On last night’s episode of Superstore, “Local Vendors Day,” there is a side story with America Ferrera’s character Amy, that I think a lot of us Latinx millennials can relate to. She was judged not only by her coworkers but also by her new Latino boyfriend, for not being “Latina enough.” It’s a sentiment that many of us face, including celebrities who have heroically clapped back to anyone who has said that they are not Latina enough. And as someone who has been previously called a half-Latina (seriously, WTF is that?), I can absolutely relate.
Here’s how it all first went down on Superstore: Amy’s boyfriend jokes about “taking away her Latino card” because she isn’t sure where burritos come from. Feeling a bit insecure, she goes to her coworkers and asks them to name her as “the blank one.” They call her names such as bossy and the older one, but when she says that she is “the Latina one,” they’re kinda like… meh. In fact, they basically tell her that she’s not. As a Latina who has been told many times in her life that she’s not “Latina enough,” this hit home and made me really angry.
Amy’s coworkers go on to say that she’s not Latina because she doesn’t even like spicy food and she’s not a good dancer. That’s right, basically some of the biggest stereotypes surrounding Latinos are why other Superstore employees think that Amy isn’t a good Latina. And you know what’s even worse? It’s the same stereotypes that all of us face, and the show does nothing to point out how silly they are.
The least I would have expected is for the show to at least attempt to contradict the whole “spicy food” stereotype, which is one that drives me personally crazy since I am Cuban and none of our food can be described as spicy. Flavorful and full of spices, yes, but never actually spicy. There’s a big difference. And as for the dancing? My dance-hating little brother would probably tell them to F off.
The worst of it, however, (and yes, it does get worse) comes later in the episode when Amy tries to defend herself to her boyfriend once more, by speaking some broken Spanish and what can kindly be described as some weird form of Spanglish. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, launches into a quickly-paced Spanish with a Dominican accent (according to Amy) that she cannot understand.
While it’s supposed to be funny that she agrees to whatever he says, this whole scene and Amy subsequently stressing to her coworkers that her boyfriend now thinks that she speaks Spanish, is offensive. This perpetuates the hurt that many Latina-Americans feel whenever someone questions their Latinidad by asking them if they speak Spanish, as if knowing a second language is the only way to identify yourself as being a part of a culture.
Let me tell you, none of my German-American, Filipino-American, or Russian-American friends ever face this stereotype. Nobody ever looks at my husband, who is of German and Polish descent, and says that he is neither of those things because he doesn’t speak the languages. But you know what Latinos who don’t speak Spanish face? They face this every. damn. day. from both Americans and Latinx friends alike.
It’s a stereotype that is perpetuated in American and Latino culture. If your American friends find out that you don’t speak Spanish, they tell you that you’re a “bad Latina.” If your Latino friends find out that you don’t speak Spanish, then they say that they will take away your “Latina card,” just as Amy’s boyfriend did on Superstore.
And this bullshit makes me roll my eyes HARD.
Whether or not you speak Spanish or look a certain way shouldn’t determine your Latinidad. Not knowing where burritos come from or liking spicy food doesn’t mean that someone is or is not Latino. I know plenty of Americans who know where burritos come from, love spicy food, and speak Spanish, for that matter. You know what does determine if you’re Latinx? You.
Only you can tell someone else if you are Latina, Latinx, Latino, whatever you want to call it. One of the things I truly love about our culture is the fact that we are all so different. There are many things that are different between the Cuban culture I grew up with and the Mexican or Brazilian or Salvadorean culture of my friends. But we have many similarities, too, and that’s what we should be celebrating.
No matter what you look like, no matter what language you speak (or don’t speak), no matter what food you enjoy, or how good you are at dancing, or whether you have naturally curly hair or a big booty, nobody can take away your damn Latina card. And no television show should be able to make us feel bad because we’re “less than” other Latinos. We’re not.
I, for one, am going to continue to celebrate my Latinidad in every way that I can. And I won’t let anyone try to shame me or tell me any different. I sincerely hope that America Ferrera’s character will eventually learn this lesson, too.