Yesterday a media frenzy exploded online when Entertainment Weekly published an article questioning if Sofia the First was Disney’s first Latina Princess. Soon after, many Latino and mainstream online publications had grabbed on to the headline and a quote attributed to Jaime Mitchell, the show’s executive producer, stating that Sofia’s mom, Queen Miranda, “…is Latina.”
I started getting tweets and messages asking my thoughts on Disney’s first Latina princess and I was shocked because I have known about Sofia for months now, but never thought she was a Latina, not did Disney Junior ever claim that in their communications. I wrote all about it yesterday and stated my theory that I believe what Disney executives meant was that Sofia could be anything you wanted her to be because she’s a fictional character. If they wanted her to be our first Latina princess, they would have been shouting it out themselves.
Now we finally have two official statements from Disney that have just been released to clear up the issue regarding Sofia’s ethnicity. As you’ll see, she is in fact not supposed to be Disney’s attempt at the first Latina princess we’re so anxiously waiting for.
The first one is from Nancy Kanter – Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide. Both comments appeared on the Sofia the First Facebook page.
As we approach the premiere of Sofia the First on November 18, I wanted to check in here and thank you once again for your warm welcome for our new little princess. Some of you may have seen the recent news stories on whether Sofia is or isn’t a “Latina princess” and whether we should or shouldn’t be making her ethnicity more clear. 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 lively, colorful 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, created with Spanish influences. There are wonderful stories coming up in which Sofia and her family visit Tangu, a land the writers created by drawing on Moroccan influences; there’s also a celebration of a winter holiday we call Wassailia, and a picnic at Wei-Ling, an Asian-inspired kingdom. Most importantly, Sofia’s world reflects the ethnically diverse world we live in but it is not OUR world, it is a fairytale and storybook world that we hope will help spur a child’s imagination. It’s one where we can have flying horses, schools led by fairies and yes, songs that have a Latin beat, towns with markets like those found in North Africa and holidays that seem reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas. Taken together it 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!’
And this one from Craig Gerber, co-executive producer/writer of Sofia the First
Princess Sofia is 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. Sofia was born and raised in Enchancia, which is a make-believe “melting pot” kingdom patterned on the British Isles. Sofia considers herself a normal Enchancian girl like any other. Her mixed heritage and blended family are a reflection of what many children today experience. When Sofia becomes a princess she attends Royal Prep Academy, a school for princesses and princes from enchanted kingdoms all over the world. Sofia’s fellow students hail from make-believe kingdoms inspired by diverse cultures. There is a prince from Tangu (a desert kingdom), a princess from Freezenberg (a Nordic inspired kingdom), a princess from Wei-Ling (an Asian-inspired kingdom) and a prince from Khaldoun (a Moroccan-inspired kingdom), just to name a few. In the tradition of-and partially in homage to – the spirit of “It’s a Small World,” the princes and princesses at Royal Prep enable Sofia to meet royal children from culturally different backgrounds and go on adventures in their exotic, fairy-tale kingdoms. Sofia has diverse roots as does the world she lives in -and occasionally stories will delve into them-but Sofia’s primary story is about a normal girl who becomes a princess and must learn that being truly royal comes from within.
In case this needs further explaining, let me remind all that “Latina” means hailing from Latin America. Spain, the country that inspired Queen Merida’s birthplace, is not in Latin America, although we inherited their language and share some customs. Spain is still in Europe and no Spaniard will ever consider herself a Latina.
There, is it clear enough now?
Sofia the First is a show my daughter has anxiously been waiting for because it depicts a lively, beautiful, vivacious girl just like her — except for the fact that Sofia can talk to animals, that is!
Do I need her to be Latina to identify with her? No.
Do I want Disney to portray a Latina princess soon? Yes.
It’s clear that our community is thirsty to see our culture represented by the most magical storytellers of all — Disney. And I hope that this controversy at least brings to light how loved and welcomed a Disney Latina princess would be by all. We really do want another princess to adore, but more than that, for our girls to see themselves and their culture brought to life with the majesty that only Disney can create.
Dear Disney, we do want a Latina princess. ¡Gracias!
Buy the book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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