Most, if not all, Latina women I have seen on the big screen in Hollywood are depicted as the “spicy Latina” character. The spicy Latina is a sexy woman who is passionate, outgoing, and hot-tempered, with no filter. As a Latin woman, I can assure you that the spicy Latina trope is an inaccurate representation of Latin women. Not all Latinas share or have the characteristics of a “spicy Latina.” Some Latinas are introverted, shy, and reserved. Many Latinas do not fit into the stereotypes set by the media and Hollywood.
Actor Sofia Vergara’s character in Modern Family is one of the many inaccurate representations of Latin women. Her character, Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, is a beautiful Latin trophy wife that is loud-mouthed, aggressive, and outgoing. She is often dressed in skin-tight dresses, skinny jeans, low-cut blouses, and heels. She is tall and curvy with long brunette hair and olive-tan skin. It seems like the primary purpose of her character on the show is for comedic relief and sex appeal. Even when an episode is focused on her, she is reduced to her poor background and how she needed to be rescued by the white man.
Another facet of the “spicy Latina” is the strong, opinionated, tells-it-like-it-is, short-tempered character—Letty Ortiz from the Fast and the Furious franchise, played by Michelle Rodriguez. Letty is yet another feisty Latina character. She plays the tough woman with a tomboy attitude who is not afraid of getting into trouble. Her character is passionate about love and violence, and her short-tempered attitude can become destructive. Even when she plays as a violent, dangerous character, she is sexualized and turned into a seductive and thrill-seeking fantasy.
Gloria and Letty’s characters display apparent stereotypes of Latin women that are harmful to Latinas. Roles like these in Hollywood have cemented previous perceptions the media and people have about Latinas. Even when Latinas characters are represented on the big screen, their characters are reduced to being the lead character’s sidekick, accessory, comedic relief, or sex appeal. Gloria is the Colombian trophy wife rescued by her rich white husband from her humble life as a divorced single mother. Letty is the girlfriend of the lead character Dominic Toretto. I learned that any facet of the spicy Latina will always be hyper-sexualized, passionate in war and love, or loud and obnoxious.
I recently watched On My Block: Freeridge on Netflix. It is about a group of teenage friends that are cursed by a box and are trying to find a way to get rid of the curse. I found the show hard to watch at times because two of the main characters, sisters Gloria and Ines, although minors, still represent the spicy Latina trope. I appreciate how both of the actors cast in the show look different from what we expect the spicy Latina to look like. Still, Gloria is the short-tempered sister with anger problems who results in violence or having people “have it,” and Ines is the obnoxious, unintelligent, pretty sister. It seems like Hollywood is doing a better job of representing Latinas because they are casting actors that look different. But in reality, the spicy Latina characteristics are the same ones that have been used over and over again.
These stereotypes are problematic because introverted for Latinas like myself because we are assumed to be outgoing, loud, and feisty. From my experience of being stereotyped as a spicy Latina, I am supposed to be short-tempered. I had a coworker who was shocked that I was a “laid-back” and “chill” person. My coworker once told me, “I want to see what you are like when you’re mad.” I was bothered by his comment because he expected me to act as he saw in the media. I didn’t bother to correct him but thinking about it now, I wish I had said something.
The stereotypes are not only harmful to me, but they are dangerous to many Latinas that don’t identify themselves with them. Not all of us are sexy, seductive, passionate Latinas. Not all of us are thrill-seeking, dangerous, no filtered Latinas. Not all of us are hot-tempered, loud, and obnoxious Latinas. Latinas can be shy, reserved, and introverted. We come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. Even now, I only represent a small part of Latinas because we are so diverse.