Then, we have the Latina maid. Actress Eva Longoria is producing a series called “Devious Maids,” about four Latina employees that serve rich families in Beverly Hills. Critical voices on the Internet say that these kinds of roles are typecasting Latinas as domestic servants. According to Longoria, that role is a reality. So, why not listen to their stories?
Well, we could ask Lupe Ontiveros, who´s played the role of the maid … over 150 times! She confesses she´d love to play a judge or a lesbian, but Hollywood doesn´t let her do it.
This reminds me that Spanish actors often complain that in the U.S. they only get cast as “Latinos.” Which is funny because, although this sounds politically incorrect, Spaniards living in Spain don´t feel “Latino.”
In the last 15 or 20 years, millions of Latin Americans have migrated to Spain in search of work and quality of life. In 2010, 30% of the nearly 5 million immigrants came from South America, especially Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Now, many are leaving Spain because of the disastrous economy.
You would think that, by now, Spaniards and Latin Americans in Spain would have become friends, right? Well, they haven’t.
Spaniards and Latinos don´t mix. There is a lot of prejudice and racism in Spain, where Latinos are often referred to as “sudacas” or, even more offensively, “panchitos.” We listen to different music, watch different movies, eat different things. Yes, Latino restaurants are everywhere and there are almost entirely Latino neighborhoods, but they are “for them,” not “for us.”
We appreciate that they clean our houses (Oops, here comes the stereotype again!) and take care of our elders. But that´s it. In my opinion, the prejudice is mutual (Spain is that arrogant nation that devastated their cultures centuries ago) and neither party takes the trouble to get to know the other.
I speak from experience, because Jenny, my sister-in-law, is Peruvian. Therefore, my two nieces, whom I adore, have Latin roots. Jenny´s mother, sisters and cousins also live in Madrid. Her family and mine get along, but we live in different worlds. Our cultures, social background and even food are not the same.
When I was living in London, they considered me “Latina.”
British lump together paella and dancing salsa. My U.K. friends were amazed when I revealed that in Spain salsa is not a popular dance. Salsa is for South Americans! “But it’s the same thing, right? You both speak Spanish!” they would retort.
No. It´s not the same, just as a farmer from Wisconsin and a professor from Oxford are not the same.
In any case, I think it’s a shame that prejudice on both sides has prevented us from joining forces.
Since I began writing for Voxxi I´ve discovered some great Latinas. Neither sex bombs nor maids. Strong, inspiring, entrepreneurs, beautiful women with boundless energy. For instance, Mariela Dabbah, author of ‘Poder de Mujer’, who encourages us to join her Red Shoes movement. Or Sharon Koenig, who wrote Los ciclos del alma to help us live our true purpose.
For me, getting to know these fabulous Latinas has been a revelation. I still find it difficult to define myself as “Latina” because my background is European, although I speak Spanish. When I share a post on Facebook which I wrote for VOXXI, my Spanish friends skip it because they aren´t used to reading in English. And most of my English-speaking friends are Londoners who are not interested in Latino issues. So, where do I stand in terms of defining myself one way or another?
I have discovered that there is something much more powerful than labels: the power of women. Latina, Hispanic, Spanish… Who cares, as long as we’re fabulous?