The Problem with Latinx Representation

Last year, I got really into Jane the Virgin. It was originally a Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la virgen, that my mother never really watched, but my grandmother (Mami) really loved. Mami would rave about it all the time about how Mauricio (Rafael’s Venezuelan counterpart) and Juana were meant to be together. I, quite honestly, was never intrigued by any telenovela…Juana la virgen was no exception to that.

However, when I gave Jane the Virgin a chance, I fell in love. Jane the Virgin is truly a brilliant TV show with amazing writers. The TV series stars Jane, a young celibate college student, on her way to big and better things. She lives with her Catholic Abuela Alba, played by Ivonne Coll, who taught her about the importance of waiting until marriage.

What truly interests me about the show is how incredible its depiction of Latinx culture is. They make fun of the ridiculousness behind telenovela plotlines through Rogelio without unknowingly alienating the audience. Plenty of heritage speakers applauded the TV show’s daring move to have Abuela speaking Spanish basically all the time. Nonetheless, I have a problem with certain aspects of the show…as nothing can truly be perfect.

For instance, Ivonne Coll is a Puerto Rican actress playing a Venezuelan woman. Yes, Abuela is Venezuelan and that’s pretty amazing, but her Spanish dialect should be Venezuelan. From its pilot, I was able to quickly identity Coll’s accent and swift use of Puerto Rican colloquialisms i.e. bizcocho (cake), hombre, no! (No way!), etc…

Hollywood has gotten away with this many, many times. In the Netflix original series, Narcos, the main character, Pablo Escobar, is played by a Brazilian man….a Brazilian man, Warner Moura. This would not be such a big deal except for the fact that he keeps his Brazilian accent while he’s interpreting the role of a Colombian man. What makes matters worse is the fact that they hired Paulina Gaitán (Mexican), Luis Guzmán (Puerto Rican), and André Mattos (Brazilian) to play Colombians and they all speak in their respective dialects.

In the case of Jane the Virgin, I understand that the showrunners wanted to write a storyline specifically designated for immigration laws in the United States meaning Ivonne Coll would not have been able to play a Puerto Rican…because, you know, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants. Still, they should have had Coll do a Venezuelan accent or reduce the number of colloquialisms that do not correspond to the Venezuelan dialect. It is truly disturbing to see the flashback scenes with a younger Alba who distinctly speaks in a Central American dialect in contrast to Alba’s lively Caribbean Spanish.

How would you feel, as an English speaker, to have a British man play an American man while he spoke in the typical Brit dialect?

I want Hollywood to break the Latinx amalgamation that exists in the United States of America.  We are Latinxs, yes, but we all have our obvious differences. We are Cuban, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Colombian, Chilean, and we are proud of our heritage. We’re more than Latinxs. We are strong and lively people. We love to be represented onscreen. We just want more.