmo for Latinas, writes that the show "does a tremendous disservice to the 20 million-plus Latina female population living in the United States" and called it "a wasted opportunity." Huffington Post writer Tanisha L. Ramirez was less gentle:
The minute-long trailer manages to efficiently portray Latinas as hypersexual, nosy, scheming and, at times, totally invisible domestic servants, one set of pushed-up breasts, devilishly squinted eyes and sassy hair flip at a time ... This formula, the network promises, will paint class warfare as both fun and dirty! Because, you know, class warfare has always been so very boring. Thanks, Lifetime!
The only way to break a stereotype is to not ignore it. The stereotype we are grappling with here is that, as Latinas, all we are is maids. And yet this is a show that deconstructs the stereotype by showing us that maids are so much more.
Are Latinas teachers and doctors and lawyers in America today? Yes. Should their stories be told, as well? Absolutely. But this show is called Devious Maids, not Latinas in America. Isn't it shortsighted to say we can only tell the stories of what others deem successful? Isn't it shortsighted to think that success is only measured in social status, monetary gain or job position? Are we saying maids are not successful because we perceive them to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale? What about the maid who raised a doctor or the maid who raised the mayor of San Antonio? Isn't that success by definition? However you define it, domestic workers are an integral part of the American fabric. They raise our children, they clean our homes, they wash our dirty laundry and contribute to the world around us.
Our team had varying opinions on the matter. One question that was brought up: Have you seen Spanish-language television? Given that it's guilty of far more offensive portrayals, should we really be pointing our fingers at English-language media?
What do you think about the concept of Devious Maids? Will you tune in? Does a show like this really affect how Latinas are perceived? And is it "elitist" to take issue with the fact that this is a show about Latina maids?
We move on to a more serious topic: For some time now, Latina Lista has been reporting on the phenomenon of undocumented minors entering the U.S. alone. It's an issue that hasn't received much media attention, yet as Central American violence escalates, the number of unaccompanied youths crossing into the U.S. has tripled since 2008, leading Texas Gov. Rick Perry to call the situation a "humanitarian crisis." Treviño talks to us about her research and the struggles these minors face, both on their way into the U.S. and once they get here.
We close the discussion with a cold, controversial can of beer. Coors, which sponsors the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, got in trouble when it created a beer can featuring the Puerto Rican flag in the shape of an apple. Various members of the Puerto Rican community cried foul. In an interview with DNA Info, Vincent Torres of the group Boricuas for a Positive Image said, "It's a total disrespect to the Puerto Rican flag ... the parade is turning into one big commercial where the Puerto Rican people are being pimped." Many found it particularly tasteless in light of the fact that this year's parade features a theme of healthy living; among Hispanics, Puerto Ricans have one of the highest rates of alcoholism and diabetes.
The controversy escalated far enough for Coors to pull the cans and issue this apology: "MillerCoors has a strong history of supporting the U.S. Latino community ... Our intent in sponsoring the Puerto Rican Day Parade is to highlight the the cultural strength and vibrancy of the Puerto Rican community ... We apologize if the graphics in our promotional packaging inadvertently offended you or any other members of the Puerto Rican community." It may have been too little, too late: A few days ago, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman initiated an investigation into the nature of the relationship between the beer company and the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Coors has gone to great lengths to try and mend a traditionally tumultuous relationship with Hispanics, but this is not the first time it's been in trouble with the Puerto Rican community. In this case, it's an issue of personal responsibility: According to New York City council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, this was both Coors' doing and "poor judgment" on the part of the parade's board. "They (the board) need to exercise leadership — to be clear that our flag, our most sacred symbol, should not be commercialized and equated to a can of beer."
We've got a show packed with great music and conversation. As always, but especially as we introduce what we hope will be a monthly segment, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.