Thought Catalog

Overcoming The Hispanic Stereotype

  • 0

I am a Hispanic college student and naturally that means that I must have lived a difficult life to get here. My mom must have debuted on Dr. Phil (or some other drama-filled daytime talk show) screaming at her “baby daddy” for child support. I’m Hispanic so I must be an illegal immigrant from Cuba or Mexico. I’m Puerto Rican so I must have friends in a gang. I’m Hispanic so when there’s an increase in poverty, crime, and teen pregnancies, I must have something to do with it. And of course, when applying to a scholarship for being Hispanic, the essay topic would be to write about the challenges in my life and how I overcame them, because you know, I am Hispanic and therefore my life has to be complicated. I must have had a set of obstacles that others don’t and risen above. Right?

Wrong. And yet, as a person of Hispanic heritage, all of the above are stereotypes that I have to deal with on a daily basis. At school, I am a minority within a minority. In high school, walking around the halls, so many of the students acted as our ethnic group is portrayed in mass media. They very well may be part of the troublemakers, the loud ones, the uneducated ones, the ones wearing clothes two sizes too small — the stereotypical Hispanic — and we get the labels that come with it. But really, that’s how most of the school acted, so why is it that my ethnicity is the one targeted and blamed for this behavior? Everyone seems blissfully unaware that our generation is the one who could shape the image of our minority. Of course there are people who look like me that fulfill these traits, but these characteristics exist in all races. It is not centered on one demographic.

I didn’t grow up in a broken home, a poor home, or an uneducated home. My childhood is filled with pleasant memories because my parents wanted better for me. They wanted more from me than to be that stereotypical “chonga” that got very little out of life. I am an honors student and I graduated at the top of my high school class. I took AP courses, I was Vice President of the BETA club and a member of the National Honor Society. I attend a good university and am in the honors program. I play the violin and am an active member of the community through Girl Scouts. I did everything right, the good way, the “normal” way. So why is it that in all of my accomplishments, I only ever get the question “How did you face cultural challenges to get to where you are today?” Why does the fact that I am Hispanic mean I’m not a normal candidate to be successful?

If I have overcome anything in life brought on by my culture, it would be the stereotypes waiting for me to prove I am a failure. When taking standardized tests where we have to fill in our racial group, why is it that they take the scores and categorize the means by ethnicity? And why are Hispanics always one of the lowest? Perhaps it’s because of the stereotypes we carry every day, that live within us. We all know that people expect us Hispanics to be poorly educated, so there are many who just live up to that standard — expect nothing, they give nothing. Well, that standard is not enough for me. I work at raising the standards for my minority everyday. I maintain my grades so when I graduate and become successful in life, I can say “I proved you wrong.”

I can only speak for one group, and maybe all of us don’t even face these challenges, maybe it’s where I am, who I’m with. You could very well ask the same question to Native Americans, Indians, Asians, Europeans, Africans, and everyone else we see every day. What do they live with? But for me, for today, I see the stereotype I am forced to carry — that we are forced to carry. This is my challenge and how I overcome it. This is what I am doing instead of following the ugly stereotype, instead of dressing like Chiquita Banana and practicing carrying a basket over my head. TC mark

 

image – Kenneth Lu
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  • Montes

    As a Latina I really hated this Thought.

    • Julia Velasquez

      ugh, seriously. also a latina, and “I did everything right, the good way, the “normal” way.” disgusted me. the “good” way? that is so sad.
      “We all know that people expect us Hispanics to be poorly educated, so there are many who just live up to that standard — expect nothing, they give nothing.”
      I have no words for this part. You don’t deserve to identify with the culture you so obviously wish you were not genetically involved with.

      • Anel

        I am offended too. Also a Latina, and first of all I take offense with the word “hispanic” but that in itself is a another issue. What is the normal way? You do have cultural obstacles to face, believe it or not. This read like a primitive, “woe is me” article… a la Richard Rodriguez.

      • Montes

        Basically, she was saying that because she was raised so privileged she doesn’t identify with being “Hispanic”.
        “I didn’t grow up in a broken home, a poor home, or an uneducated home.”—That does not make you Hispanic, child. Everything Analda used to describe a “Hispanic” does NOT describe being Hispanic AT ALL.

      • http://twitter.com/gooodthings Anel B (@gooodthings)

        I know what she means by “normal” but “normal” is subjective. If we’re going to talk about what is “typical” of Latinos and how they grow up, then this article did a really great job of generalizing what it’s like to grow up Latina.

    • Reni

      agreed. I think I understand the gist of her argument–she wants to set an example away from a problematic stereotype–but the articulation of this concept was rather simplistic. however, i think being part of a minority group *does* present challenges. although not everyone experiences them in the same way, there are biases in American society towards (the) “other” groups that makes being Latina/Hispanic/Chicana more difficult. i would recommend these documentaries that shed light on some of these issues: first, the story of Gregory Williams, a law professor who encountered discrimination later in life when he realized he had African-American ancestry: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/03/133467029/Living-In-The-Shadow-Of-Family-Secrets and likewise, this PBS documentary that traces the social construction of race in the United States: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/03/133467029/Living-In-The-Shadow-Of-Family-Secrets

      • Jonathan Dominguez

        You guys aren’t paying attention. She isn’t saying that she doesn’t identify with hispanic, she says that’s she doesn’t identify with the negative stereotypes that come with being hispanic in America. Media portrays hispanics in a negative light forming stereotypes, but the thing about stereotypes is that they are actually true for the majority.

    • clare

      Agreed.

    • Al

      Seriously, the author might as well be a caucasian writing about the hispani people she went to school with!

    • http://gravatar.com/howlingvenus howlingvenus

      This is the most crazy racist, ignorant thing I’ve seen in a while. Maybe it’s because I’m from Miami, where there are so many Cubans that we’re not a minority, not “hispanic;” we’re just PEOPLE. I hate it when someone looks at the world through the lens of ethnicity, even when trying to disprove some sort of perceived stereotype.

      And why are you applying for a Hispanic scholarship anyway? So much for fighting stereotypes. You just fed right into one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/breanna.robles.3 Breanna Robles

    Thank you for this, thank you for putting this into words. I know exactly what you mean.

  • Jesse

    This is the most contradicting and offensive article I’ve ever read. Wow.

    • Ashley Pela

      yes^

    • Molly

      contradicting and offensive sums it up quite well. apparently being vp of beta doesn’t make you smart. who’d a thunk it.

  • Jesse

    I play the violin. Jaja!

  • helena

    Chiquita Banana? Really?

  • shmemifly

    A piece about how the challenges one has to overcome as a hispanic woman are the expectation that as a hispanic woman one has to overcome challenges. Meta.

    • interneter

      woah man that was meta as fuck

  • David

    I’m not entirely sure what you have to complain about it. I have several Hispanic friends who received enormous scholarships to Ivy League universities…because they are Hispanic and have done “everything right, the good way,” as you say. Caucasian people with the same qualifications do not receive such assistance in today’s world. If anything, you should be grateful for the upbringing and opportunities you had, regardless of your ethnicity.

  • Sage

    this seemed truncated

  • Robert Wohner

    As a black person, I can imagine myself writing something similar to this a few years back. It can be frustrating being lumped in with people that don’t share your values about education or morals or whatever, regardless of whether they share your ethnicity of not. But I hope that in time you learn to embrace being the legacy of your family and others; all those who paved the way for the success you worked to achieve. You never have to prove yourself to be more than Hispanic, because that alone is a special thing.

  • Lucina

    I completely understand where you’re coming from yet I believe you could have phrased the entire article better. (I also agree that the article seemed truncated). However, I am also a Hispanic young woman (or Latina, whatever floats your boat) who goes to a prestigious university after having succeeded fairly well in high school so I know where you’re coming from. I do agree that the media has portrayed the Hispanic/Latino culture in a negative light. But it’s not about being raised the “right” way. It’s about being blessed with parents and a positive surrounding. I have struggled with being the only Hispanic among my friends because yes, I do have a slightly different background but that doesn’t make me any different from them. What really needs to happen is that we embrace our ethnicity and we better the circumstances for those high schoolers we didn’t identify with in order for the minority we belong to becomes better as a whole.

    • http://gravatar.com/ellapalooza Ella

      This. You said what I was going for, only much more succinctly.

  • ellapalooza

    When I was applying to college, I received a huge scholarship from a school in conjunction with the National Hispanic Society, a scholarship I never applied for, because I was in the minority as a Latina, and I was smart. Apparently, the university didn’t seem to think the two coincided, and applauded me for it. I felt a little confused, and like a fraud, because I hadn’t put effort into good grades to break some sort of cultural normative, but just because I was a student who wanted good grades. My teachers didn’t see my father’s immigrant status as a reason to give me As. Accepting a scholarship awarded to me as if I’d just overcome some great adversity made me feel as if I was rejecting my father’s culture, or somehow saying that in spite of my heritage, I’d risen above the fate of having four kids by the time I was 20 and cleaning somebody’s house for a living. (And guess what? My job involves making my boss’ bed and doing their laundry. I’m okay with this.)

    While I see what point you’re trying to make, I don’t think it’s constructive to claim victim against all the stereotypes that “everyone else” is seemingly giving into. Nor do I think it’s fair to point fingers at society for pigeonholing Latinos into a box, because society pigeonholes everyone into boxes at one point or another. “These characteristics exist in all races. It is not centered on one demographic” holds true for every stereotype ever given onto any one group of people, racial or otherwise. Sometimes a stereotype can be a great strength, and sometimes, it just doesn’t freaking matter. You know who you are. You can ignore the people who are stupid enough to believe that one apple is indicative of the whole bunch. And you can remember your roots, and know that being Latina is so much more than dark lip liner and being “ehstupid” and everything else the world flings at you. There is no challenge to overcome unless you yourself buy into it.

    • CN

      Agree! I also liked your line. “There is no challenge to overcome unless you yourself buy into it”. It is so true.

  • Kim

    This is so poorly written. It’s like reading a teenager’s diary entry o_O

  • CN

    I don’t think I love this article – but I can understand what you mean. I’m Hispanic, live in Philadelphia and went to a pretty decent high school in the Northeast. I mean my family went through some struggles since they were immigrants but for the most part I consider myself pretty lucky, my two brothers and I went to Penn State and we’re all pretty educated. Though, for some reason when I was younger I always felt like I had to prove to people that I wasn’t a “ghetto” Hispanic person. I know that’s a horrible thing to feel, but I’ve always felt judged like their parents automatically assumed my family was trash or something. Or even times where people would be surprised I listened to rock/country whatever and they’d say things like “oh wow, I thought you’d listen to rap or something”. Or people would say “she’s not your stereotypical spanish person” and I somehow developed this feeling that everyone I met was judging me- and at the time I think people actually were. I was much younger then so that’s kind of understandable – but it still always felt like I had to prove to people that I wasn’t like the rest. It’s a horrible thing to feel a negative way about your own culture. I have obviously grown out of that now though and I haven’t met anyone since HS that made me feel that way though.

    • CN

      I also want to add that even though I understand the feeling of being judged or having to prove yourself – I also believe that in time you’ll learn to embrace it and be proud, like I did. Once you do that I think you’ll feel less the need to have to prove yourself, or feel like people are automatically stereotyping you.

      • Julia Perez

        I totally agree with you. As a Puerto Rican from an educated home outside of NYC I saw the “stereotypical hispanic person” all the time. But after a while I became proud that I proved people wrong. I felt proud to be changing the stereotype. The author obviously never felt this way. As a hispanic it’s our job to change the stereotypes – because no one else can if we don’t.

  • Sophia

    Writing about challenges one overcomes for scholarships is not mutually inclusive with being “hispanic.” It’s a subject to show that as student, you can function and move past obstacles like an adult instead of giving up –therefore showing you are a good investment. I am Latina, and I’ve never felt stereotypes affected me because I simply knew some didn’t apply to me. That was the end of it. I don’t dwell on them because I don’t want them to have any power over me, something you have yet to see.

    • guest

      worq!

  • guest

    i have never been so disappointed in my entire life.

  • guest

    lol do you know what you just said?

  • Danisette

    As a Hispanic female I also feel disappointed that this article was chosen to
    ‘represent’ our minority in its Thought Catalog debut. Part of being Hispanic, in my opinion, is about oozing with pride at the ability to bubble that circle on standardized tests. Not a fan of this piece.

  • Lauren

    This is actually disgusting. Worst thing I have ever read on this website. I could say more but I’m just so angry

  • anonymous stereotypical hater/"hispanic"

    Boo this young lady! Boo her!

  • http://twitter.com/DNAlvarenga Daniel Alvarenga (@DNAlvarenga)

    First of all you are using Hispanic, what the fuck. “To say Hispanic means you’re so colonized you don’t even know for yourself or someone who named you never bothered to ask what you call yourself. It’s a repulsive slave name.”- Sandra Cisneros

    Second of all sorry all of us low class economic refugees are ruining your hispanic-ness. The majority of us have had to struggle, and there’s more “hispanic” people like me than you. You’re so out of touch it’s not even funny. You’re privileged enough to not realize how much the cards are stacked against us. And there’s more to “Hispanics” than Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban (the latter two of those don’t have to struggle with being undocumented), we’re also Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, Dominican, Columbian, Equadoran, ect. As a Latino, I do not endorse this article.

    • andruchina

      I agree with your thoughts. However, the Cisneros quote is a little ridiculous. “Hispanic” means we speak Spanish. Latinamericans are very mixed, so it would be dumb to pretend we are all indigenous when we are a big mash of spaniards, blacks and indians. Yes, we are the conquered but we are also the conquerors. That’s the complexity and richness of Latinamerica. We have to reconcile our different identities.

  • http://mayipie.wordpress.com mayipie

    Thank you for speaking up for the Hispanic people who are tired of being marginalized and placed within stereotypes.

    • http://twitter.com/gooodthings Anel B (@gooodthings)

      Speak for yourself.

  • Diana

    Everybody up there pretty much said everything I wanted to say. This article is just wrong on so many levels. Ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden (@FLYamSAM)

    Hey Thought Cat, fix ur fucking comment system, I can’t read what everyone else is saying.

    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden (@FLYamSAM)

      Queer latino that has overcome adversity here, gonna reiterate to all those non minorities that this post was absolute shit for the reasons already listed (scroll down below to view). Lol self loathing latin@ much? “I’m not who you think I am. I’m not who you think I am. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s not me. I’ve tried so hard to integrate myself into white society. Don’t compare me to those scoundrels–the chusma.”

      So yeah……. Thought Cat Standards have gone to shit. Time for me to send in my own Precious Moments.

  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden (@FLYamSAM)

    Queer latino that has overcome adversity here, gonna reiterate to all those non minorities that this post was absolute shit for the reasons already listed (scroll down below to view). Lol self loathing latin@ much? “I’m not who you think I am. I’m not who you think I am. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s not me. I’ve tried so hard to integrate myself into white society. Don’t compare me to those scoundrels–the chusma.”

    So yeah……. Thought Cat Standards have gone to shit. Time for me to send in my own Precious Moments.

    • http://twitter.com/gooodthings Anel B (@gooodthings)

      On point. What I got from the writer was “I hate the fact that I’m Hispanic because I get stereotyped, poor me. I’m better than them, those ‘ghetto’ Latinos.”

  • Molly

    THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111one one

    Hardly groundbreaking. And harbors internalized problematic conceptions of Hispanics on the part of the author. Yikes.

    • -

      “And harbors internalized problematic conceptions of Hispanics on the part of the author. Yikes.”
      This is exactly what I got out of this article.

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