Latinas on the small screen, I don’t think we have come a long way at all baby.

Charo, I don’t want to dismiss her as an actress and entertainer but in my opinion she was the worst stereotype of a Latina that I have ever seen on television.

I remember seeing her on “The Love Boat”, with her thick accent, her look of constant bewilderment, and of course the steady stream of sexual innuendo aimed at her.

Searching for this clip on YouTube, I found some of her more recent television appearances and apparently she is still in character.

America loves this kind of Latina.  In fact, how far have we really come?

Sofia Vergara’s “Gloria” character on “Modern Family” is a modern-day Charo.

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of that show, I’ve only seen a few episodes, but from what I’ve seen Sofia is keeping the Charo legacy alive, she is not bewildered though, I’ll give her that.

Women like America Ferrera appear to be breaking the mold but then again, is she playing a “Latina”?- that’s a different post.

And of course we had  “Devious Maids” — a show about Latina maids, really.

You tell me, how far have we come? Of course none of them look like me, but that is another post for another night.


Top 10 reasons why the character Kara on “Being Mary Jane” was the first and maybe the only Latina character I could relate to on television

It’s so hard to say goodbye to “Being Mary Jane”  there go my Tuesday nights, and one of the best Latina characters on television. Here are the top ten reasons why Kara was my girl and arguably the most authentic portrayal of a Latina that I’ve seen on television, ever:

  1. She told a Latino “I don’t really date Latinos” [Come on, we all know someone like this, maybe you are that someone]
  2. She turned a really hot professional baseball player down (and then got back with him)
  3. She was assertive about managing her career and she didn’t apologize for it
  4. She didn’t have to break into a “signature” Spanish phrase every time she really needed to express herself  [I really hate when they do that to us, can you say stereotype]
  5. She actually tried to balance career and family and struggled with it, because she loved both
  6. She loved her job
  7. She wasn’t waiting for Mr. Right [Like every good Latina]
  8. She never forgot her parents
  9. She wasn’t the perfect mom but she kept trying
  10. She always had Mary Jane’s back [think Thelma and Louise or Lucy and Ethel]

When silence isn’t golden

Last night, I dreamt that I was waiting on line with friends and there were three girls behind us (white girls). We all started talking to each other but one of the girls from the other group kept making horribly racist comments– something about foreigners smelling bad etc., bear with me, dream interpretation is really big in my family.

Her friends were super embarrassed by her remarks but didn’t say anything. I was becoming increasingly agitated and finally I turned to my friend and said, “let’s go”.

It’s just a dream, no big deal right, except that it got me to thinking about silence in the face of racism and prejudice. We all do it. It is so easy to point out the faults of others but so difficult to see the ugliness within our own circles.  How many of us stand up to our friends and family members when they say something that we wholeheartedly believe is wrong?

Isn’t it infinitely easier to stay quiet,  make light of the remarks, or just gently change the conversation.  I know I’ve done it. Silence is not always golden, in fact, it can be deadly, the first victim– your integrity.




Ser Mulatto . . .

En marzo, el centro de Investigación Pew publicó los resultados de una encuesta de opiniones de Afro-Latinos sobre su identidad racial, “Afro-Latinos: una identidad fuertemente arraigada entre los hispanos de Estados Unidos sin embargo, los resultados desmienten el titular:

“Cuando se le preguntó directamente sobre su raza, sólo el 18% de los Afro Latinos identificaron su raza o una de sus razas como negro”

“… dos tercios de los Latinos (67%) dicen que su antecedencia
hispana es una parte de su origen racial.”

Traduccion Continue reading →

The Mulatto Challenge

In March the Pew Research Center published the results of a survey of Afro-Latinos’ views on their racial identity, “Afro-Latino: A deeply rooted identity among U.S. Hispanics however, the results belie the headline:  

“When asked directly about their race, only 18% of Afro-Latinos identified their race or one of their races as black”

“. . . two-thirds of Latinos (67%) say their Hispanic background is a part of their racial background.”

Far from showing a deep-rooted affinity for the term “Afro-Latino” the survey findings are confusing to say the least.  The readers’ comments on the article are even more confounding, comments such as:

“This [survey] is so inaccurate. I am Venezuelan and consider myself morena or tan, and I am not Afro Latina. Misinterpreting data helps no-one.”

Translation Continue reading →

The Cuba Visit, In Context

This is not a political blog but I’m Cuban so what can I say, I woke up like this.

Political conversations are just part of your DNA when you’re Cuban – you can blame or thank Castro for that.

The Rolling Stones performed for free in Cuba last night.

Rolling Stones in Cuba

A local newscaster reported that their music and Rock & Roll in general was once “discouraged” in Cuba. The truth is that it was once banned and considered counter revolutionary, a grave if not criminal offense.

I am hopeful that Obama’s somewhat awkward but well-intentioned move towards normalizing relations with Cuba will have a positive effect, in time, but until then let’s not downplay the Cuban government’s history of and continued oppression of its people – Cubans are not free.

Obama and Raul

Real change can only happen when we challenge the real problems, that said here are a few points from Obama’s Speech that need additional context:

Read the full transcript of his speech at Voice of America News.

Obama: “. . .People in both of our countries have sung along with Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan, and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull.” (Laughter.)

Celia Cruz, Salsa Music, Afro Cuban

Not so fast: The music of Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan and several other great Cuban musicians and artists who left the island has been banned in Cuba for decades. In 2012 there were reports that the “unofficial ban” was lifted but there have been conflicting reports on this.


Obama: “Millions of our people share a common religion — a faith that I paid tribute to at the Shrine of our Lady of Charity in Miami, a peace that Cubans find in La Cachita.”


Not so fast: The communist party continues to regulate all aspects of religious life in Cuba through the Office of Religious Affairs (ORA). Any religious group that is not authorized by the ORA is subject to harassment including violence. Recent reports show that Protestant groups are experiencing more harassment of late and many are considered politically subversive.

Obama: “Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl. (Applause.)  And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive.”

Havana University

Not so fast: This article in The Atlantic gives a great explanation of a why a free education isn’t always as free as you think. Especially when limited resources mean the government has to approve every single applicant for higher education.


Obama: “I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights. (Applause.)”

Dissident Arrested

Tell me about it: A reported 304 dissidents in Cuba were arrested in the days and hours before Obama landed in Havana. Every week, the “Damas en Blanco” (Ladies in White) the wives of political prisoners are arrested for peacefully protesting. Obama’s visit did not disrupt the routine.


Obama: “We’ve played very different roles in the world. But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering.” (Applause.)

Cuban Doctors Abroad

Not so fast:  To be sure Cuban doctors have served in some of the poorest countries in the world however,  they are working under close supervision,  in dangerous neighborhoods and in cramped quarters for a mere pittance of what the Cuban government receives for their service. Some of the doctors have called it a form of modern day slavery.

Obama: “And in examining his [Nelson Mandela] life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries. And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.”

Black Cuba

Tell me about it: I’m so glad that Obama noted the need to “lift up” Black Cubans, acknowledging that the Revolution did not end racism in Cuba. It is alive and well, as this  New York Times article notes when describing the nearly “Lilly-white audience” that accompanied Obama throughout his trip, although the island is more than 50% Black.  Not to mention the real economic disparities that exist.







Obama’s Cuba Visit: Addressing the Myth of a Post-Racial Cuba

I was 16 years old when I first returned to Cuba and met my large extended family. It was exhilarating to see so many people who looked just like me and to see so many beautiful Afro Cubans everywhere.

I swear that Diahann Carroll’s twin is living in my mother’s small town of Alquizar and the unsung diva rides a bicycle to work.

Even at that young age I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomy between the racial makeup of the Cuban population on the island versus the population in the United States.

Why aren’t there more Afro Cubans in America? I asked my mother.  Continue reading →

Afro-Latinas Stand Up!!!!!

Afro-Dominican photographer Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, aka The Earth Warrior is creating a book of 100 portraits of Afro-Latinas in New York City.

Each portrait included in the final series will be paired with a brief write-up that delves into that woman’s black identity, Afrocentric traditions and hopes for future generations of Afro-Latinas.

The open call runs through March 31. If you are interested you should send the following information to

  • 1-3 photos of yourself
  • Neighborhood & Borough (i.e. Inwood, Manhattan,)
  • 3-5 sentences on how you identify

To find out more about the artist and the series go to the