We are deep in Disneyland on a family vacation, tired but happy. The girls have been enjoying the music, make-believe, and spectacle that is this childhood fantasyland. I am happy to report from the glittery trenches that there is plenty of Spanish to be heard on main street, churros in every land, and a pretty decent Mexican restaurant in the park as well. Looking around at the staff that works here in the Happiest Place on Earth, I see many Latinas and Latinos. There are plenty of Latino families at the park along with us. But there’s still something missing…
Donde estamos, Disney? I’ve been keeping mis ojos pelados for representations of our cultura, and aside from those previous mentions, there are surprisingly few. The only Disney characters I have discovered that are Latino/a are Jose, un perico, in the Tiki Room (although he mentions a Rosita, she seems to have flown the coop) and Ramone from Cars. I remember there being a few other bird characters in old Disney films, like the Three Caballeros, but no major stars, human, or otherwise. Admittedly, there are more problems with Disney than this, but I am willing to ignore my other concerns for a few days of fun-filled whimsy. Even this lack of representation isn’t enough to keep me from appreciating the spectacle and magic offered here, but it would be nice if we were included a bit more prominently, particularly here in Anaheim, California, where so many Latino families reside. Disney has chosen Native American, Asian, and African-American heroes/heroines…when do we get a turn?
Well, in case that the imagineers need some ideas, here are some potential characters that could star in their own Disney movie. I would definitely pay to see any of these stories get the Disney treatment:
Lucia Centeno: In The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, Lucia is a magical woman, mistreated by villagers who do not understand her. She embodies forgiveness, power, and wisdom. There is no princess in this story, but as the title suggests, this character is far more poderosa than a princess.
Francisco Jimenez: In his trilogy of books, beginning with The Circuit, Jimenez tells the story of his life as a migrant child. Despite incredible odds, he reaches his dreams through education, familia, and hard work. Any dignified depiction of migrant workers in a Disney film would be amazing and affirming for so many!
Marisol McDonald: This girl is Peruvian-Scottish-American and resists everyone’s attempts to put her into a “box” in Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. Marisol is a perfect candidate for a female lead, with tenacity and strength she can overcome any obstacle.
Xochitl: Far away from her home of El Salvador, Xochitl and her family grow flowers and a community when they begin a nursery in their new home. The imagery from this book is already fantastic and whimsical.
La Llorona: While she is often depicted as a villain, it need not be so. La Llorona can be a magical and powerful ghost. Or she could be a villian! Some of Disney’s most memorable character’s are villains!
Ellen Ochoa: The first Latina in space would make an amazing adventure story! She literally worked in outer space! It doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Disney already has Cars, I think they could go into outer space next, and Ellen could be their fearless leader!
Okay…so those might not be your typical Disney characters, but they could be a step in the right direction. I have spent decades entranced by the magic of Disney and trust that if they put their many creative minds to the task, Disney would be able to create a masterpiece which celebrates the tenacity and beauty of our heritage. I’d love to hear other ideas for Latino/a characters and stories. You never know, maybe there is an imagineer in our midst!
Great points. I hope you send this to Disney’s corporate headquarter and maybe get an answer. They got Handy Many on the Disney Channel, which I always had a problem with. Nickelodeon has Dora and Diego, both of which I like. But yes come to think of it, where are the Latinos Disney?
I thank you for this. My little son and stepkids are Latinos, but I am not a Latina, and my husband only became a Latino recently (before that, in Mexico, he was just a regular guy). So it’s especially great to hear your opinion! I’m taking this as a shopping list for books that my son and I can read together. I have La mujer que brillaba aun mas que el sol, but did not know about the other books you mention.
Hopefully Disney will catch on at some point, but you know what, I really believe if they don’t they’ll simply become irrelevant and somebody WILL put out the content people would like to see! Disney is selling a product. Even Wonder bread came out with different flavors. Personally, we went to DisneyWorld once and don’t need to go again for a long time. We cancelled cable tv and the kids don’t even miss it. They tend to watch PBS in the mornings and the rest of the time have Netflix, Hulu & Youtube. They enjoy shows like Pocoyo and naturally choose them. My daughter is grown and got her own place over a year ago, has neither a tv nor a radio, and a lot of her friends don’t have them either. This is becoming normal.
Wonderful points! I would also add the wonderful (based on true story) legend of “La China Poblana” from Mexico. En hora buena! Your daughter is a sweetheart! Great pic.
Tell me about it. In my case the issue is two-fold as my kids are Black and Latinos! Besides the recent Disney pictures with Black characters, not a lot my kids can identify with.
Love this post! I’ve been complaining to anyone who’ll listen for years about Disney’s lack of Latino characters. I’ve been desperate for a Latina heroine portrayed on the big screen ever since my daughter was born. I have a list of characters, too.
The book, Fiesta Femenina, has a great list of Mexican women in folktale, each strong her own unique way.
But I think the story of “The Little Horse of Seven Colors” would make the most remarkable Disney story. F. Isabel Campoy has the best version of this story in the book, Tales Our Abuelitas Told, which she co-authored with Alma Flor Ada.
Come on, Disney, I’m happy to talk with you!
I completely agree, however, La llorona in Mexico is a legend of a woman longing for the kids she drowned in the river. I don’t know how well that would go
Let’s all write to Disney! One voice speaks for many.
Do us all a favor and BOYCOTT DISNEY. For the very reasons you mentioned (lack of Latino presence), not to mention the terrible racial and gender stereotypes in their films as well as they targeted psuedo-brainwashing of America’s youth ( getting into bed with McDonald’s and other fast-food establishments for Happy Meal toy tie-in’s, strategic re-release of the aforementioned movies every 7-10 years), and their extremely far-right conservative political support. I’m actually shocked how many SpanglishBaby contributors expose their children to such a negative company, its products, and characters.