The not so secret life of a Hispanic female student

Mirror is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “a polished or smooth surface (as of glass) that forms images by reflection” but what is shown is not just the reflection of light waves that show an image, it is what others see you as. It is the millions of identities that you represent; from your race, social class, education level, etc. Popular culture media serves as our mirror. Through popular culture media we can see our identities represented through the lens of the general public. As I peek at my mirror I see a female Hispanic student with aspirations to be a successful Hispanic business woman with a college degree and be a role model to my fellow Latino students everywhere. But what does the general public see my identity as? After watching a couple of shows I noticed some trends amongst how Hispanic students are perceived in general. Although education is often claimed to be a priority in the Hispanic community, Latino students are massively represented as doing poorly. They are not only inferior to their classmates for the academic performance in course materials but also in sexual education. Hispanic students are often correlated to teen pregnancy. Popular culture has deemed this cultural group with a negative connotation when in all reality being a Hispanic/Latino female student should be something you should be proud of.

In East Los High, an original Hulu series written and directed by Carlos Portugal, a Latina student goes to a high school in Southern California. This show is the only Hulu series with an all Latino cast, it’s a teen drama that portrays the lives of students from the American-Latino point of view. In season one Jesse is the main character, she is a Latina from the lower working class, her mother has raised her independently and although she struggles to pay the rent she refuses to let her daughter help. Jesse’s mother is a strong believer in higher education and wishes that her daughter concentrates on her academics, so that one day she will not have to be struggling to pay the bills like she is now. Jesse, like her boyfriend Jacob and best friend Soli, is a very good student, she is a member of her school’s science club. Jacob has the opportunity for a full ride scholarship to a school out of state for his recognition in American football and academics. I found it interesting that the character, Jacob, plays American football, considering the stereotype is Latinos play soccer. He turned down this opportunity for free higher education to help out his father in the family business. They own a taco shop and his father was struggling to keep the business afloat. Jacob chose family over free education. Although his father insisted for Jacob to go off to college, Jacob did not listen. Soli and Jesse are part of a “virgin club” which only consist of them two. In this “club” they vow to not have sex until they have earned their college degree. Their motivation for this oath is to not end up like their family member or as Soli said in Season 1 Episode 2 “I’m not going to end up like my tias (aunts), waiting for their welfare with loads of babies and no baby daddies”. During this show a lot of Spanglish is used. Spanglish is the merging of both Spanish and English, it is common amongst the American-Latino community. Unlike Jesse and her friends, Maya (Jesse’s cousin) does not have a special interest in school. She does not see the importance in it, during the first half of the season she is shown on the “streets” with her friend Scrappy. Scrappy dropped out of high school and is seen like a cholo, he and Maya sold cocaine until Scrappy got killed in a drive by for not giving the “head” narc a cut since they were selling in his neighborhood. This series shows the lives of these teens on the street, at home and at school. Also different social classes are represented. Jesse and Jacob are part of the working class, Maya was part of the lower class, she robbed houses for a living and lived in the streets until Jesse’s mother took her in, and then there is Vanessa. Vanessa is filthy rich and gets everything she wants. Due to East Los High having an all Latin crew it shows Latinos in all education levels, ethics, morals, cultural beliefs, social classes, defying social norms into thinking there is only one type of Hispanic student. Hispanic students are not a “one size fits all” the stereotypes do not pertain to every single one of them.

In The Secret Life of the American Teenager or plainly, Secret Life, an ABC Family Original Production written by Brenda Hampton, a Caucasian freshman student (Amy) gets pregnant by a boy she met at summer camp, Ricky, but he had a girlfriend. Ricky’s girlfriend is Adrian. Adrian is the only Hispanic student, and her family is the only Hispanic family on the show. Although the Hispanic culture is never spoken of, unlike East Los High, this tv show was not targeted for the Hispanic community and the only Hispanic cultural aspect that is seen is the food. Adrian is perceived in school as being a slut but her outstanding academic achievements are not recognized or noted by her classmates. Adrian is a star student, at one point she was about to be the valedictorian for her class but was not due to her unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage. She got depressed and stopped attending school. Adrian’s mother raised her independently and she also has the same reputation as Adrian. They both have the reputation of being “sluts” because they like having multiple sexual partners without the commitment of a serious relationship. Their taste are frowned upon because they are female but if a male would have multiple partners no one would say a word. Adrian’s and her mother’s character are both overly sexualized, their wardrobes are very provocative in comparison to the other characters. Their achievements are constantly overlooked because of their reputation, Adrian’s mother was independent enough to raise her daughter by herself without the financial assistance of anyone but she is still criticized for being a bad mother because she does not have a stable relationship.

La Rosa de Guadalupe is a drama series in which each episode has an individual story. Carlos Orduna is the creator and producer of this show, its production company is Televisa. The audience is the Hispanic community, more specifically adult females. I know this because Hispanic female adults typically watch these types of shows, for example my mother, aunts, grandma, older cousins, etc. During each show a problem is raised whether it’s a financial issue, domestic violence issue, gang, etc. and when the white rose magically appears that the when everything magically gets fixed. At the end of the show a blurb about why this was an issue and how it could be prevented is told and it is an all-Spanish show. I decided to analyze one episode since they each have an individual story, I’m analyzing episode 325 of season 1, En Buenas Manos. In this episode Belen is a young student that gets pregnant and decides to keep her child. At school she is constantly being ridiculed and bullied for being a single mother since her baby daddy fled the country as soon as he was told about the child. This episode takes place in Mexico and having a child out of wedlock is very frowned upon. Belen’s mother helps her raised the child with the condition that she remains in school and gets a degree. Other mothers could have kicked their daughters out or made them ask the father for support. Considering how expensive kids can be and Dona Ceci’s job as working independently washing other people’s clothes, this was a very generous offer and I think she did it so her daughter could better herself and not end up washing other people’s clothing. Although Belen’s mother, Ceci, goals are for Belen to be a financial secure, educated single mother, Belen has another plan. Her plan is to be nothing like her mother, she doesn’t want to work, she wants her “man” to take care of her and her child, and she doesn’t want to be single. Belen ultimately ends up dropping out of school and abandons her kid so that she can follow her dreams of being with a guy that can pay for all her things although he hates her kid.

For my secondary source I chose “Voices of Hispanic College Students, a Content Analysis of Qualitative Research within the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences” by Cassandra A. Storlie, Luis S. Moreno and Tarrell A. Portman. In this article they are addressing the Hispanic community and primarily to students. Telling us the story of Hispanic students’ quest to achieve their dreams and getting a college degree. This article says that Hispanic students are an underrepresented cultural group in higher education, one the reasons for this could be lack of support. Voices of Hispanic Students goes in depth, explaining that Hispanic children feel inferior to other races and self-destruct in result. Also social class plays a big role in this issue, Hispanic families are often categorized as the lower class or working class so the opportunity cost of attaining a higher education would be working less and having less money that they need. This article helps me understand why there is so little current shows or movies representing college Hispanic students and why it is more common to see Hispanic students in high school rather than higher education. This article supports my idea that the reason for under representation of Hispanic students is not only due to cost of the tuition, but also opportunity cost, culture aspects, and stereotypes that have been placed on them that makes them feel inferior. For example the opportunity cost of Jacob taking the full scholarship was his family business could go bankrupt.

There is ying and a yang for everything we do in life, it just depends in which light we see it. Although Hispanic students have a negative connotation I see this as an opportunity to make it better. I do not wish to be the best Hispanic female student ever, I am going to be the best version of myself possible, despise what my popular culture mirror reflects. My identity might be prone to be seen as a teen pregnancy, slutty, and academically challenged, but despise all of that I will be the successful business women that others will be admiring.

References:

“Mirror.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“East Los High.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“The Secret Life of an American Teenager.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“La Rosa De Guadalupe.”Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Storlie, Cassandra A., Luis S. Moreno, and Tarrell A. Agahe Portman. “Voices of Hispanic College Students.” Voices of Hispanic College Students. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

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2 thoughts on “The not so secret life of a Hispanic female student

  1. Hi Josseline,

    I really enjoyed your in-depth analysis of how Latina women are portrayed in today’s popular culture. As a woman of color myself (African American) I could relate to some of the negative ways we are depicted in the media. I think you did an excellent job of breaking down each television show and discussing how Latina’s and Latino’s come from a variety of backgrounds and that there is no one way to generalize everyone. I also found it interesting when you were discussing The Secret Life television show, how Adrian was a successful student yet her successes as well as her mom’s success being a single mother and raising her daughter by herself, was overshadowed by their sexuality. This was a great paper and I can tell you worked hard on it!

  2. Hi Josseline,

    After reading your paper last week I couldn’t wait to see what you did for your final. It was a great read and you pointed out some great points. Before your paper I never sat and tried to think of a media source that has a hispanic woman in college. I am still stuck thinking of one. I think your secondary source is very well thought out and adds the extra depth to your paper by defying the media portrayals. Lastly, I love how you ended all the negativity with a ring of positive.

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