I can remember the first time I saw a family like mine on television. They were called the Delgados, and they lived on a pretty famous street.
Writing about “Sesame Street’s”‘ new Latina character reminded me how valuable it was to grow up with Luis and Maria Delgado, two characters — played by a Mexican-American and a Puerto Rican actor, respectively — who acted and sounded a lot like my own parents. (Except they never told me to make my bed, and so were even cooler than my parents.) When their daughter, Gaby, was introduced on the show, it presented a girl who was a lot like me and girls I knew: She spoke English and Spanish! Her parents loved her, but were kiiinda strict. Even her name — unlike the Brendas and Lisas also on TV at the time — was familiar, grounded in an experience I knew and felt at home in. She was like a cousin, only on the other side of a screen.
The same was true for “Que Pasa USA,” a truly groundbreaking, fully bilingual show about a Cuban exile family living in Miami that aired on public television and routinely made me laugh until tears ran down my face. The Peña family was like my family, only maybe a little funnier, and they made me feel, from an extremely early age, that my story was one worth telling, one that deserved to be on television and shared with an audience.
And it’s not like the only people we can relate to as Latinos are other Latinos. (If that was the case, we wouldn’t consistently over-index when it comes to media engagement.) For instance: There’s a scene in “Fresh Off the Boat” that shows the Huang family sitting down to watch “All American Girl.” That one, brief little scene drove home that it’s been a hell of a long time since an Asian-American family was the focus of a U.S. TV sitcom, and that the Huang family may not have existed without “All American Girl” paving the way. It’s a scene that was also relatable, I think, to anyone who has yearned to see more faces, accents and names like theirs on TV. (Like, say, Latinos.) Of course, it’s also not like every Latino presented on TV is instantly relatable to all of us (see: Carlos Mencia). But seeing a specifically Latino story that mirrors your own so closely works to validate that your voice, your experience, and your ideas are of value to people beyond you. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.
So, here’s my question for all you: When was the first time you saw yourself reflected on television? When was your “hard relate” moment? And if that’s never happened for you, do you have faith that it’ll happen soon?
Let us know in the comments thread or on Facebook, and your responses might be used in an upcoming post here on Mitú.
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