The still-untitled show centers around an 18-year-old girl who is “destined for greatness,” Deadline reports.
Gomez’s executive producing partner, Aaron Kaplan, was inspired to create the series after hearing a speech given by LA high school student Ana Cobarrubias about her aspirations, the stereotypes her generation faces, and her life growing up in East LA. He was so impressed, in fact, that he’s called on Cobarrubias to be a consultant on the show.
We all know by now that is no “one way” to be Latinx. Latinos come in a variety of forms, from Black to white, tall to short, descended from Indigenous, African, and European populations. And while Roman Catholicism may be the dominant religion in most of Latinidad, it goes without saying that Latino culture is not a monolith. Latinos practice a variety of religions, from Islam to Buddhism to, yes, Judaism.
And while most people don’t necessarily think of Judaism when they think of Latin America, there is, in fact, a small but proud population of Jewish Latinos who keep their culture alive through tradition and a strong sense of community. But being a part of such a small community within an already-marginalized community can feel isolating at times. Especially when there are no public role models to see yourself reflected in.
That’s why Tuesday’s news that Disney is debuting a Jewish-Latinx princess sent shock-waves through the internet.
Walt Disney Television Animation News announced via Twitter that an upcoming Elena of Avalon episode in December would be featuring a “visiting princess” from a “Latino Jewish kingdom”.The as-yet-unnamed princess will be voiced by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the actress famous for her portrayal of Meadow Soprano on HBO’s seminal masterpiece, “The Sopranos”.
The Tweet also revealed that the princess would also make an appearance in Elana’s “royal coronation special” next year. Although we do not know any further details of Sigler’s character or her storyline, “Elena of Avalor” writer Rachel Ruderman gave a small preview of what’s to come. “A little over a year ago, I had the honor of writing an Elena of Avalor episode featuring Disney’s first Jewish princess,” Ruderman said via Twitter. She continued: “Jamie Lynn Sigler knocks the role out of the park (wait ’till you hear her song!) Can’t wait to share this one”.
In a move of conscious-casting on Disney’s part, Jamie Lynn Sigler herself happens to be both Latina and Jewish–a giant step for a media giant that can sometimes miss the mark with casting.
Raised by a Jewish father and a Cuban mother, Sigler grew up in New York City as part of a multicultural family.In the past, Sigler has talked about being raised Jewish–attending Hebrew school, having a Bat Mitzvah, and even going on a Birth Right trip to Israel in 2008.
This episode can serve as an educational experience for many people (including those of Latinx descent) who are unaware that Jewish Latinos even exist. In fact, what some people might not even know, is that the term “Sephardic” (a term used to describe Jewish people of European descent) literally means “of Spain or Portuguese descent” in old Hebrew. In other words, it’s not a stretch to imagine a character of both Latin and Jewish roots on our TV screens. In fact, it’s completely historically plausible!
Naturally, both the Latinx and Jewish Twitter population is super excited at this groundbreaking news.
As we mentioned before, the acknowledgment of Jewish Latinos in popular culture is such a rarity. When the media shines a spotlight on such a marginalized group of people, the advent is worth celebrating. And even though changes are slow in the making, any progress on the representation front is a step in the right direction.
Jamie Lynn Sigler herself expressed her excitement at the news, calling to attention the novelty of her position:
Yes, it’s exciting that the Jewish Latinx population has finally gotten some princess representation, but it’s still a little bit frustrating that we had to wait until 2019 for a Jewish princess. We have a long way to go.
This Latina Jew was incredibly excited at the prospect of having the chance to see her own unique lifestyle reflected onscreen:
The self-styled “Jewyorican” is one of many New York-based Puerto-Rican Jews who identify fully with both cultures. It’s not as rare as people think.
Some Latinx Jews took to Twitter to give some suggestions on how Disney could go about bringing the new character to life:
This Hispanic Linguistics Professor suggested incorporating the ancient Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino into the show.
This multi-cultural woman celebrated the inclusion of multiple cultures in one character:
Families like hers are the way of the future–at least according to statistics. Although many media outlets still see American families in black and white, the rest of us living our lives know that our identities are increasingly a hodgepodge of cultures. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Selena Gomez continues her reign as a Netflix producer with Living Undocumented. It is always great when celebrities use their platforms to enrich and educate. Gomez has a huge platform and can generate huge numbers. 13 Reasons Why blew Netflix’s expectations out of the water, and I can’t help but think it’s because of Gomez’s enormous Instagram following. The girl has reach.
As you might have guessed, Living Undocumented is a documentary series that follows the lives of undocumented immigrants as they navigate life under the looming threat of increasingly cruel immigration policies and ICE raids.
Selena Gomez announces Living Undocumented on Instagram
“I am so humbled to be a part of Netflix’s documentary series Living Undocumented. The immigration issue is more complex than one administration, one law or the story you hear about on the news. These are real people in your community, your neighbors, your friends—they are all part of the country we call home. I can’t wait for you guys to see this and hope it impacts you like it impacted me. Available globally October 2,” Gomez wrote.
Living Undocumented will focus on eight undocumented families. Premiering on October 2nd on Netflix, the show will chronicle the families as they face possible deportation. The narratives will range from hopeful to infuriating, but the series will put a human face on a dehumanized group of people.
It cannot be said again that the United States has always struggled with two contradictory narratives: the one where it is a beacon of hope for the tired, hungry, and poor, versus the one where it has upheld numerous racist and xenophobic immigration policies. This is an issue that predates Trumpito, even if he has kicked it into it’s most degrading form.
“I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented because, over the past few years, the word ‘immigrant’ has seemingly become a negative word,” said Gomez. “My hope is that the series can shed light on what it’s like to live in this country as an undocumented immigrant firsthand, from the courageous people who have chosen to share their stories.”
Gomez is joined by executive producers Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Mandy Teefey, Anna Chai, and Sean O’Grady. Chai will also co-direct the series.
“Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time. But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”
Humanizing immigrants is key
People don’t just bring guns into Walmarts to kill 22 innocent humans beings for no reason. It is no secret that President Trump’s dehumanizing language was a catalyst for the El Paso shooting. The suspect whose name shall not be invoked told officers he was looking to kill “Mexicans.” Mexicans — the Latinxs Trump referred to as rapists and criminals. The mass murderer also said he wanted to stop a “Hispanic Invasion,” in his manifesto. Trump called Central Americans “invaders.”
According to Pew Research Center, this year they found that 58 percent of Latinx adults say they experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. Across all races and ethnic groups, two-thirds of individuals surveyed say that expressing racist views has become more common since Trump was elected.
This year, at a Trump rally, supporters were cheering about shooting immigrants.
“How do you stop these people?” Trump asks. Then someone yelled back, “Shoot them.” Trump smiled. The crowd cheered. Three months later, the El Paso shooting took 22 lives.
“The language that criminalizes and makes Latinos out to be evil is affecting our own citizens and it’s going to have both short- and long-term consequences that we are starting to see in the Latino population,” Elizabeth Vaquera, an associate professor at George Washington University who studies vulnerable groups, told the Washington Post.
A Bipartisan Non-Issue Becomes A Partisan Issue
This immigration “issue” started off as a hoax but through Trump’s horrible policies he created this new immigration crisis. In 2017, when Trump took office, migrants arrested at the border were at the lowest level in three decades.
Three former employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote in Politico, the border crisis is all Trump’s fault.
“It is Donald Trump himself who is responsible. Through misguided policies, political stunts and a failure of leadership, the president has created the conditions that allowed the asylum problem at the border to explode into a crisis.”
A Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 80 percent of Democrats view the fact that the majority of the United States will be nonwhite by 2045 as a good thing, while 61 percent of Republicans say it is bad.
The barrage of harmful rhetoric has turned what was not even a problem into a national crisis with opinions straddling partisan lines, and a heightened hatred of Latinx people. Living Undocumented might be exactly what this country needs.
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