relationships

As Latinas, We Are Taught That Our Lives Should Revolve Around Men

It wasn’t until my dad passed away that mom had friends, and perhaps because of this she’s referred to his death as the best thing that’s ever happened to her. “La verdad,” she once told me. “Me sienta la vida de viuda. Me siento libre.”

This was not easy for me or any of my siblings to hear, but I may be the only one who understood why she said it.

While my dad was a strong, loving and supportive father, he was also a controlling husband.

Since his passing, my mom’s intense anxiety attacks that led to her body temporarily stiffening in a stroke-like way basically went away, she goes on vacation every couple of months and, most importantly, she has friends. Friends she hangs out with and gossips with without my dad power calling her every 30 minutes to see when she’s coming home to make dinner. Friends he didn’t continuously blast, making my mom feel like she couldn’t hang out with them without having problems with him.

Now she has her friends though, and she’s happier than I’ve ever seen her. It makes my dad’s passing a strangely bittersweet thing.

In Latino culture, we’re taught early on to prioritize our relationships over our friendships. It’s evident in pop culture, which seems to reinforce this notion.

Orange is the New Black/Netflix

I recently read an awesome piece in Vogue, written by Kellee Terrell, on Why it’s Important to Show Black Female Friendship on TV. Terrell writes about how the HBO series “Insecure” is so meaningful as it portrays funny-as-hell black women as more than just the sassy sidekick. They characters are complex with the same career and life struggles as anyone else, and they rely on each other for love, support and the occasional wine down. As a Mexican-American woman, I love the show for that same reason.

Latinas are rarely portrayed on television and film within our friendships. Currently we have “Orange Is The New Black,” which shows the Latinas of Litchfield Penitentiary supporting each other through incarceration, a forbidden affair with a guard that leads to a baby, fighting for kitchen dominance, proclaiming their love of The Smiths and other ways. They brawl and bawl with each other and against others, and through flashbacks we can see who they were before they were trapped behind prison walls.

OITNB is perhaps the most important show on television in its portrayal of Latinas because it highlights a side of our experience that’s rarely shown importance: our friendships.

Orange is the New Black/Netflix

It doesn’t stick to the stories of the men in their life, because there’s a lot more to worry about in prison. It’s also telling that the best example we could find of strong Latina friendships is one where the cast is almost devoid of male characters.

If we’re to believe TV and movies, our experience is often relegated to love triangles and catfighting over guys. Most shows that center on a Latina character would fail the Bechdel Test, which asks viewers to check for three criteria in film and TV: 1) does the show/movie have two women in it? 2) Do they women talk to one another? 3) Do they ever talk about about something other than a man?

This leads me to ask: does this reflect our culture? As Latinas, are we taught that our lives should revolve around men, and that our friendships don’t matter as much? And, most importantly, should that be the case?

Spoiler alert: I do not believe that should be the case, but read on for reasons why.

Racking my brain for examples of Latino-centric shows and movies in general was tough as there is a severe lack of our stories in Hollywood. So coming up with examples of when female Latina friendships took center stage or even shared the stage with a romance was even harder.

While “Jane the Virgin” showcases the title character’s close relationship to her mom and abuela, especially as she navigates motherhood, Jane’s storylines mostly revolve around the drama that is her love life. Watching the show I’m constantly asking “Where are your homegirls, Jane?”

Jane the Virgin/The CW

I’m just saying, if I was accidentally artificially inseminated with some fine-ass hotelier’s sperm even though I was engaged to a white boy detective, I’d be texting my friends STAT “Ey, some shit went down. Emergency lady hang tonight plz?” And I know I’d get a response within a minute that read “Oh shit! Ok let’s do my place, I just bought wine. Should we get snacks?”

The story arch involving Jane (played by Gina Rodriguez) and her best friend Lina (played by Diane Guerrero, who also plays Maritza on “Orange Is The New Black”) over the course of the show revolves around bad friend moves on Jane’s part and the two questioning whether they can even be friends since Jane is so wrapped up with the men in her life and her baby. There’s moments of sweetness between the two, but it’s obvious Jane’s friendship with Lina is not seen as important as her romantic entanglements by the writers. The friendship as a whole is mostly forgotten until someone in the writer’s room remembers it’s a thing.

A quick poll: how often have you had a Latina friend drop you when she got a boyfriend? How often have you been guilty of doing the same thing?

I never forget my best friend in ninth grade telling me we couldn’t hang out anymore because she now had a boyfriend and would need to spend her time with him. When I said that was dumb, she accused me of being jealous. Both things hurt, and our friendship never recovered.

Jane the Virgin/The CW

Over the years other friends wouldn’t explicitly say this but would drop from the face of the earth as soon as they got a man. And for the most part we shrug because that’s just what happens. We also talk a little shit, let’s be honest. Once they’re single again, though, they run back into their girls’ arms, and even if we were annoyed we take them back. And then they get a man again and the cycle starts all over.

Pop culture, and Latino culture, tells us that our lives are more interesting when they revolve around men, so it’s not a surprise that this is what we see on TV and in movies. But that’s a dangerous card to play as it tells women that their worth is measured by their ability to get a man and tells them it’s okay when their life is controlled by the presence of a man.

Which reminds me, let’s talk about that other troublesome aspect of Latinas and relationships: the idea of permission and when our partners are empowered to take the role of our watcher.

In the episode “Chapter 60” of “Jane the Virgin, Fabian asks Jane out, but only after asking permission from her dad first. This is portrayed as a romantic gesture. But, uh, isn’t Jane an independent adult woman with a child? Her date doesn’t need to ask her dad if it’s chill if he asks her out.

Pushing a lack of autonomy onto women is a problem because it leads men to believe they can control women’s choices and actions, even while hidden under the guise of protection or romance.

Also, raise your hand if you’ve been getting ready to go out with your girls and a friend or family member said “Oh, Juan lets you do that?” or “Did Juan say it was ok?” Juan might be your boyfriend or your husband, but why is he your watcher?

There’s a big difference between considering or informing a partner if you have plans with your friends, and asking them for permission.

Again, men are too easily given power over a Latina’s life, and that’s especially evident when it comes to our relationships with our friends. And when we see this romanticized or normalized over and over on TV and movies, it reinforces the idea that it’s okay to control us. It makes them think we need it.

There is no way I could deal with the issues Jane has without my friends having my back, pouring the margaritas and just being there to support. But also, there is no way I’d be happy not doing that for my girlfriends. Friendship is a two-way street. And there is no way in hell I need to ask permission to hang with my girls, especially when they need me or I need them.

Telenovelas aren’t much better at portraying female Latina friendship.

Amigas y Rivales/ Canal de las Estrellas

Protagonists are usually seen caught in a bitter love triangle, fighting their friends or enemies for a man’s affection, competing against their friends, generally suffering over love and having nearly no one to talk to about it other than a family member, a sirvienta who serves as a pseudo parent and confidant, or a friend whose sole function is to listen to protagonist’s problems, then I assume go back into a dark cupboard where they stare into a wall thinking of compliments to pay their BFF. There was literally a novela called “Amigas y Rivales,” because apparently amigas can’t help but hate on each other and try to snake each other’s dudes?

And as we all know, telenovelas always end with a wedding, because that’s when our female protagonist truly has it all.

Not only is this unrealistic, it’s problematic. Female friendships should be given the same amount of importance as our romantic relationships, and it’s time pop culture reflected that so as to end this tired trope both on and off screen. Any woman who’s been married or in a relationship knows that shits not easy, and you need your girlfriends to laugh with, complain with and talk to about everything that affects our lives, which, yes, may include men and love. But that’s not necessarily our default. We are more than the sum of the men and drama in our life.

Shouldn’t the happily ever after of a Latina include her girls?

Mi Vida Loca/HBO Films

I look to the classic cult film that centered specifically on Chicana friendship, “Mi Vida Loca.” Sad Girl and Mousie were unbreakable best friends, sticking by each other and their gang. Until, of course, their friendship crumbles when Mousie sleeps with Sad Girl’s boyfriend, and gets pregnant. While this plays into the whole idea that women can’t be friends without trying to bang each other’s man (another tired trope), in the end the two friends stick by each other. The film’s lesson was to show these young women as warriors and survivors, as well as sisters. Because girls it ain’t easy, but it’s a bit easier when you have good friends on your side. They’re happily ever after was about each other.

I truly believe that had my mom had her friends while my dad was alive, she would have been happier then and not see his death as freedom. He might have even been happier, because a strong friendship between women has the positive side effect of making your romantic relationships stronger. Your girls got your back, can tell you when you’re being unreasonable and can have the wine ready when life gets hard.

It’s time pop culture reflects that for Latinos.


READ: This Chicana Is Taking Over The Instagram Page Of A Major Art Museum To Show Off Chicano Art

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20 Of The Most Bizarre Things to Happen On ‘Jane The Virgin’ Now That It’s Almost Over

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20 Of The Most Bizarre Things to Happen On ‘Jane The Virgin’ Now That It’s Almost Over

The fifth and final season of “Jane The Virgin” will be premiering next month, and while we’re happy that we’ll find out all the details behind the shocking twist that concluded last season, we’re sad that one of our favorite shows is coming to an end.

Fans have so closely followed Jane Villenueva through the twists and turns of her life, that her presence on their TV screens will be sorely missed. And since “Jane the Virgin”‘s last season ended on such an unexpected cliffhanger, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the coming return of the soap-y dramedy with a list of all of the most bizarre things that have happened on “Jane” so far.

1. Jane Getting Accidentally Artificially Inseminated

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That’s right–we’d be crazy not to start this list with the one that started it all and arguably the craziest plot point so far. In case you need a refresher, the premise of “Jane the Virgin” revolves around the story of a young virgin (Jane) who is accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine gynecological exam. Pretty crazy stuff–but the series executes otherwise eye-roll inducing plot lines with such realism and humor, it’s hard to resist!

2. Jane Finding Out Her Father is a Famous Telenovela Star

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Early on in JTV’s first season, Jane discovers that the father she’s never met happens to be the most popular telenovela star on TV, Rogelio De la Vega. Over the course of four seasons, Rogelio and Jane’s relationship evolves from an awkward friendship to a rock-solid father-daughter relationship.

3. Roman Zazo Returning From The Dead–And It Actually Being His Twin Brother, Aaron

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When previously-murdered Roman Zazo arrives at Petra’s door, it was easy to jump to the conclusion that he had faked his own death (this is “Jane the Virgin”, after all). However, we soon found out that Zaz had a secret twin brother named Aaron whom he’d never mentioned before.

4. Rose Being the Infamous “Sin Rostro”

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During the first season of “Jane the Virgin”, Sin Rostro was a mysterious villain that seemed to be one step ahead of everyone. What was worse, was that no one knew who he (or she) was. Fans were shocked when the criminal mastermind behind all of the chaos at the Marbella turned out to be Stepmother-cum-lesbian lover Rose Solano. No one saw that coming!

5. Mateo Getting Kidnapped as a Newborn

User fyeahjanethevirgin via Tumblr

Every mother’s worst nightmare came true on Season 1, Episode 22 of “Jane the Virgin”. While Jane was resting after giving birth to Mateo, a woman dressed as a nurse took him and delivered him to Sin Rostro (aka Rose). Luckily, Mateo was quickly rescued by Michael.

6. Rogelio’s New Assistant  Being His Mystery Stalker

via IMDB

Usually the jokester of “Jane the Virgin”, it was unsettling for fans to see Rogelio deal with PTSD after being held against his will by his assistant, Lola, who was secretly the stalker who’d been anonymously threatening him.

7. Petra Inseminating Herself with Rafael’s Sperm Without His Permission

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Petra has never been afraid of getting her hands dirty to get what she wants, and she’ll use all the resources at her disposal to her advantage. In order to bind Rafael to her forever, a jealous Petra steals his frozen sperm sample and inseminates herself with it. The plan worked–she ended up pregnant with twins, assuring that her and Rafael would never be rid of each other.

8. Petra Having a Long-Lost Identical Twin Sister

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This story line was bizarre, but it also made for some great comedic moments. Unbeknownst to Petra, she had a long-lost twin sister named Anezka whom her mother had given up for adoption. Anezka was the opposite of Petra–weak, timid, afraid, and very un-stylish. But she had some great one-liners!

9. Magda Being Able to Walk

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Viewers of “Jane the Virgin” always knew of Petra’s mother, Magda, as wheelchair-bound, but we were kept in the dark as to the details. That’s why it was truly shocking when we see Magda (who we thought was paralyzed) standing from her chair in Season 1, Episode 9.

10. Magda Pushing Alba Down the Stairs

via IMDB

It turns out, Magda only leaves her wheelchair for truly nefarious reasons. After Alba heads to Petra’s room to confront her about meddling in Jane’s life, she stumbles upon a hostage being kept in Magda and Petra’s room. In order to keep her quiet, Magda pushes her down the stairs, obviously with the intent to kill.

11. Sin Rostro Disguising Herself as Michael’s Police Partner, Susanna

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There was always something a little off about Michael’s new police partner, Susanna, but we always chalked it up to the fact that she was allegedly an undercover agent working to expose Michael for corruption. It turns out, that was all a ruse. Susanna was actually Sin Rostro (Rose) in disguise the whole time!

12. Finding Out Alba Wasn’t a Virgin When She was Married

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This plot-twist wasn’t as wacky as some of the other more out-there situations that Jane Villenueva finds herself in, but it was shocking nonetheless. After years of Alba warning Jane about the perils of extramarital sex, while simultaneously slut-shaming Xo for her sex life, we came to find out that Alba was not a virgin when she was married.

13. Anezka Paralyzing Petra and Assuming her Identity

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In one of the most telenovela-like story lines so far, Season 3 finds Petra’s long-lost twin sister, Anezka, injecting her with a paralyzing poison and assuming her identity. Luckily, Jane eventually suspects something is amiss and exposes Anezka.

14. Rogelio and Darci Having a  Baby

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When Rogelio and Darcy Factor decide to enter into a non-romantic co-parenting relationship in Season 3, we couldn’t have been happier for the both of them. However, the mid-season 3 year time-hop revealed that the two had grown to hate each other. It was definitely bizarre when Darci showed up a few episodes later pregnant with his child, and determined to keep it.

15. Michael Dying

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Michael dying in Season 3 was a massive shock to everyone watching the show, primarily because he had just endured a long recovery after being shot by Sin Rostro, and all signs pointed to him being fully healed. That’s why it was a shock to everyone when he died of heart failure after taking the stressful Bar Exam.

16. Britney Spears Randomly Showing Up as a Guest Star

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Britney Spears was always one of the celebrities that Rogelio loved to name drop, but like most of the celebrities he claimed to know, we never expected her to ever appear in the flesh. So color us surprised when the Princess of Pop herself showed up to the Marbella in Chapter Twenty-Seven!

17. Isabel Allende Randomly Showing Up as a Guest Star

Isabel Allende/Facebook

Any JTV fan worth their salt knows that Jane’s favorite author, and the one who’s career she hopes to emulate, is celebrated Chilean author Isabel Allende. Viewers collectively squealed when she showed up in a cameo as herself in Season 4, Episode 8.

18. Petra Killing Anezka

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Twin sisters Petra and Anezka had a strained relationship, to put it lightly, but we never thought either of them would act violently towards the other. That is, until Anezka threatened the lives of Petra’s children, prompting Petra to attack Anezka, which resulted in Anezka falling off a balcony.

19. Xiomara Being Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

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Sometimes the most terrifying things that happen to us aren’t the most outrageous. Xo getting diagnosed with breast cancer was shocking because it was so unexpected. Jane’s mother was arguably the most vivacious character on the series–she seemed practically invincible. Xiomara coming face-to-face with her own mortality was definitely jarring.

20. Michael Coming Back From the Dead

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And now, the twist to end all twists. After a three years (which translated into a full season) of grieving and healing from the loss of her husband Michael, Jane discovered that he was still alive. Since this was the finale of Season 4, we’re not sure what happens next! Sounds like it’s straight out of a telenovela, right?

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These Empowering Latina Jams Are Perfect To Add To Your Galentine’s Day Playlist

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These Empowering Latina Jams Are Perfect To Add To Your Galentine’s Day Playlist

Happy Galentine’s Day, mamis! What, you never heard of the holiday? According to Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope, who made it a thing, “it’s only the best day of the year.” And she ain’t lying. Galentine’s Day, observed February 13, is a day to celebrate love — between your hermanas!

As the fictional character played by Amy Poehler in the series said, it’s “ladies celebrating ladies.” Whether you’re single or in a relationship, it’s a time to bring your closest gals together, either for brunch, evening cocktails, mani-pedis or an old-school slumber party, and bask in the beauty, love and joy of your friendship.

No Galentine’s Day commemoration would be complete without some girl power tunes. Here, a celebration playlist you and your bella squad can bang out to while toasting to being ride-or-dies.

1. Remind your mamis what’s in store for them this Galentine’s Day with “Ladies Night.”

This Lil’ Kim classic, featuring Boricua Angie Martinez, Left Eye, Da Brat and Missy Elliot, will undoubtedly get the squad hyped for the Galentine’s festivities to come.

2. Today’s all about feelin’ good, so you have to bring out Demi Lovato’s “Confident.”

On Galentine’s Day, you shower your femme squad with compliments — as you probably do any day of the week — and try your best to make sure the whole gang knows their worth.

3. Remind your nenas they are bomb just as they are with Bomba Estéreo’s “Soy Yo.”

Sure, if we’re being real with our chicas, as we should be, there’s room for all of us to grow as individuals, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t great already. Colombiana Li Saumet will have all the gals loving on themselves, and all their complexities, with this 2016 banger.

4. If this is a single ladies kind of festivity, pull out Paloma Mami’s “Not Steady.”

If your squad is the type that yells “soltera para siempre” as they toast their champagne, you need this chilena’s bop about not wanting to settle down blasting at the pari.

5. Remind your amigas that lovers “Can’t Hold Us Down” with this Christina Aguilera and Lil’ Kim classic.

Even if your squad is mixed, with single ladies and mujeres in relationships, both will appreciate la ecuatoriana’s still-relevant message about not letting your boo, or the patriarchy, keep you down.

6. After all, you can’t tame a boss bitch.

Just ask puertorriqueña Kelis, whose 2006 jam “Bossy,” featuring Too $hort, will have all the girls embracing their inner jefa.

7. Ride out with the nenas as the car radio blares Selena Gomez’s “Me & My Girls.”

Pre-game: check. It’s time to hit the dance floor, and this young mexicana will have you and your chicas feelin’ alive and set to shake the night away.

8. Put your worries aside with Mariah Carey’s “It’s Like That.”

As the venezolana says, “no stress, no fights … no tears, no time to cry.” Tonight is all about you and your girls livin’ it up. So heed Mariah’s advice and “open off that Bacardi” and feel “so hot tamale.”

9. Feelin’ it yet? Good! ‘Cause Cardi B’s “Money Bag” is about to have all the mamis twerking.

Like the dominicana’s own “bloody gang,” your crew is so bad that you’re out on the dance floor lookin’ “like bridesmaids,” so do like Cardi and drop that confident ass low.

10. But make sure Ivy Queen’s “Quiero Bailar” reminds everybody else that this is a Galentine’s Day party.

Swaying those hips is catching some attention. No one hates when some of the girls dance up with folk who aren’t in the crew, but let the Bori reggaetonera let the desperadxs know this is a girls’ night and the crew is going home together — punto.

Read: Watching Women In Her Life Abandon Relationships When Romance Arrives, This Latina Is Calling For A New Love Hierarchy

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