Television and Radio Criticism

Mixed Race in Latinowood by Mary Beltran — Jocelynne Gonzalez

Mary Beltran’s Mixed Race in Latinowood essay speculates around the question of how, in Hollywood, the effects of being multi-ethnic or Latino vary within different stars who possess certain characteristics. Beltran’s thesis statement is found at the beginning of the second paragraph: “A less understood wrinkle of contemporary Latino stardom that speaks to both the permeability and the permanence of imagined racial borders is in regard to how a number of contemporary stars identify with respect to ethnicity and race” (Beltran, 248). Moreover, she discusses how the media itself, such as magazines or roles being casted, molds a Latino’s public image and the way they identify themselves. In the reading, it is examined how the color of a celebrity’s skin still influences the way they are treated within the media, despite being of mixed race, and either being embraced by an ethnic community or not. She explains these points before and after “the wave of popular interest” for being multi-ethnic came to be. The term “mestizaje” is used throughout the text and the definition being used specifically for this is “racial hybridity” (Beltran, 249). In other words, a person whose ethnicity is of different cultures or mixture of different races. A “mestiza” refers to someone who falls under the umbrella of racial hybridity.

Mary Beltran chooses to analyze the careers of Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson to further verify her claim. She uses these two actresses to show the readers how they experience different career paths regardless of both being multi-ethnic. Both Alba and Dawson’s heritage are used as the main topic of the conversation in various interviews, whether video or magazine, or critic discussions. Beltran explains that she uses these actresses as a source because “their careers and promotional texts…have contributed to their public image…[providing] rich texts for the study of discourses circulating on mixed race and Latino identities in the mass media and U.S. social life” (Beltran 249). In the text, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson’s public images are carefully studied corresponding to how it has been developed over the years and in what ways “the media gatekeepers” have received them.

Mary Beltran uses other works to support her thesis. As an example, she uses Danzy Senna’s excerpt, The Mulatto Millennium, as a resource. Senna shares her experience as a mixed individual, her struggles of identifying herself, and going through the change in society where being multi-ethnic is in style. Gregory Velazco y Trianosky’s work is used to verify that discrimination exists, in Hollywood and Latin media outlets, despite being a mixed Latino. As Beltran puts it, “while mestizaje is very much part of Latino and Latin American history, it still is not necessarily acknowledged or celebrated” (Beltran, 262). The essay Mixed Race in Latinowood is in all likelihood aimed towards those affiliated with the media industry. More specifically individuals with multi-ethnic roots and not only Latinos.

Generally, multi-ethnic Latinos struggle to identify themselves due to being dismissed from communities that do not accept and fail to embrace them because of their physical, cultural traits which defy the community’s norm of how they should look and act like. According to Mary Beltran, “Alba and Dawson have been embraced by their overlapping ethnic communities, but to different degrees” (Beltran 262). When discussing Jessica Alba’s acknowledgment towards her roots, Beltran notes that Alba felt she did not belong anywhere. Moreover, how she “wasn’t white” enough to be accepted within the White community and not Latin enough to be accepted by the Latin community. After a certain time, when being ethnic became a trend, the Latin community finally acknowledged her. In contrast, Rosario Dawson was neglected by the Latin community because she had more afro-centric traits, basically being racist towards her not wanting to affiliate being black and being Latino.

Mary Beltran concludes, “Mixed Latina stars… serve as important symbolic tropes, whose future careers will have a great deal to say about the racial borders that affect Latinos more generally” (Beltran, 265). Gina Rodriguez, another mixed actress, acted on this recurring struggle and started “#MovementMondays” on Instagram to celebrate Latino stars with a mixed background. Some fail to see that Latinos come in various shades, from different traditions and, different cultures.

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