Breaking Away from Stereotype
Most of the big and key cities in the United States are culturally and racially diversified. This diversity is taught to be an asset of the society. If not understood well, this diversity may also lead to internal and external conflicts such as discrimination and stereotyping.
Stereotyping can be as harmless as thinking that Chinese cooks the best orange chicken or Indians have the best chicken curry, but it can also be as destructive as stereotyping Muslims as potential terrorists or Mexicans as potential illegal aliens. Stereotypes come in different forms and it is also apparent in the news, media, television, songs and even literatures. Latino or Hispanic race, for example, has been a hot topic of racial stereotyping. A Latino man behind a cash register may often hear a customer asking “habla Ingles”. Failure to assimilate to American culture, including language, is one stereotype Latinos are facing.
In the story “Rain of Gold”, written by Victor Villasenor, most of the characters spoke little or no English until they entered the United States. Another literary work, a poetry, written by Pat Mora entitled “Immigrants” contained lines that read “before the baby can even walk, speak to them in thick English, hallo, babe, hallo”. There may be some humor to the poem, but it stereotypes the Latino immigrants as having “thick English” accents. “Rain of Gold”, written by Victor Villasenor was about the three generations of two Mexican families whose hardship and adventures date back in the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
The book chronicled the characters’ escape from Mexico and entry into the United States. It was entitled “Rain of Gold” because it is the English translation of the characters’ home town of “La Lluvia de Oro”. In the book, the characters spoke little or no English, which may still be apparent today in our society. However, from the book, we cannot generalize that Mexicans cannot assimilate the way of living or system of other culture. In the book, it was also written that the characters learned to use the survival techniques of Native Americans in order to survive the difficulties they were facing in their environment.
The poem “Immigrants” by Pat Mora also wrote examples on how Mexican try to adapt the American culture by eating hot dogs and apple pie, by naming their children Bill and Daisy, or by buying their children football or blonde dolls with blue eyes. In the modern America, most stereotypes related to the Latino race are exaggerated in the movies or in the media. The movies would often depict Latinos as blue collared workers with little education, family with more than four children, or young Latino with literacy problem.
Another stereotype that is attached to the Latino culture is the use of spiritual healing or magic. There are three literary works that took note of the Spiritual healing practice of the Latino culture. “Rain of Gold” by Victor Villasenor noted that during trying times, the character held on the belief of spirits and asked for their guidance and healing. “The Curing Woman” by Alejandro Morales was about the power of the traditional healers who use spiritual connection to heal physical ailments.
It is about a Spanish woman named Marcelina who learned how to use “white magic” from her Spanish mother, Dona Marcelina Trujillo. “White magic” uses herbs, plants, minerals, chants and astrological formulas to cure diseases of the human body. “Curandera”, a poem written by Pat Mora describes the dependency of a Latino woman to the nature as means of survival and healing of the people. In the poem, the curandera (a woman who practices folk medicine), uses the elements found in the desert, plants, sunlight, and wind to heal other people to survive.
Living in a modernized society and the availability of technology used as tools in medicine will create plenty of skepticism and mockery to spiritual healing as a form of cure. The use of spiritual healing will be rejected by most of American populations who grew up with vaccines, radiography, and antibiotics. It will be a challenge for any Latinos practicing this part of their culture to make someone else outside of their race to understand. Another Latino stereotype that affects most Latino men, is the machismo schema attached to Latino men.
It is viewed that in Latino culture, men are the dominant gender, and women are submissive to their male counterparts. However, in “Rain of Gold” written by Victor Villasenor, the character of Dona Margarita, a wife and a mother, possessed strength that was even able to boldly reprimand the character of her husband. Dona Margarita’s strength and support was valued in the book as one of the reason of fulfilling the family’s dreams. She was able to express her anger and frustration on her husband, Don Victor, when he gambled and got drunk. Her family felt hope when she did not give-up her hope that her daughter, Sophia, was still alive.
Although she wanted to give the leadership role to her husband Don Victor, the book made it apparent that she is the strength of her family. However, the story also depicted Dona Margarita as a housewife whose primary role is to raise her children and manage the household. Most Latino written works also depicted the common stereotype that Latinos mostly worked blue collar jobs. For example, in the “Rain of Gold” by Victor Villasenor, most men worked as miners, while some worked as soldiers. In the movies, most Latino females play characters such as nanny, cashier, waitress, or housekeeper.
In conclusion, I believe that the Latino race does not only suffer from being stereotyped by people from another culture, but also from the literary works of Latino authors. Pat Mora, for example, used the “thick English” accent of Latinos to provide some humor to her poetry. In more than two literatures the “spiritual or magical healing” was also noted, providing a stronger connection between this practice and the Latino race. Personally, I believe that I am a victim of the movies and television programs who effectively instill cultural stereotypes in me.
Fortunately, I was able to know numerous Latinos that proved that the stereotypes should not be used as a general depiction of their race. A research study survey noted that the stereotypical images of the Latinos in the media are not accurate and that most Latinos who participated in the survey were able to assimilate well into the US culture (Latino Professional Survey, 2006). The survey noted that 98% of the survey respondents were fluent in English and 80% were college graduate (Latino Professional Survey, 2006). This defies the common stereotyping that Latinos cannot speak English very well and mostly occupy blue collared jobs.