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Pet Sins December 2001

Are Latinos and Latinas treated equally by Anglo America?

Just looking at media representation alone, you get the feeling that Anglo Americans (as well as other non-Latino factions) welcome Latin American women more than Latin American men. Movies and TV series like West Side Story, Fools Rush In, It Could Happen to You, Rain Man, White Men Can't Jump, Strictly Ballroom, All the Pretty Horses all have Latina-woman-and-Anglo-man couples.

I can't think of any Latino-man-Anglo-woman couples on TV off the top of my head. Often, Latino men are absent in movies or TV series in which a white man comes to the rescue of a Latina. Or when present, they are portrayed in a negative light. These gender trends are not limited to white entertainment. In the movie Next Friday, the hero, played by Ice Cube, courts a pretty and sane Mexican woman. Her 3 brothers, in contrast, (the only Latino men in the movie) are ne'er-do-well thugs who drove their mother to distraction and treat their sister with disrespect.

Media reflects real life, and also shapes it. Where I live, Latina-woman-Anglo-man couples outnumber Latino-man-Anglo-woman couples about 2 to 1.

It seems that Latina women being treated better by Anglos, especially if they can pass for "white", but Latino men being treated as 2nd class no matter what. This attitude goes back a long ways. In post-conquest California in the late 19th century, a society in which Anglos became the majority and enacted blatantly anti-Mexican policies, most Anglo-Mexican intermarriage was between Anglo American males and the daughters of wealthy "Spanish" families. Anglo men wanted to marry these mestiza women for material reasons, so they typed them as "Spanish", hence "white". Mexican men, on the other hand, were not of interest to Anglo men, and hence remained "non-white".

"Race" as it is used in post-colonial Americas is an arbitrary categorization and has no scientific meaning, but it is being used to divide people of different cultural heritage, and further divide men and women within the same ethnic group.