Josefina: Representation of all “Latino” cultures?

In G. Cristina Mora’s book “Making Hispanics” she addresses how today many distinct nationalities have become grouped under one generic label. In a short clip (Latino vs Hispanic) she explains how two people originating almost 3000 miles away from each other that have different cultural values, eat different food and may even speak different variations of the same language can be grouped under the same label such as “latino” or “hispanic”. Similarly, Phillip Serrato discusses the indifference present today toward the diverse ethnic identities and cultural formations that these terms encompass in his essay on  “Latino/a” in in Keywords for Children’s Literature. The idea of generalizing many different cultures as one single “latino” culture is seen in the American Girl Doll company as well. Josefina Montoya is a Mexican-American girl living in what is now New Mexico. While she is explicitly said to be Mexican-American, Josefina is represented as the only latina girl of the company, although her specific culture is just one of many diverse “Latino” cultures. This allows the company to say they have covered that area of diversity, but ignores the fact that the specific cultural practices represented in Josefina’s story are most likely quite different for other “Latino” cultures. This makes me wonder what stories could be told if other cultures, such as Cuban-American or Puerto Rican, were highlighted by the American Girl Doll company.



4 thoughts on “Josefina: Representation of all “Latino” cultures?”

  1. Do you think that the American Girl Company’s move of assimilating vast cultures is noticed by the young readers? I am curious to know how much strategic planning and research goes into the construction of each doll’s story and if the company purposefully stuck to a single story for a culture due to possible time constraints or for the simplicity of their young audience?

    1. Nicole, I think that is very interesting point you brought up. As a young girl, and having two sisters, we were very intrigued by American Girl Dolls. We read the books and even owned a few ourselves. However, looking back, I do not really remember “seeing” a difference in the girls. Of course they all looked a little bit different, but I don’t think I ever realized the issues of different cultures. Looking at them now, I do think it is necessary for the Company to have dolls with different religions, backgrounds and cultures. However, as a child I don’t think these difference were that important to me. It was more about who got to read the story and dress up the doll and the different pieces each doll had.

  2. I personally never knew the difference between “latino/a” and Hispanic till this class. This video really made me realize the issue of misusing these names. The names are used as an umbrella to cover all Latin/Mexican American cultures and in that process loses the different culture’s unique traditions. I believe the education system should teach young readers the differences in these terms so that citizens understand the differences between “latino/a” and “Hispanic” as I now do.

  3. I do think that the American Girl Doll Company needs to do a better job of creating dolls with more races and ethnicities. It is clear that non-white races are underrepresented. Adding the new doll, Melody, is a great start but there is so much more to be done. There are no dolls that are Chinese, Korean, Polynesian, and the list goes on and on. I’m not saying that we should expect the American Girl Doll Company to make a doll for every single ethnicity, but I think they could add more non-white dolls.

Leave a Reply