How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Disney's 'Sofia the First': What does a real Latina princess look like?

Screen shot from SpanglishBaby's #LatinaPrincess Pinterest board

Parents have been sending in photos to a blogger's call to "Let’s Show What a #LatinaPrincess Really Looks Like," in response to a recent flap over a Disney character.

Last month, when a Disney executive producer  told reporters that a new princess in the upcoming animated telefilm "Sofia the First" would be Latina, a minor scandal ensued. While some cheered such a character, there were Latino media watchdogs, parents, bloggers and Disney fans who were incensed.

Why, they asked, was Disney not making a bigger deal about the new Princess Sofia's ethnicity, making her the child of a mother hailing from a fictional country with "Latin influences" (as one Disney spokesperson explained), but little more? And why did she have medium brown hair and blue eyes? The latter controversy launched a very public, and heated, discussion of just what Latinas/Latinos are supposed to look like — a question for which there is no easy answer.

In the end, Disney clarified that Sofia — who debuts Nov. 18 at 7 p.m ET/PT on the Disney Channel —  isn't really Latina after all. Her mother comes from a fairy-tale kingdom called Galdiz that's "inspired by Spain," as Disney described it; her father hails from a fictional land that's ostensibly farther north. Sofia is bicultural, but not quite Latina.

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Disney's Princess Sofia: Not Latina but 'mixed-heritage'

Disney Junior

Princess Sofia from Disney's "Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess," which debuts on the Disney Channel Nov. 18.

After a Disney executive producer commented to press recently that a new Disney princess to be unveiled next month was to be Latina - and public reaction to her fair looks turned heated - Disney is now clarifying her ethnicity. Or perhaps making it murkier still.

NBC Latino reported today that a Disney executive stated on Disney's Princess Sofia Facebook page that “All our characters come from fantasy lands that may reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.”

A Disney producer/writer interviewed in the story described Sofia as "a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world," with her mother coming from a fictional kingdom "inspired by Spain" and her birth father from a place "inspired by Scandinavia." In other words, Sofia is bicultural.

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The promise of the English-speaking Latino audience

Photo by Jerry Bunkers/Flickr (Creative Commons)

English-language content directed at Latinos is on the rise, especially as media companies go digital.

The official announcement yesterday that the Disney-owned ABC News has teamed with Univision to launch a 24-hour cable news channel for English-speaking Latinos next year is just the latest in a series of similar announcements from media companies.

In the past two years, we've seen English-language ventures aimed at a Latino audience that include Fox News LatinoHuffPost Latino Voices and Patch Latino.

There has also been the more recent launch of Voxxi, a English-language website for “acculturated Latinos” headed by a former editor from Spain’s EFE news agency, and a new bilingual YouTube content network, MiTu. And while we're on ventures with creative names, let's not forget mun2, the Telemundo-affiliated cable network for young Latinos with content in English and Spanish.

Not long ago, most content directed at Latinos, on air and in print, was in Spanish. Why the language shift, especially as media companies focus more on digital content? Back in February, when news of the Disney-Univision partnership first came to light, I posted a Q&A with Giovanni Rodriguez, a social-technology and marketing expert with Deloitte Consulting who studies and writes about the Latino media market. Here's a bit of what Rodriguez had to say about the power of content en inglés, and why marketers and media execs seem to be discovering it now:

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It's a Small World: The story of the 'Disney visa'

Photo by Bart Hanlon/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Ever hear of a "Disney visa?" If you haven't, a fascinating article in the Florida Law Review explains that and more about what it terms "The Wonderful World of Disney Visas."

And what a world it is.

An excerpt from the abstract, posted this morning in the ImmigrationProf Blog, sets it up:

International workers play an important role in perpetuating the carefully crafted fantasy that to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is to be transported to far-off destinations around the globe.

This article examines how Disney has filled its need for these workers in two ways. For one, Disney has used a blend of chutzpah and ingenuity to forge new federal law establishing the Q visa. Additionally, Disney has dexterously used the existing J visa, along with an on-resort academic program, to bring international workers to Florida as students.

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Interesting take on Disney workers' hijab and the mainstreaming of Muslim culture

Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA

Intern Noor Abdallah in modified Disney uniform

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote about Noor Abdallah and Imane Boudial, the two Muslim women working at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim who were pressuring their employer for the right to wear hijab at work.

In his column yesterday, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote about the issue again with some interesting perspective on Disney: Given the company's massive influence on entertainment and mainstream culture in general, could its actions help pave the way toward the mainstreaming of Muslim culture and standards of dress?

As an example of Disney's cultural evolution, Hiltzik cited in his column Disneyland's one-time ban on same-sex dancing, which in 1984 led to the eviction of two gay men from the park. The company lifted the ban the next year following a court challenge.

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