Cinco de Mayo Means Bring on the Stereotypes

For the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes. Life is too short and there are way too many ways to be offended by things that aren’t politically correct. It’s difficult to say why one thing doesn’t bother me, but something else gets under my skin.

For example, the whole Mexican Barbie thing? If I were a little girl, I’d love to have that Barbie, and if I had a daughter, I’d buy it for her. I think it’s awesome that she has a passport, and all the dolls in the collection do. Her dark wavy hair is so pretty and being a brunette myself, I always favored dark-haired Barbies over the blondes. The ballet folklorico dress is nice although it could be more detailed, and the Chihuahua, well, I think that may have been a lazy decision, (isn’t the Xoloitzcuintli the national dog of Mexico?) – but all that being said, I’m not offended by the doll.

Really, my only major problem with Mattel’s Dolls of the World collection, (besides my usual complaints about Barbies contributing to unrealistic body ideals), is that they stuck with many of the same countries that are already represented in these types of toy lines. When will we teach kids about lesser known countries? Ask any kid in the United States to name a country that speaks Spanish and you’re almost guaranteed they’ll say “Mexico.” … In other words, when will we see a Salvadoran Barbie? (Or Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Panamanian… you get the idea.)

Image source: LShave

Image source: LShave

If Mattel needs help designing the Salvadoran Barbie, I’m available. Imagine the colorful dress, the leather chancletas, maybe a cántaro or a bouquet of Flor de Izote. You could have a cachiporra version with a bastón, and a vendedora version in a delantal that comes with a comal full of pupusas. How about a Salvadoran version of the Ken doll? He could wear traditional dress with a scapular and a cowboy hat – he could carry a capirucho or maybe a modern version sporting una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener. (Okay, maybe not.)

Speaking of beer, Cinco de Mayo is fast upon us which means every Mexican beer, tortilla chip, and salsa company is gearing up to bring in the pesos. Here is a display for Corona which I spotted at a Wal-Mart.



As I was saying, for the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes, (they’re somewhat necessary to understanding the world we live in), and this doesn’t really offend me as much as it makes me roll my eyes. However, this stereotype of Mexicans – sombrero, sarape or poncho, and burro, (although I guess Corona decided to get “creative” and use a horse?) is getting a little old, isn’t it? Besides, they totally forgot the big mustache and the cactus for nap time after the fiesta is over.

16 thoughts on “Cinco de Mayo Means Bring on the Stereotypes

  1. Yes, I agree that this is a tired stereotype. I am one who believes that stereotypes help explain behaviors of the group of people, but let’s get it straight. For example, I am of Irish, German, and Italian descent and many of my behaviors are nationalistic, such as loving potatoes (Irish) being a perfectionist (German) and being opinionated (Italian). But to see this type of biased viewpoint is troubling. First of all, the horse has nothing on its back. It would be filled with items such as a harvest, or traveling items. Secondly, I don’t think he would be wearing such a small sombrero in the Mexico hot sun. Overall, we should be representing people as they really are. How about the great artists that came out of Mexico such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, or the fabulous singers? The Mariachis have beautiful detailed outfits and instruments. How about portraying them? My opinion is becoming more and more, that the people in the U.S.A. want to portray people from other countries as uneducated and poor. I think that by denigrating others, certain people feel it puts them in the higher, more valued position. I like your ideas about Salvadoran dolls. Many of my friends are El Salvadorans, and I visit there from time to time. I am trying to spread a positive view of the people from there and of the country. They are the most humble, nice people I know. I feel like a human being when I visit my friends here and in El Salvador. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • What a great comment this is. Your thoughts are really interesting, Klein, and I agree that if things were portrayed accurately, it would be less of a problem.

      You said, “…people in the U.S.A. want to portray people from other countries as uneducated and poor” – and that really made me think about a lot of the stereotypes and many really do fall in to this category. Interesting observation… Here’s a follow up question – WHY would people in the U.S. want to portray people from other countries as uneducated and poor? … Hmm, something to think about!

      That’s great that you’ve had an opportunity to visit El Salvador and make Salvadoran friends at home and abroad – I agree that overwhelmingly Salvadorans are nice, humble people – very welcoming to “outsiders” as well, (although I might be a little biased!) ;)

  2. Tracy, I am Bolivian and I totally understand you. What do you think, should we do as Hispanics, Mexicans and not Mexicans. To change the stereotype of the Hispanic in the US? Now more than ever with all this immigration reforms coming?

    • Cecy, this is a fantastic question and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I received your comment.

      I think that all of us can do our part by befriending people outside the community and teaching them about our culture just by the way we live. Invite your Anglo neighbors to your next party, for example. They will be able to see unique things about your culture by the decor of your house, the music you listen to, the food you serve, and the way you and your family/friends behave. Sometimes just this is enough for someone to start making distinctions. Next time some other Anglo refers to “all the Mexicans” they may say, “Actually, my neighbor is Bolivian and I went to a party at their house last month…” and then they will begin to teach others about their experience.

      Those who work with young children as teachers, daycare providers, through sports or other activities, etc., can also show their culture to children. If your child’s classroom has opportunities for you to volunteer in the classroom – do so! Sometimes there are special events which allow you to read a book to the class and such – choose a folktale or a story by a children’s author from your country of origin. I think that teaching diversity at a very young age is especially important – this way you give them good experiences with culture and knowledge on the topic before they become set in wrong ideas.

      Those of us in a position to create for the public, either through our career or hobbies, whether it be through blogs, music, art, TV/movie, novels, advertising, film production, etc., have the extra burden of being conscious about what we put out there. Does what we put out there in public contribute to a better understanding and appreciation for the diversity of Latin American cultures, or does it play into existing stereotypes?

      Those are my thoughts! I would love to hear what others think. Again, excellent question, Cecy. Thanks for your comment. Saludos!

  3. I agree with what you wrote about the Mexican Barbie. I don’t know why everybody is so alarmed about it. In addition, I found that there are other Latina Barbies: Argentina, Chile, Spain, Peru and Puerto Rico. Yesterday I wrote about this particular topic in our blog and also gave each Latina Barbie some local Spanish slang phrases.

    • Diana – I’m posting the link here so my readers can come check it out. (I love it! The phrases are hilarious.)

      And yes, I’m glad that Mattel has made some other Latin American Barbies – I just want them to complete the whole collection and include Central America! jajajaja (I think I like the Chilean Barbie’s outfit best so far though!)

  4. I don’t really get the sensitivity about stereotypes. I’m Dutch, and the stereotypical Dutchman is wearing wooden shoes, eating cheese and walking through fields of tulips and windmills. The stereotypical German is wearing lederhosen and drinking bear. And the stereotypical American wears a cowboy hat.

    However, when it comes to the stereotypical Mexican (with sombrero and poncho), we have to constantly remind ourselves that it is just a stereotype, not representative for reality, etc. Of course it isn’t, that’s why it’s a stereotype, dummy! It seems like a double standard to me, I don’t really get it.

    • You make good points! … Like I said, I don’t get overly sensitive about stereotypes (Americans get plenty!) – but there’s a slight annoyance for me when it comes to stereotypes of Latinos in the U.S. because too many people are ignorant of the diverse cultures of Latin America and actually BELIEVE that:

      #1. All Latinos are Mexican
      #2. All Mexicans are like the stereotype

      If all people knew it was just a silly stereotype, then I think it would be less bothersome.

      • Okay, I see what you’re saying. It reminds me of something Bertrand Russell once said: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are so sure of themselves while the intelligent are full of doubt.” It’s always the ignorant who speak the loudest.

        For something completely different. I love those Barbie dolls, especially the Spanish and the Mexican one. And the Peruvian also. It would look sweet on my bookshelf. How wrong is it for a 23-yo guy to purchase one of those?

      • Great quote!

        As for buying the Barbie dolls… LOL, well, I know men that collect action figures – they’re kind of the same thing? ;)

    • Wow – that was painfully horrible!

      And what was that when he took the guy’s sombrero off? Moscas?? Ugh :( Horrible, horrible. Now THAT is offensive.

      Thanks so much for your kinds words, Carmen. I look forward to your comments and learning more about you. Abrazos!

  5. I feel the same way, and I had the same feeling about that barbie too. You are also right, why keep updating the same ones they already had, instead of making a new one to represent at least one central american country! As for the ken with “una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener” that gave me a good laugh…it would be like someone made a ken of my husband!

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