Cinco De Mayo Stereotypes

This past Saturday, the famous battle of Cinco de Mayo was commemorated … at least satirically by Dos Equis in a recent commercial. Of course, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War and is considered a relatively minor holiday in Mexico. Around this manufactured Mexican holiday, I cannot think of a better time to broach the topic of Latino stereotypes.

Latino stereotypes, or combating them, seem to be on the rise lately.  There are several such stereotypes, some of which have been around for quite some time. We’ve seen these starting as far back as the silent film era, when the infamous D.W. Griffith’s (yes, from Birth of a Nation fame) used the term “greaser” in his 1908 The Thread of Destiny to describe a Mexican bandit.



The L.A. Times’ Tre’vell Anderson highlights prominent stereotypes in TV and film:

  • The Spicy Sexpot – Sofia Vergara
  • The Maid – Jennifer Lopez and Family Guy’s Consuelo
  • The Gangbangers – Narcos
  • The Spanish Only Speaker – every day laborer/gardener/immigrant

These images do not go unnoticed. About half of Latinos recently surveyed say they didn’t see themselves in positions of authority and instead are relegated to the role of sidekick. While none of this is new, things seem to be changing.

Some market actors are responding.  

The recently launched “Colombian Ambush” campaign created by multicultural ad agency Dieste ironically uses stereotypes to dissipate stereotypes on behalf of Alcaldía de Medellin, Grupo Bancolombia and newspaper El Colombiano. Highlighting literary works of art from Colombia’s best writers, the first ad turns a typical drug narco stereotype on its head, along with a number of dispelling executions. In another media initiative, cable network Starz launched a new show called “Vida”, featuring an older, gay Latina who happens to be married to the mother of two Latina daughters.  

The Hispanic market has always been in the process of evolution. Are we now at a point where the market will value explicit challenges to conventional portrayals of Hispanics? A few years ago, BET (Black Entertainment Television) announced a renewal strategy to lead the way in representations of Black people in a more expansive, and representative way. Perhaps we are seeing something similar with Hispanics, or at least the early warning signs.

This goes beyond Latinos as lead characters, like Jane the Virgin. And, there are stereotypes within the Hispanic community to be addressed. Women as professionals, black and mestizo Hispanics in more prominent roles, and other generally un-seen representations still exist.  Not sure where this is going, but let’s check in again next Cinco de Mayo.

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