Hollywood Goes Bananas for Stereotypes
We despised the Hollywood conception of Latin womanhood that since the 1940s haunted, maraca in hand, the days of our lives. We fought against the turbans decorated with tropical fruit and the platform shoes and the clownish smile and the extra thick accent and the swaying hips and the rapid-fire, unintelligible speech.
We believed it was our sacred mission to present a new Latina image where sexy-sultry-exotic singing and dancing spitfires, hot tamales and firecrackers were never ever seen nor heard. We tried and on many occasions succeeded on the stage or on the pages of a book to bring to life real, fascinating Latinas. But on the movie screens, with very few exceptions – actually only one comes to mind immediately, so let’s hear it for HBO and Josefina López’s “Real Women Have Curves” – the ghost keeps winning.
Since I wrote my first play, “Beautiful Señoritas,” more than 30 years ago, I’ve been approached by movie and TV people on several occasions and even received money for rights, but nothing ever came of it because I was unwilling to change characters and plot to fit a pre-determined idea of what Latinas are supposed to be.
You’d think that we’d have come a long way, baby, and that this wrangling doesn’t happen anymore. Think again.