Calladitas No More

Four Latina Authors Get Real About Their Role in the Romance Industry

In 2015, the billion-dollar romance book industry represented 34 percent of all fiction sold in the United States. At the heart of these stories — whether they’re heartwarming, steamy or funny — is a fictional couple (or more) finding its way to a happily-ever-after. Not surprisingly, like much of the media we consume, white heterosexuals dominate this fictional landscape. But times are changing, and these four Latina romance authors, along with their contemporaries and others who preceded them, are writing stories where Latinx people get their fairytale ending, too.

Here, we share a few candid insights about Latinx representation in romance, our efforts to battle stereotypes, the importance of creating multi-dimensional characters from a variety of backgrounds and the need for progress in depicting Latinx intersectionality.

Alexis Daria, Puerto Rican, Author of Sexy Contemporary Romances

Positive representation in romance novels doesn’t just provide the joy of seeing yourself on the page; it’s an affirmation that you belong in the world of the love stories you love reading. When I read romances where only white characters show up on the page, I call BS. This is not just unrealistic, but negligent and lazy as well. As writers, we’re creating worlds we wish existed, where love triumphs over evil and where people can change and heal through the power of love before finding a happily-ever-after. If we can do all that, we can certainly include casts of characters who are diverse and richly developed, not propped up by tired — or worse, harmful — stereotypes.

Writing inclusively doesn’t require reinventing the wheel, but romance authors do have a responsibility to dig deeper into their character development tool boxes when crafting all characters in the story, not just the ones falling in love. Unless the protagonists are trapped in a remote cabin or lost in space, they will likely encounter other people over the course of the story. This is an opportunity for romance writers to stretch their skills by creating multidimensional characters from a variety of backgrounds. And while a character’s racial or cultural background does inform who they are, it should not be the only trait used to describe them.

As a Latina and native New Yorker, it’s important to me that the stories I write reflect the world I live in. My heroines are Latinas living in big cities, but they’re also surrounded by characters from diverse backgrounds who have their own lives separate from the protagonists’. It’s not enough for me to just include Latinx representation; my goal is to show these characters living, loving and interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds. Some might call that “diversity for diversity’s sake,” but I say it’s realistic and responsible storytelling.

Mia Sosa, Brazilian-Puerto Rican, Author of Steamy Romantic Comedies

Confession: I wept along with Gina Rodriguez when she accepted the Best Actress Golden Globe Award for her groundbreaking title role in Jane the Virgin. Why? Because representation matters. When you watch a television show or see a movie, it’s uplifting and gratifying to see aspects of your culture respectfully represented on the screen. But here’s the rub: Although we’re making inroads in showing positive examples of Latinx culture in mass media, the people and groups whose identities don’t fit the mold of the prototypical Latinx remain hidden from view.

Let’s face it, Latinx people are no strangers to anti-blackness and colorism, and many of us know people, perhaps individuals in our own families, who don’t embrace the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, romance novels often suffer from the same erasure, my own first few works included.

As an Afro-Latinx romance writer who now understands the power of the metaphorical pen in my hand, I’m mindful that to be fully inclusive, the worlds I create in my books should represent the different skin colors, hair textures, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities that make up our Latinidad. So when my publisher’s art department wanted guidance on the cover for one of my recent books, “Acting on Impulse,” I thought of my own daughters, with their brown skin and curly hair, and sent the team photos that captured the essence of the woman I was trying to portray. I couldn’t have been happier with the result, and when my girls saw the cover, they adored it. Now they’re not allowed to read the book for another decade or so (#sexytimesincluded), but it touches me to think that years from now they’ll be able to pick it up and read a love story featuring a person who looks like them.

There’s much more to be done, of course, and thankfully other authors are doing the work, too, but I hope I’m headed in the right direction.

Sabrina Sol, Mexican, Author of Erotic Romance and Women’s Fiction

The lazy construction worker. The over-sexed single mom. The drug kingpin.

These are the Latinx stereotypes we can’t get away from. Turn on the TV, and it won’t be long before one of these characters shows up on your favorite prime time network.

They’re in romance books, too, unfortunately. In fact, I remember being so angry about a book written by a USA Today best-selling (white) author where the only Latinx character in it was the day laborer who worked for the hero’s construction company. He never was in a scene or had any dialogue, but he was constantly referred to as the only employee who couldn’t be relied upon to show up for a job. I wanted to e-mail that author and ask why she felt the need to name the lazy worker “Juan” instead of “John.” I never e-mailed, though, because I already knew the answer.

Others might not have noticed—or even cared. But I knew there were readers out there, like me, who did.

That’s when I started writing romance, and I made a conscious decision to only write Latina heroines. I work hard to stay away from negative stereotypes and, instead, make an effort to give my characters full and complex lives. The romance is just the cherry on top.

My heroines and their heroes are usually college-educated and excel in their white collar, professional careers. They are celebrities, own their own businesses, live in expensive homes and make tons of money. And if they’re blue-collar workers, then I purposefully depict them as being dedicated, successful honest and hard-working.

Because while there is nothing wrong with having a character be a day laborer or a maid, there is absolutely everything wrong in writing them as if that is all they are.

Priscilla Oliveras, Puerto Rican-Mexican, Heartwarming Contemporary Romance Author

While my debut novel released last fall, I’ve been writing for a long, LONG, time — let’s say I began in utero, OK? Actually, I was a 20-year-old military spouse, new mom and college co-ed when I first sat in front of an electric typewriter to peck away at what I assumed would be the next romance best-seller. Reality check!

Back then, I’d been devouring romances for years, reading and re-reading my favorites. So when I had to take a semester off due to a military move, I figured I’d try penning my own. My first two manuscripts will never see the light of day, but they were valuable learning tools, highlighting the need to hone my craft and find my personal author voice.

The problem was, I mimicked the type of stories I’d read, rather than trusting the creative meanderings in my mind. In those early days, I honestly can’t recall reading any books with Latinx characters. Not as the main ones anyway. So basically I was trying to force the stories in my head into someone else’s mold. But the narratives I wanted to tell were about diverse characters that lived and loved in a diverse world. Much like my own.

It wasn’t really until 1999, when Kensington Publishing opened their Encanto line with authors like Caridad Pineiro, Berta Platas, Lara Rios and others, that I saw stories like the ones I imagined, written by authors I identified with. And while the line folded after only two years, the possibility that my stories could find a home took root. Meeting those ladies at a Latina writers conference later gave me the confidence to cultivate my voice in a world that needs #ownvoices.

Sí, I write contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. I write stories about Latinx familias living and loving and finding their way in a multi-cultural world that isn’t always easy to navigate. I write romances that celebrate the joy, pain, frustration and blessings that are universal, no matter where we’re from or where we live. There’s a place at the romance table for my work and me. There’s a place for all of us.

Read: Meet Angela Maria Spring, The Latina Creating Space For Book Lovers Of Color In Washington, DC

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

Fans of magical realism rejoice. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it acquired the rights to Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and will be turning the literary masterpiece into a Spanish-language series.

This is the first time the 1967 novel, considered “one of the most significant works of the 20th Century,” will be adapted for screen. For years, the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights, believing the story could not be done justice through a two-hour project, according to Deadline.

Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, García Márquez’s sons, who are serving as executive producers on the show, believe a series is an appropriate approach to the book.

“For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad. He believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice,” Rodrigo Garcia told BuzzFeed News, adding that the “current golden age of series,” with “the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content,” changed the family’s mind.

“The time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides,” he continued.

The series will be filmed in Colombia.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the multi-generational Buendia family, whose patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, a fictional town in the South American country.

The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages.

In a statement, Francisco Ramos, Netflix’s vice president of Spanish-language content, said, “We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform.”

He’s right. Since announcing the adaptation, fans of the magical realism novel have been celebrating the news.

There’s no word yet on when the series will debut and who will star in it.

Read: This Film About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is At The Center Of The Most Expensive Sundance Documentary Deal Of All Time

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9 Rom-Coms That’ll Help You Rememb er JLo is The Queen

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9 Rom-Coms That’ll Help You Rememb er JLo is The Queen

In case you have been living under a rock, Jennifer Lopez has made it her mission to bring the rom-com back to life and she’s doing it ASAP. In fact, her latest movie “Second Act”  is all about the romance and the jajas and it’s one that you will definitely want to catch. She stars as a woman in a dead-end-job who gets mistaken for a high-powered consultant and lands her dream job. It’s especially refreshing to see a rom-com in which the woman sets her sights on a better career instead of a man.

If you’re getting ready to head to the movies, don’t forget that the queen of rom-coms had plenty of other movies that you can watch, too. You’ll probably be inspired to rewatch some of her classics and we don’t blame you. From her adorable turn in The Wedding Planner to being a badass in Enough to our forever favorite role in Selena, here are JLo’s 20 best movies that you need to watch and re-watch before this year ends.

1. The Wedding Planner

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This 2001 romantic comedy stars our love JLo along with Matthew McConaughey. She plays, of course, a wedding planner who is in charge of planning the wedding of the man of her dreams and someone else. And the truth is, he might like her a bit, too.

2. Maid in Manhattan

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The lovely JLo plays a maid in Manhattan (get it?) who accidentally meets the politician running for office, played by Ralph Fiennes in this 2002 film. Unfortunately, he mistakes her for one of the hotel’s fellow wealthy patrons and hijinks ensue in this case of mistaken identity and the Cinderella fairytale.

3. The Back-Up Plan

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In 2010, JLo came back to rom-coms in a movie co-starring with Alex O’Loughlin. She plays a woman who, frustrated with dating, decides to become a single mother and gets artificial insemination. But, wouldn’t you know it, she finally ends up meeting the man of her dreams on the same day. Oops…

4. Monster-in-Law

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This 2005 romantic comedy stars JLo alongside Michael Vartan (as her fianceé in the film) and Jane Fonda (as the title character, the monster-in-law). It’s hysterical what happens when these two women vie for the affections of Vartan, who can’t help but get caught in the middle between his feuding bride and mother.

5. Shall We Dance?

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In this 2004 film, JLo plays Paulina, a lonely dance teacher who catches the eye of happily-married-yet-missing-something Richard Gere. He signs up for ballroom dance lessons only to discover a new interest and a renewed thirst for life, rekindling his relationship with his wife and thankfully not being too much of a creep to JLo.

6. Jersey Girl

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You might have blinked and forgotten that JLo was actually in the 2004 film Jersey Girl, which is primarily focused on single dad Ben Affleck, his adorable daughter played by Raquel Castro and his new love interest, played by Liv Tyler. However, the REASON he’s a single dad in the first place is because JLo tragically dies in childbirth earlier in the film.

7. What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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This 2012 romantic comedy is partially based on the famous pregnancy book but mostly an ensemble comedy that, yes, co-starred JLo as a photographer who can’t conceive. Ultimately, she and her husband (played by Rodrigo Santoro) decide to adopt a child from Ethiopia and the film culminates in the touching scene where they go there to adopt their boy.

8. Gigli

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This 2003 comedy is what originally brought JLo and Ben Affleck together in a romantic venture that ultimately failed and, well, so did the film. However, this rom-com still deserves a spot on the list for showing us what happens when a mobster (Affleck) and a girl named Ricki fall in love.

9. Second Act

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After the release of Second Act on December 21, 2018, you’ll be able to watch and rewatch this movie over and over. And we’re betting you’ll definitely want to see JLo starring as a woman who gets a second chance in life after accidentally receiving a fake resume and mistaking her for a high-powered consultant.

10. Enough

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In 2002, JLo proved once again that she can do more than rom-coms by starring as an abused wife who learns how to fight back. It’s a pretty badass role for her and one that inspires many of us to, you know, learn to fight… especially if we can look as good as she did.

11. The Boy Next Door

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In yet another tale of how women need to be careful of their men sometimes, this 2015 film stars JLo as a high school teacher who has a one-night-stand with a hot young neighbor (Ryan Guzman). Unfortunately, he develops a dangerous obsession with her until she has to fight for her life.

12. Bordertown

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This 2006 film stars JLo, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, and others. JLo plays a reporter from a Chicago paper whose editor sends her to investigate the murders of young women on a border town in Mexico. Once she makes it to Ciudad Juaréz, she meets Banderas, who is an editor at a rival newspaper, and the two attempt to find out who is killing these women. 

13. Anaconda

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If you’ve never seen this 1997 adventure horror film, then you are seriously missing out. JLo plays the director of a documentary film crew who comes across a snake hunter (played by Jon Voight) and follows him into the Amazon rainforest because they believe he can lead them to a tribe they’re searching for. Unfortunately, they come across a deadly, giant anaconda… and things don’t end well for most of them, to say the least.

14. Lila & Eve

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This 2015 crime drama co-stars JLo and Viola Davis as two grieving mothers who get entangled in the world of crime as they try to figure out why Lila’s son died in a drive-by. There are tons of moments that made us gasp out loud and, if you’re looking for a movie about female partnerships, then this one’s definitely it.

15. Angel Eyes

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Although this 2001 movie has all of the makings of a rom-com, it’s actually more of a romantic drama starring JLo and Jim Caviezel. He is a mysterious man who finds himself drawn to JLo’s police officer and, through their connection, the two begin to heal wounds from their pasts.

16. El Cantante

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If you thought that JLo’s been in only one biopic, then you’ve likely forgotten about 2006’s El Cantante. Starring her then-husband Marc Anthony as Héctor Lavoe and JLo as Puchi, Lavoe’s wife, this film is about the life of the legendary Puerto Rican salsa singer.

17. The Cell

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She may not have done it much but, in 2000, JLo starred in this sci-fi horror film with co-stars Vince Vaughn and Vincent D’Onofrio. Although it wasn’t a critical success, the movie is still one of the best visuals and make-up jobs that she has been in and… well, if you like sci-fi, it’s the best kind of weird that there is.

18. Out Of Sight

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Before she really became the queen of rom-coms, JLo was in this 1998 crime drama co-starring with George Clooney. Although it is definitely more his movie than hers, she gives a stellar performance as a U.S. Marshall who is after the career bank robber played by Clooney.

19. U Turn

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This 1997 western crime thriller movie came out the same year as Selena (below!), so you probably don’t remember it much. It starred JLo along with a large cast of Sean Penn, Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Voight, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and more. But don’t worry, she still got plenty of screen time and was able to wow us in this neo-noir film. 

20. Selena

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Without a doubt, her most beloved role, 1997’s “Selena” is a biopic about the Tejano singer of the same name. The tragic story of Selena Quintanilla really made a superstar of JLo and, thanks to her, millions of people can relive the music of the Mexican-American singer. And yes, it’s impossible to watch this without crying… But maybe let’s rewatch it anyway, yes?

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