Monday, September 1, 2014

Why Caliente just isn't enough

This week on the Today Show, they have a special segment called "VivaToday" where they feature Latino culture, food, and music. The segment is in partnership with Telemundo (who is also owned by NBC).

This morning when they were introducing the segment and one of Telemundo's most famous anchors, Maria Celeste, one of the Today Show anchors Natalie Morales introduced Maria Celeste as another "caliente Puertoriquena" since she herself is also Puerto Rican (and Brazilian). Throughout the introduction, she managed to called Maria Celeste "caliente" several times, yet made no mention of her work as a journalist, host, and actress. All this after the Emmy's put Sofia Vergara on a pedestal and spun her around while the crowd applauded her body (also on NBC).

The show then proceeded to show a story about how Latinos will soon make up the largest ethnic group in the US while faces of dark haired and dark eyed people ran across the screen. There were no dark skinned Latinos shown and there were absolutely no light-featured Latinos shown.

The whole thing felt like propaganda to me. It felt like "Look at us, we are going to acknowledge Hispanics...but in the safest way possible." By turning Maria Celeste into just a "caliente Latina" and showing faces on the screen of only the people who you'd "assume" were Latino, people aren't forced to think beyond the stereotypes they already have.

And for those of us watching thinking "where am I on that screen?", what message is that sending us? What message does that send my light skinned, green-eyed daughter who looked nothing like the people shown on the screen? What does it tell her about her dark skinned father?

And for those of us who don't look like Sofia Vergara or Maria Celeste, what message does this send us? That we aren't important because as Latinas, all we can hope to achieve is "hotness"? And if you are good looking, all that is important, despite a long career as a journalist/host, is that you are caliente?

As a Latina mother, I want my daughter to know her accomplishments are important. I want her to be able to celebrate both her heritage and her accomplishments rather than having to choose one or the other. I want her to be able to identify with the people in the media and feel like she has role models who came from where she's come from. In the "changing face of America", to use the Today Show's words, I want her to see herself.

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