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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Trying to raise bilingual kids? How to stay on track when English is easiest

Photo by Nada_que_decir/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Surrounding yourself (and your child) with books in your native language can help

Parents who are trying to raise bilingual children might be familiar with SpanglishBaby, a website dedicated to that goal.

And let's face it, for those of us who have lived in the United States all or most of our lives, it can seem like an elusive goal at times. As fluent as we may be in the language of our parents, it's easiest to fall back on English. More so if our partner is a monolingual English speaker, or someone who grew up speaking a language different from ours.

At the same time, research has shown how much a child can gain from speaking a second language. Aside from the obvious - communicating with grandparents, future job prospects - being bilingual can boost brain development and provide benefits for life.

What to do? Roxana Soto, co-founder and editorial director of SpanglishBaby, is here to help with a few tips for overcoming the temptation to give up. More tips from SpanglishBaby will be included in a forthcoming book due out in fall 2012.

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