Stereotypes of Mexican Americans - Mexican American Essay Example
Stereotypes of Mexican Americans
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In the play “Los Vendidos,” meaning the sell-outs, Luis Valdez presents and tackles the perennial issues that belligerently affect the psychosocial aspects of how the society at large sees Mexican-Americans. One of the most apparent subject matter is the stereotypical views towards Mexicans in America. This play which was first staged in 1967 and televised in 1972 points out the obscure and fading true identity of the Mexican-Americans as it is being replaced by perceptions fed by the media to the society and the perceptions reinforced by this minority within them.
There are many stereotypes about Mexican-Americans that are negative. They are stereotyped as uneducated, lazy, poor, dirty, noisy, and dependent. They are seen as less competitive, athletic, optimistic, industrious, intelligent, progressive, and good-looking by the Anglos. Among the many stereotypes attributed to Mexican-Americans, there are only a few positive characteristics that describe them. One is their strong family orientation and their adamant faith in religion. (Jackson 7)
The general perception about this group is a real problem that can be directly linked to how some Mexican-Americans revolt against their ethnicity. This is depicted in the play, where the characters particularly Ms. Jimenez, the anglicized Mexican antagonist who was looking for another “brown face to add in the governor’s luncheon,” has denounced or “sold” her identity as a Mexican and was sold to the idea that the American way is more sophisticated and superior. What she did, however, is not surprising behavior. It is only natural and normal to desire a positive self-image that is free from oppression. Thus, to let go of qualities that may associate the self to negative traits and adapt to those that would give a positive self-image is just practical and probably psychologically healthy. But of course forsaking one’s ethnic identity and converting or identifying to another that is perceived as more superior is not the answer that Luis Valdez wanted to point out. The real call is to break these stereotypes and misrepresentations.
Being a filmographer and a playwright, Valdez understands that the media can be one powerful ally in breaking down these prejudices. Unfortunately, up to date, the media continuously portray the Mexican-Americans according to negative stereotypes fondly believed by many who may never really have close affiliations with any member of the group. (Mendez-Mendez 3). In films and television programs alone, they assume non-professional roles with menial jobs such as maids, janitors, cooks, and garbage collectors. In sports and news, it is rare to find commentaries about them that highlight their abilities, skills, and achievements. The media, film directors, artists, writers, producers, and all the people who are part of the industry in part contribute in reinforcing these stereotypes without realizing the offensive effects experienced by this rising population in the U.S.
Los Vendidos is a call for change to end sociopolitical and psychosocial oppression. Valdez wants to mobilize the community by creating awareness about the reality but without stopping there. (Ramirez, 74) He challenges the Mexican-Americans to become active participants rather than passive observers accepting all that is being fed about them and being done to them.
Jackson, Linda A. Stereotypes, Emotions, Behaviors, and Overall Attitudes towards Hispanics by Anglos. Personality and Psychosocial Bulletin. 1995.
Mendez-Mendez, S. & Alverio, D. 2000: The Portrayal of Latinos in Network Television News. 2000. Pamphlet.
Ramirez, Elizabeth S. Chicanas/ Latinas in American Theatre: A History of Performance. Indiana University Press. 2000.