Breaking News: Josefina and Dora Aren’t Related

In Elizabeth Medina’s article Dora the Explorer, Your “Average” Latina, she addresses the issue of Dora being “average”. Medina states that Dora is part of an “unspecified Latino culture”. This issue is also quite prominent in the American Girl book series about Josefina. In Josefina’s story we learn that she is Mexican-American, but the issue is that she is one girl representing all Latino cultures within the American Girl company. This issue of using the term “Latino” so casually is brought to our attention by Phillip Serrato as well. In his essay “Latino/a” from Keywords for Children’s Literature, Serrato brings up the issue of the classification “Latino” being too broad. Serrato calls Latino an “umbrella term” because of the many people who fall under it. He explains how the use of the word “Latino” is far too overgeneralized. This can clearly be seen in both Dora the television show and also in the Josefina book series. As Medina said in her article on Dora, the TV show “portrays the image of the Latino as one very generic group”. Dora’s background is never explicitly mentioned. There is no knowing of whether Dora has a Mexican, Costa Rican, Guatemalan, or Puerto Rican background. All we know is that she is “Latina” and because of this label she is given stereotypical Latina features: dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. Although we know Josefina’s background, she parallels with Dora by the fact that she is a token for all Latino/as within the whole American Girl company, just as Dora is a token for all Latino/as within her own single character. Overgeneralization is an issue because it creates ignorance of other cultures. What if all people who looked “white” were put into the same cultural box. Would a German-American girl then be depicted to be the same as an English-American or Russian-American girl? In this perspective, it makes it so much easier to understand how absurd the general use of “Latino/a” really is.dora-the-explorer

5 thoughts on “Breaking News: Josefina and Dora Aren’t Related”

  1. I can see these blanketing generalizations of the Latino/a culture by white Americans as being particularly harmful to the education of American girls, especially as many of the stereotypes associated with the Latino/a community are quite negative and demeaning, thereby skewing young children’s knowledge.

  2. I think you bring up a very interesting point about the term “Latino/a” being used to classify different groups of people. Another idea to consider and that makes me wonder, is if it is okay for other races to write about another culture if they have not experienced it? Would it be artificial to write about experiences that an author has only heard about or seen on television?

  3. Your argument about overgeneralizing Latino/a girls that exists with both Josefina and Dora is very important. I think it is possible that it will prevent people from feeling a need to learn about each individual Latino/a culture when they have been grouped together in this way. Your point about putting “white” cultures in a box together is very interesting. Why aren’t these cultures represented together in the way that Latino/a one’s are?

  4. Thank you for posting.
    I think cultural generalizations should not be used. This is because there are so many different types of people and everyone is not the same. It’s just as simple as distinguishing a girl from a boy. Like girls would not like to be mistaken for boys and vice versa. Why? Because it’s very offensive. Just like gender identification, we can see this in society. An African American and an African are not the same. Someone of Puerto Rican descent and Mexican descent are not the same. They aren’t even geographically in the same area. We all have different cultures and practices and that should be recognized daily.

  5. I think you bring up a very interesting point that many people underestimate variability within a group of millions of people. Humans are highly variable, but many time people underestimate how different one person can be than another just because they are of the same race. This phenomenon is what perpetuates stereotypes, which are initiated by certain prejudices. Your blog post does a good job of explaining how one representation of a latina person does not indicate how the entire ethnic group behaves.

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