“Disney is releasing a Latina princess soon, mija,” I declared to my daughter as we drove away from her school and on our way to pick up her dad. “Good!” she said firmly. But of course, I rarely let that be the end of any conversation. “Why good?” I probed.
What followed was a discussion of how we both recognized that Latinas deserve a princess that looks like them — this is despite the fact that my husband and I worked hard to minimize “the princess effect” in our home. Princesses were far from banned. Rather we opted for a different approach: we emphasize strong princesses like Leia, Wonder Woman and Xena (not a real princess, but warrior princesses counted). I also would bring up real-life princesses who did good in the world whenever I could. Oh, the way I used to bring up Princess Diana and Queen Noor! Goodness. We also discussed the strong traits of the Disney princess kingdom: Ariel was adventurous, Belle loved to read and Rapunzel knew how to wield a cast-iron skillet. As you can see, we aren’t anti-Princess, but we are anti-”I’m a pretty-princess waiting for a prince to save me.”
Then my daughter and I took a look at what Princess Sofia would look like. “Really?” was our collective response. In reality, my daughter’s reaction was said out loud as mine was kept in my head until she reacted; I try not to color my daughter’s opinion too much. But clearly Sofia was not what either of us had in mind when we thought of the “First Disney Latina Princess.” Oh, hell no.
My daughter and I are what might be deemed “stereotypically Latina looking.” We have dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin that tans beautifully in the summer. Picture America Ferrera, Selena Gomez, Frida Kahlo … that kind of Latina. In fact, some of my daughter’s friends think she looks like Selena … although they are only nine. And despite the fact that I know fair-skinned Latinas walk among us and my late-mother was very fair-skinned, I still expected “First Disney Latina Princess” to look like ME!
Of course, all of this hand wringing is borderline moot, as Disney has declared that Sofia is not actually Latina anymore. Yes, after all the low-level controversy about Sofia’s looks, Disney pulled the Latina out of her story. And there you have it: we all lose. No Latina princess for any of us light-to-olive-to-dark-complexioned Latinas.
In the end, it may be for the best. I would rather have our toddler Latinas continue to go on adventures with Dora, learn big words with WordGirl and escape to a magical land filled with dragons with Emmy and her brother Max. And that may explain another aspect to my daughter’s meh response to Disney introducing a Latina princess: Our children do not actually lack positive depictions of themselves, our culture or our language in popular culture.
Disney’s lack of inclusion of Latinas in the princess kingdom is to their detriment, not our children’s. And I’m fine with that.
Veronica Arreola is a blogger at Viva La Feminista.