By Sally Mercedes & Sugey Palomares
By now, you have probably heard everyone buzzing about Sofia Vergara on the April cover for Esquire’s sex issue. We opened up the glossy magazine, featuring the Colombian actress in a black lace corset with the words SEX sprawled across her hips, and discovered that the cover story has an interesting angle to it: a white man defining what it means to be Latina.
The venomous backwards narrative weaves in so many stereotypes about Latinas that we are instantly propelled to the Carmen Miranda ‘cha cha’ days. Writer Cal Fussman offers a mainstream guide of the “incomprehensible ways of the Latin woman.” What makes him a bona fide expert? He’s married to a Brazilian. Somehow we don’t think that’s an excuse to be machista.
Here’s a breakdown of the Latino stereotypes in Esquire’s Sofia Vergara cover story:
Latinas are domestic. Fussman seems obsessed with Latinas' domestic habits, especially cooking. Sofia Vergara calls him out on it at one point, wondering if he thought he was getting a maid when he married his wife. He says he wasn't, but when his idea of a Latina is "great food and amazing sex," we wonder.
Latinas are superstitious. This one comes out of nowhere, sandwiched between beauty standards and Latinas' inability to make concrete plans. We didn't realize Latinos were the only culture that had superstitions and old wives' tales, but apparently so!
Latin men are cheaters. If Fussman's wife thinks Latin men are cheaters, then they must be, right? We're not sure if the implication is that American men are pushovers or if Vergara really believes Latinos have a "genetic disposition," but it's bad either way.
Latinas are controlling. Apparently, when a Latina mother fusses over her son, she just wants to control his life. Nevermind that it’s just advice and he knows (as much as she does) that he can make his own decisions.
Latinas love to dress sexy. The mainstream portrayal of the sexed-up Latina has been around since even before Charo’s “cuchi-cuchi” image back in the 70s. Sadly, it is still a prominent depiction of Latinas in primetime and Hollywood, but we know that not ALL Latinas love to dress sexy. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t born with a tight mini-dress and heels.
Latinas are loud. Okay, just like any other human being, doesn’t this depend on the setting? Nope, apparently we have a loud switch that’s just always on. What’s loud and clear is that this stereotype is already played out.
Latinas are jealous. Well in his exact words, “fiercely territorial.” Remind us when we became possessive telenovela caricatures? Sure, it makes for good entertainment, but we don’t all have our jealousy meters set on high. Vergara even challenges him by saying, “Things have changed. Women now work. Women feel like they don’t have to take that s*&t anymore.” Our point exactly!
Latinas love to dance. The transition literally goes from talking about jealousy to hitting the dance floor! Sigh. Vergara says, “You go to a Latin party or birthday and there’s always dancing.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean we only date partners who know how to salsa.
It’s not that there’s no truth in some of the things Vergara says in the interview – certainly, they at least seem to be true for her. The problem is that pretending this is some sort of blueprint for how all Latinas are, and how American men can exploit that knowledge to get the Sofia Vergara of their dreams, is both ridiculous and offensive.
Latinas have worked hard over the years to be more than the sexpot and the maid. It’s sad, then, that Cal Fussman seems insistent on perpetuating those stereotypes.