Who Exactly Is Living La Vida Loca? The Legal and Political Consequences of Latino-Latina Ethnic and Racial Stereotypes in Film and Other Media

33 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020

See all articles by Ediberto Roman

Ediberto Roman

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law

Date Written: 2000


This Article examines whether the media has truly embraced Latinas and Latinos, or simply perpetuated the traditional stereotypes. While a cursory review of recent media coverage of Latin celebrities would suggest a Latin renaissance of sorts, a closer examination will reveal otherwise. In fact, this Article demonstrates how this so-called “Latin Boom” appears to be nothing more that a repackaged formula for classic stereotypes.

The objectification and commodification of Latinas and Latinos in the Latin Boom continues to support the dominant culture’s already skewed perception of this group-little has changed with new, glitzy high-profile characterizations. Notwithstanding the widespread exposure, Latinas and Latinos are still largely portrayed as one of the following: (1) the hot-blooded sexy character – the macho man or sultry curvy vixen, (2) the gangster or gang member, who is almost always a drug dealer, (3) the snazzy entertainer, or (4) the immigrant, often an illegal immigrant.

In an effort to recast society’s perceptions, this Article attempts to go beyond what some have satirically termed the “Latin Exploitation” in the hopes of reclaiming Latina-Latino identity. It seeks to confront the use of the dominant stereotypes in the media as they reinforce a biased and untrue perception of reality. In the same spirit of a number of works on other ethnic imagery, it seeks to transform the perception of Latinas and Latinos away from the characteristic stereotypical portrayals.

This Article, however, will not simply expose the insidious stereotypes of Latinas and Latinos. It undertakes the more involved task of drawing a nexus between the societal prejudice which leads to the stereotyping and the legal and political consequences that result from it. Specifically, it argues that these media images, myths, metaphors, and stereotypes play a critical role in establishing society’s vision of Latinas and Latinos. In other words, these stereotypes serve to reinforce both the characterizations of Latinas and Latinos from the perspectives of both the dominant and the dominated.

Keywords: Latinas, Latinos, stereotypes, stereotyping, subordinated groups, Latin Explosion, gangster, gang member, La Vida Loca, sexual prowess, Latin Boom, Ricky Martin, Latin exploitation, societal prejudice, perceptions, immigrant, hispanic, chicano, chicana

Suggested Citation

Roman, Ediberto, Who Exactly Is Living La Vida Loca? The Legal and Political Consequences of Latino-Latina Ethnic and Racial Stereotypes in Film and Other Media (2000). Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 4, p. 38, 2000, Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1625025

Ediberto Roman (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) - College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th St.
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

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