Disney’s Princesa Sofia No Es Latina

by Yesha Callahan

Earlier last week, Disney’s unveiling of Princess Sofia caused an uproar amongst certain people. Once executive producer Jamie Mitchell told Entertainment Weekly“She is Latina,” making her the first-ever Hispanic Disney princess, other executives tried to tone down that notion. Joe D’Ambrosia, vice president of Disney Junior original programming, toned down the promotion saying, “We never actually call it out. When we go into schools [to talk to young students about the show], what I find fascinating is that every girl thinks that they’re Sofia.” But that didn’t stop people from complaining that she wasn’t Latina looking, because of her fair skin and light eyes. They forgot about the notion of Latinas coming in a variety of shades. To add salt to the disappointment and to correct assumptions, Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide, took to the Princess Sofia Facebook page to address the controversy surrounding the new Disney character:

What’s important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world. 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. The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain [...] this creates a world of diversity and inclusion that sends just the right kind of message to all children – “Look around you, appreciate the differences you see and celebrate what makes us all the same.” I am eager for you and your children to meet Sofia and experience her world together!

Another Disney executive chimed in as well. Craig Gerber, a coexecutive producer and writer for “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess,” added more detail on Sofia’s heritage, describing her as “a mixed-heritage princess in a fairy-tale world. Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia,” according to E! News.

So there you have it folks, Princess Sofia, a fictional Disney character, not only is a cartoon, but a “mixed-heritage” princess. Score one for the mixed chicks?

  • Beautiful Mic

    Native Spaniard with no bloodline ties to the Americas do not consider them selves Latinos; however they do consider themselves Latins.

    It’s a joke that they took the images of a Spaniard girl to make a Latina Princess. They forgot about the prominent African slave and Native American blood quantum influence in her look, not to mention the possible Asian influence…

    Minorities have to stop relying on such companies to portray them in truth. They need to stop supporting them with their dollars, and start their own companies, cartoons, programming, etc…

    This is nothing but a replay of so many biases in society toward the white and near-white phenotype, especially where it exists within non-white demographics.

  • Beautiful Mic

    “Her mother is originally from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Spain (Galdiz) and her birth father hailed from an enchanted kingdom inspired by Scandinavia,” according to E! News.”

    Mixed chick? Is Galdiz, Spain another spelling for Cadiz, Spain?

    Anyway, that’s white and whiter, how is that mixed? Culturally and ethnically mixed, yes; racially mixed, no.

    Unless they are suggesting that her mother’s ancestry (southwest Spain) has some Moorish empire (Afro-Arab) and indigenous Spainiard (Berber) admixture, with possible Gitano ancestry (East Indian and other ancestries). However, this type of mixed ancestry is not openly, or widely, acknowledged in Spain – not by the government. Socially, it’s denied. When Spaniards immigrate to the U.S. and the Americas they are white. The same as Italians and Portuguese, even many North African Arabs.

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gennatay (@gennatay)

    This entire issue of the ethnicity of a cartoon character is just…sad and in my opinion, really not this deep. As a of “mixed chick” (as the author so eloquently put it) the ethnicity of a CARTOON character never came up in my household. My parents educated me on where my family was from. My son does not ask if a particular character is black, white or hispanic, nor does he care. He watches what I believe to be educational for him. But, he is only 3 and I’ve had to talk to him about race (as best I could) because another child at his school asked him if he’s Black.

    There is always going to be some debate regarding if the media is portraying a particular culture or race of people accurately. But as far as trying to pinpoint the exact region of a country a particular cartoon character is from is just too much.

  • JN

    Devil’s advocate: it’s hard for Disney to market a princess that appeals to a lot of children. When “The Princess and the Frog” came out, lots of girls loved it, but boys didn’t and so they just did not make as much money from that movie. In fact, it was Disney’s WORST-performing princess movie, because they realized too late that its audience was far too narrow.http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2010/11/23/tangled-may-close-the-book-on-disney-princess-films/ They designed the movie “Tangled” (which came after the “Princess and the Frog”) to target both boys and girls. I think with this movie, they are concerned about encountering a similar issue. If she was very Hispanic looking (is there a more P.C. way of saying this?), it may be critically acclaimed, but they may lose even more of their potential audience. And you know studios are about making money.

  • Onna

    I never knew Disney princess movies appealed to boys as well. I never heard any of my male classmates when I was in elementary school talk about Jasmine, Pocahontas, Belle or Ariel. They never brought Disney princess products either. I remember girls bringing their princess dolls into class, but not boys. It was just a girl thing.

  • Sweetles

    I don’t know why we keep depending on white people to “get it.” Also, in my opinion, I think we have way too much dependence on Disney to entertain our children.

  • Pseudonym

    Well, Aladdin was cool for boys (and- can I mention- fiiiiiiine?!!!! I remember thinking that as a kid.) and had the cool monkey and funny genie while the beast added a “masculine dimension” for boys as well as the explorations of John Smith and the Ariel’s friends were all male. I only watched “Princess and Frog” once (whereas as a kid I watched those other movies ad nauseam), but can’t remember a strong secondary story line that was less “girly” (for lack of a better word). Cinderella even had the three mice…hey…

    anyone else notice that all the Disney Princesses primarily hang out with dudes?

  • Ange B

    She could have looked more like Dora…I’m not sure what background that character is suppose to be but she does speak Spanish and looks more Latin than this Princess…fair wins out in the end.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ rkahendi

    Talk about manufactured controversies. The people who run these American media companies (Disney etc.) clearly have limited imaginations. They’re stuck in a rut and they don’t even realize it. I’m tired of the princess story. Surely there are other stories to be told about young women and girls: stories that don’t involve them being rich and pampered, being rescued from castles by charming princes, and living happily ever after? I think folks with kids should look to independent and international media options for their kids’ entertainment and education. Kids have hungry minds. We should be introducing them to a world that is complex and diverse. We should also be encouraging them to use their imaginations. I just don’t see that happening with this princess thing, even if they change the princess’s ethnicity every year.

    On the mixed heritage of this particular princess: To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything controversial about describing someone half Spaniard and half Scandinavian as having mixed heritage. Her heritage is mixed. Her parents speak different languages and have different cultural traditions. Nobody has a monopoly on the word “mixed” and what it means.

  • kristine

    “..stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds..”

    this concept is nice, but it really doesn’t sit well with me. the idea that familiar cultural aspects are attributed to a girl who looks mostly Anglo is a concept that could potentially confuse a lot of young ones. i’m korean, and korea is probably #1 in the plastic surgery industry. i haven’t been back in over 10 years, but i hear that a good 80-90% of the girls have at least one thing done to their face. to look how? to have bigger eyes, higher noses, and so forth – features that are normally not natural to koreans and more identifiable with Caucasians.

    ah i have to go so i can’t finish this comment, but i think this sentiment is prevalent enough to for my point to be conveyed and understood.

  • Echi

    Yeah, I have a feeling that we are crying more than the bereaved.

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