Winter Fashion

This winter has been one of the coldest the nation has seen in several years according to CNN. With extreme freezing temperatures like those in Chicago and New York, you may feel it’s impossible to keep up with the latest trends while avoiding hypothermia. Fear not all you Latina fashionistas! You’re just a few paragraphs away from learning some new and easy ways to keep warm and, of course, in style this winter season.

Now it’s no surprise most girls want to be fashion forward at all times. Think about it, when you’ve hung out with some of your amigas, you’ve probably skimmed through some of your favorite magazines looking for inspiration. You may have even exchanged a skirt or a pair of opened toed shoes with a friend in order to achieve that extra touch of glamour in your outfit. But times are cold these days and quite frankly, frostbitten fingers and toes are never in style. So, what’s a girl like you with so much fashion in her heart supposed to do when the first snowflakes start falling, or when you find yourself helping your parents scrape ice off of the car window before going to school?

Photo credit, Claudia Candelas,

Photo credit, Claudia Candelas,

Fashion blogger, Claudia Candelas says winter is the perfect season for any girl to express her sense of style, “You have the option of layers and adding more to each outfit.” Candelas says that though her staple winter fashion must-have are cozy boots, she can never say no to a good scarf.

“I love scarves because they add a whole different look to your outfit. If you are wearing a solid colored sweater you can add a printed or thick scarf to brighten it up.”

Candelas also says she gets her fashion ideas from social media sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest, but ultimately, she is in charge of what she thinks is stylish.

“Fashion is whatever you make it to be…it does not need to be expensive or the trendiest as long as you have the confidence to rock it!”

For others, sporting the latest winter trends can sometimes feel like a drag. Edna Ramirez, a bridal consultant, admits she falls under this category, but she can’t deny she enjoys the comfort of the winter clothes that keep her snug. “Chunky knit sweaters…they give off a vintage meets boho type of vibe that can easily dress up or dress down any outfit. They help keep you warm but don’t feel as constricting as jackets and coats.” Ramirez says she gives credit to the local weather news report for her fashion inspiration look of the day. “I wake up and look at the weather prediction for the day and base my winter outfit on that. If it is going to be a very cold day I’ll go with thicker scarves, layers of jackets, boots, and maybe even a hat.”

For many students though, being fashion forward can seem impossible especially after tuition and books have been paid off.  “I can’t work a lot because I’m in school so there isn’t much money left over, which is why I shop at secondhand stores,” says Katarina Peña, Santa Clara University Law student. She says money may be tight when it comes down to shopping, but what she enjoys the most about thrift shops is knowing she hasn’t broken her bank account for wanting to look and feel good. “You can find unique and inexpensive clothing and most importantly, it’s not what everyone else is wearing so you’re bound to stand out. ”

Although magazines and social media gurus know about the latest trends to look up-to-date and fierce, it’s important that you remember to listen to yourself when it comes to presenting yourself to the world. Feel free to take ideas and fashion looks into consideration but you must always know that no matter what trends you are following, the one thing that will never go out of style is your heart.

Hispanic Christmas Traditions

Feliz Navidad! It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and that means it’s time for the family to get together once again.

Latinos celebrate Christmas with an array of wonderful customs and traditions. These practices may differ by country, but there are always three things that are present during the holiday: delicious food, joyful music, and good times with family and friends.

El Niño Jesus

The fun starts early in December (or late November, for those eager kids) when Latino children write letters to El Niño Jesus instead of Santa Claus. They place the letters somewhere on the Christmas tree. Moreover,  the nativity scene plays a prominent role during Christmas. It is usually placed below the Christmas tree and it can get quite intricate.


Many Hispanics celebrate the nine days leading up to Christmas with posadas, which means “inns.” This celebration entails recreating the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph trying to find posada or lodging  on their way to Bethlehem. People will go from house to house singing carols and inviting those inside to join the procession. This tradition is primarily popular in Mexico.


Hispanics celebrate Nochebuena or Christmas Eve  by dancing, eating and  going to mass with their families to honor the birth of baby Jesus. The Christmas Eve dinner can take place before or after attending mass. The dinner varies in terms of main course, side dishes and desserts depending on the country’s traditions. Pork, chicken and beef as well as tamales are common entrees in  many regions of Latin America.  In the Caribbean and Central America, tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves instead of cornhusks and are known by other names such as hallacas or bollos.

Evidently, food plays an indispensable role during Navidad (or Las Pascuas). Each country has its own unique dish. If you are in Mexico, the Pavo (turkey) and the Russian potato salad are bound to be at the dinner table. What’s more, the adoption of the turkey is modeled after the American Christmas and is nowadays adopted as a common dish throughout Latin American Christmas celebrations. In countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, one will find lechón asado,  a barbecued pig, as part of the dinner menu. As far as beverage go, egg-based drinks are frequent throughout Latin America during Christmas time. For instance, Venezuela’s ponche crema  is popular throughout Mexico, El Salvador  and Costa Rica.  

Once dinner has ended and you are stuffed with food,  that’s your cue to go outside and have some fun. Fireworks of every kind are very popular during this time of year. Kids play with sparklers called chispitas or estrellitas.  In Mexico, star-shaped piñatas made out of clay pots are filled with peanuts, candies and fruit for kids (and young-at-heart adults) to enjoy.

Each country has their own villancitos de Navidad, which are basically the Spanish version of Christmas carols. In Maracaibo, Venezuela,  they have the traditional folk music, called  Gaitas. They are only heard around Christmas time in many regional festivals. In Puerto Rico such Christmas songs are called aguinaldos.

On a different note, one of the many things Hispanics have adapted from the American culture is the practice of playing “Secret Santa” or just giving a present to the person whose name you draw from a hat.  This is becoming fairly common amongst big families.Furthermore, Hispanic holiday celebrations continue on to the New Year with Día de Reyes on January 6th, or Three Kings Day. Interestingly enough, even though the Western concept of Santa Claus has gained popularity among Hispanics, traditionally, presents are given on Día de Reyes, not Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas in Venezuela

hallacasI still recall my Christmas celebrations back  in Venezuela, when my parents used to give the children estrellitas,  a little stick that sparks when it is lit, and when all the family, from the oldest to the youngest, came together to make hallacas. However, my all-time favorite traditions occur during New Year’s Eve. In Venezuela, we have very peculiar customs during the last night of the year. One of them is eating 12 grapes as a countdown to the New Year. The fun part is that one must make a wish for the New Year as as one eats each grape.  Moreover, there are also plenty of customs for the more superstitious folk.  For example, do you wish to travel more in the upcoming year? No problem!  Grab a suitcase and walk around with it for a minute or two. Or are you looking for love?  Get a chair and stand on it for a few minutes.  And finally,  are you looking for a prosperous new year, full of lots of riches and money? Easy! Place a $1 bill under your shoe!  As silly as these sound, when you’ve become accustomed to these customs, they eventually turn into an indispensable  aspect of the holidays. Soon, one starts to realize that Christmas is not quite the same without these crazy traditions!

Disclaimer: These practices must be done at (or after) the strike of the New Year, not before. Hey, don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.   

Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans,  Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Argentineans, etc. don’t celebrate  Christmas the same way. However, as mentioned earlier, celebrating with family, music and food is what makes up a typical Hispanic Christmas tradition.

Poem: Broken

by Fallon Sousa, 18

rainAs I glance out past my window
and I see these broken skies;
Oh, how they closely mirror
the teardrops in my eyes.

I have listened to such thunder
as I walked beyond the trees,
like a chained, forgotten lover
who hopes only to be freed.

As I fade into the darkness;
each soft whisper in the night,
I pray to gods of silence–
so that none shall hear my cry.

I have left you in a hurry;
you will scarcely hear me breathe
even though I have sought wonder
far beyond my own true need.

Once I’ve realized that I’m lonely,
and you take away my pain–
we can hold hands and walk slowly
through the heavens, in the rain.

Dealing with Depression

Whether you have been feeling blue for a week or for a couple of months, you are not alone when it comes to dealing with a constant feeling of sadness. Fighting depression is a tough battle for many Latinas, but there is hope for those feeling under the weather.


What is depression?

Depression is not just stress. According to, clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. According to “Understanding depression,” an article published by Harvard Health Publications, depression is more complex than a chemical imbalance in our brains. It is believed to be caused by a combination of faulty regulation of chemicals in the brain, stressful events, genetics, medication, or medical problems.

Anyone can be affected

Anna is a Latina teen dealing with depression. “I remember my frustration with my parents as a teen. My friends were going through the same problems. Yet, I began isolating myself and pushing them away.”  Anna’s life is different than from her friends. Her father has gone through cancer treatment, her brother is currently serving time in jail, and her mother lives in Guatemala after being deported. Although she smiles each day as she is around friends, Anna hides her suffering and sadness, claiming it is merely the stress all teens experience.

According WebMD, certain types of depression can be hereditary, meaning depression can run in the family. Yet, depression can occur if you have no family history of depression. Depression is not limited to adults, it happens to children and adolescents as well. The US Department for Human Services reports that Hispanic students (12.8%) are significantly more likely than White, Non-Hispanic or Black Non-Hispanic students (6.7% and 7.3%) to attempt suicide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2007 report found  Latinas suffer the most from this culture clash. The report states “Hispanic female high school students in grades 9-12 reported a higher percentage of suicide attempts (14.0%) than their White, non-Hispanic (7.7%) or Black counterparts.”


MedlinePlus explains that depression can change the way you perceive yourself, your life, and others. Those diagnosed with depression usually see everything with a more negative attitude. They have difficulties imagining a positive solution to a problem. A depressed person feels agitation, restlessness, and irritability. They become withdrawn and isolate themselves. They often describe lacking the ability to concentrate, lacking energy and have a feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt. Depression can also cause trouble sleeping or too much sleeping. In extreme cases, depression can lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

A Lack of Understanding

Wendy Gonzalez, 19, shared her experience with chronic depression. “I told my parents that I had chronic depression and my dad responded with a ‘Tu no tienes nada.’ He said I didn’t have anything and that it was all a product of my fast paced life. I lived a fast paced life in order for me to not be so aware of my emotions,” Gonzalez said.

Depression can result from cultures clashing. As these two cultures share different values, a lack of understanding between parent and child develops.

Remember, depression is temporary. You are not alone; follow these tips in order to kick depression to the curb.

1. Add an Energy Boost to Your Diet

The first step in feeling better is to focus on taking care of yourself. Adopt a healthy food diet that contains quality nutrients. This means adding whole foods, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats to your diet. Eating junk food can make you feel weak and sluggish, while eating properly will give you the energy boost to get moving. Adding structure to your meals and eating at same times each day can help you avoid overeating or skipping meal. Being healthy also means being active. A healthy exercise routine of 60 minutes three times a day is helpful when combating depression. Take a walk around your neighborhood with a parent, pet or friend.

 2. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

This may be a no brainer, but to some drugs and alcohol present themselves as tempting mood boost. Reality check: those boosts are only temporary and will cause more damage than you think. Not only do drugs and alcohol damage your body, the use can also increase suicidal feelings once their effects fade. Additionally, drug and alcohol use can lead to addiction, which can also worsen your depression. While people often use drugs and alcohol to forget their troubles because it temporarily relieves their anxiety and relaxes them, this habit can develop into alcohol or drug abuse once the individual becomes dependent on the “boost.” The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that teens with depression are twice as likely as those who are not depressed to start drinking alcohol.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

There are many forms of help out there. One common form are self help books varying from guidance published by professionals, scientific explanations of depression published by scientists, or collections of inspiring stories of people who have overcome their own depression. “Before I learned that I had chronic depression I got to a point that I did not know what to do anymore…My therapist recommended a book called The Mindful Way Through Depression,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. Do not be shy to talk to your school counselor or therapist; you will not be judged for your actions and these are professional people that can help your fears and frustrations, as well as give you the contact information of a psychiatrist to get you some therapy or medication.

  4. Catch Those Z’s

Make sure you are get enough sleep. When feeling depressed, 8 hours simply isn’t enough. Attempt to sleep early by removing distractions like TV, laptops and cellphones. Sleeping will help you think clearly and give you energy. Experts say sleep disorders could be the hidden cause of depression among the youth. A study presented by Dorothy Bruck at the Australian Psychological Society’s inaugural Health Psychology Conference  found that about one in ten women between 21 and 25 years old  experienced recurring problems sleeping, but otherwise had no symptoms of mental illness. But nine years later, those women were four to five times more likely than others in the study to be diagnosed with depression.

 5. Acknowledge and Share your Feelings

  “It’s a process of being mindful of our feelings,” explains Wendy Gonzalez. “When I started feeling depressed I acknowledged how I feel. I’d say: Okay, yes, I am feeling sad…unfortunately this sadness may never go away and I can’t sit here all my life, so why not try and do something more entertaining,” she adds.  Opening up to a trusted adult or friend can help reduce the feeling of loneliness. Find a way to express your emotions because it is not healthy keeping them bottled up. Instead write music, paint, or write in your journal.

6. Don’t Isolate Yourself

Remember to keep your friends close because there is someone there who wants to help you. When you want to give up, keep pushing yourself to move forward. A helpful way to accomplish that is by continuing to do those things you enjoy and never fear getting help. It may be difficult seeing an end to your depression, but through therapy, medication, or a combination of both, your depression can stop. Lack of communication is a severe problem with those suffering from depression because they have so much going on inside. It is best to deal with your problems than having to deal with depression longer than necessary.

With the high statistics of depression, you are not alone. There is hope to fighting the blues, but it starts with taking the first step. Even if it is a small step, it is the step in the right direction.

Klassy the Chica Lyricist

Photo by JDF Films

Photo by JDF Films

A brand new MC from Los Angeles, CA is taking over the L.A. rap scene. An MC describes a word rapper in the hip hop scene, but the term is not limited to the word play of hip hop. Klassy is a 17 year old Filipino chica who began her career in the ninth grade. Her real name is Graciela Moreno, but she prefers to be addressed as Klassy.

“My goal is to open my people’s minds, to see life in a positive angle, to live life in tranquil and understand true happiness. I want to spark inspiration. To change a bad mood into a good mood is worth more than money,” she explains.

Klassy grew up around the Latino population of Los Angeles. She is a sophomore at VAPA, the Visual and Performing Arts school in L.A. Her Filipino background did not limit her ability to take hip hop in the direction she did.

“It started off as almost a bet. I was around my friends who didn’t think I could rap, but I did it. I recorded a song and uploaded it [to the internet] and the next day my manager and I saw that it had a lot of views,” Klassy shares.

Klassy takes on the approach as a positive lyricist. She uses this label to describe her role in the underground music industry. “When I listen to music I can say that listening to powerful messages is the kind of music I want to surround myself with. I surround myself with positive people and I hope other girls or other people see that in my lyrics,” she says.

Unlike many other girl lyricists, Klassy is among the youngest. “My manager tells me, ‘You know you’re getting a lot of attention, but I am myself. I am looking at all from the inside out,’ she adds.

Vanessa Olivar, 16, says, “Klassy as a rapper is so cool. Her videos on YouTube are not like other artists. She doesn’t need to drink to have a good time. She shows herself dancing and playing arcade games, things that I like to do.”

“I think it’s great that girls look up to me, but I don’t like labels. When people want to limit me as a ‘girl rapper’ I get freaked. I am an MC. A girl lyricist only limits my potential. It creates a boundary with men and women. I prefer the term lyricist. I create music for everyone and anyone,” Klassy shares.

Genises Polito, 15, says, “I listen to her. I think she is so cool. She really is all about having a fun time…as herself. I like her music.”

Klassy adds, “People have questioned my rap abilities, but as an artist [I] realized there will always be haters, but I do notice that there are more Latinas and Latinos supporting the movement that I am in.”

A femcee, or female rapper, is no different than the similar lifestyles that Latinas or Latinos have with other ethnicities and cultures. Klassy explains, “If people are truly going to look at me and try to break me down because I am not a Latino or Latina then they are creating limits to my potential.”

The wave of female rappers is changing the way people look at hip hop . Hip hop was once dominated by males. Becky G, a teen Latina sensation from Inglewood, CA, was recently nominated by Radio Disney Music Award for Best Crush Song.

Klassy says, “It feels great to be among them, though I still say that I do it because it is something I am good at. I am me. I am an MC. I rap, I create music. I believe in myself. I have more people believing in me than haters and that there is enough for me to continue to do what makes me happy which is to create music.”

You too can take steps in promoting and surrounding yourself with the arts. Attend and become a member of the theater arts groups and attending poetry beats are good ways to start. You can only become better at what you are good at.

“The key to success for [anyone] is having a focused mind. Just be true to yourself, stay humble, and remember that there’s always room for improvement. I want to continue making music and if people like what I say then that is a motivator to continue to share my experiences, ideas and feelings,” she says.


Take A Study Break

Stresses of Studying

Stress from studying for finals or the SAT can add up during intense study sessions. Although some find comfort in found in food, it is not healthy to make every study break a food break. So here is a list of five great study breaks that don’t involve eating a fourth meal!


Give Yourself a Manicure

Painting your nails is a nice way to switch up your studying routine. It requires moving around, choosing a color and the simple act of painting nails is a thoughtless yet stimulating task. Plus, while you wait for your nails to dry you can close your eyes and meditate.

Estimated Time: 20 min

Take a Walk

 No need to change into workout clothes, just put on some comfortable shoes and take a walk. You can take a solo walk, which is the perfect time to think or invite a friend. Taking a walk may be the best writers-block eliminator, try it!

Estimated Time: 20 min 

Watch 1 Episode of a Sitcom

After completing some deep reading watching some TV that makes you laugh is never a bad idea. Being in a good mood can make you more productive and can help alleviate the stress from hitting the books.

Estimated Time: 30 min 

Phone a Friend

Calling your hometown friend is also a great break, you can catch up on the latest college happenings and recall all those great sleepovers. This quick break will probably make your friend day too!

Estimated Time: 15min 

Take a 20 min Nap

You probably already know the importance of sleep, but in your senior year of high school and in college you begin to realize how sleep becomes a luxury. So, for your next study break, take a nap! Experts at The Guardian reported taking a  “short afternoon catnap of 20 minutes yields…enhances alertness and concentration, elevates mood, and sharpens motor skills.”

Estimated Time: 20 min


What is great about these study breaks is that we also get to practice some self control, since it’s easy to go on a binge and watch the whole season of Friends or take a three hour nap instead of a 20 minute one. So, before the urge hits, keep in mind the satisfying feeling of being able to check off items in your to-do list!

Latino Spotlight: Lalo Alcaraz

Art, satire, politics. Lalo Alcaraz, Chicano cartoonist and political satirist, discusses these issues via his popular political comic strip. Earlier this year, Latinitas was able to attend one of his talks at the University of Texas at Austin.

To his online readers and motivating conferences, he always delivers clever jokes and often describes the importance of his political cartoons. Alcaraz’s “La Cucaracha” is the first political Latino daily comic strip published nationally. The comic provides a necessary Latino voice in publications nationwide.

“You can use satire to teach critical thinking,” Alcaraz said. He uses humor as a weapon against social injustices aimed at Latinos. Many of his cartoons focus on Latino-centered issues, such as immigration, education, politics and racism.

Alcaraz is a supporter of the DREAM Act. “I love the dreamers and the civics lesson they are teaching everyone,” Alcaraz said. He has drawn cartoons depicting DREAMers in graduation caps and gowns. Alcaraz also supports Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In honor of Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Alcaraz drew a cartoon of a young Latina aspiring to be her when she grows up. Sotomayor has a copy of the cartoon in her office.

Having two children, a son and a daughter, has inspired Alcaraz to write a children’s book based on them. He is thinking of titling it “Little Moco.”

“It’s a nickname my daughter gave my son. It’s like a reverse ‘Dora the Explorer,’” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, the son of immigrant parents from Sinaloa and Zacatecas, claims he grew up experiencing racial inequality and wanted to do something about it. According to Alcaraz, his great cultural epiphany came when he was 13 years old, as he stood in front of the Aztec calendar.

“That’s where I became Chicano, in Mexico City,” Alcaraz said.

Recently, Alcaraz has been most well known for his creation of Mexican Mitt Romney, a satirical Twitter account created in response to Romney’s anti-immigrant stance during his run for President in 2012. His other satirical characters include “anchor baby news” and “Beandocks.” Alcaraz also has a radio show based in Los Angeles, Calif. called Pocho Hour of Power.

Spotlight on Bella Thorne

Have you seen this girl before? C’mon, of course you have! You probably just don’t know that you have.

Cuban-American Annabella Avery Thorne started modeling since she was a baby, appearing in ads and commercials. So if her face looks a little familiar, it’s okay, you’re not going crazy! Bella, who’s currently 16, is becoming the next Disney sensation thanks to the show Shake it Up.  So why not get to know more about this multi-talented, energetic, and inspiring tween beyond just her face?

Did you know that at only six-weeks-old, Bella shot her first pictorial for “Parents Magazine”? That’s impressive!


Bella was born in Florida but has been moving from an early age to California and New York to pursue her acting career. A surprising fact about Bella is that her native language is Spanish, since her dad is Cuban. She also is of  Irish and Italian descent. Talk about multiculturalism!

Bella was diagnosed with dyslexia in the first grade.  In an April 2010 interview with American Cheerleader Magazine, Bella explained that she overcame her dyslexia by always reading everything she could find, including the labels of cereal boxes. Up-to-date, she has appeared in more than 40 commercials. She starred in three DLP ads and became famous for her catchy line, “It’s amazing, it’s the mirrors!”

She proudly claims her mother has been her role model while pursuing her acting career.  Besides acting, Bella enjoys hiking, swimming, snorkeling, dancing, and painting.  She also loves Twilight (and is Team Jacob). Furthermore, she loves 80s music!

In an interview for Bella’s Official Fansite, when asked if she preferred modeling or acting, she responded with “modeling is quicker and I love fashion, but acting is fun to be different people. I’m starting to like acting more, but I still love modeling.”

Bella enjoys volunteering with The Nomad Organization, a group which offers education, food, and medical supplies to deprived children in Africa. She currently sponsors a child named Lydia Kanini Kiio in Kibwezi, Kenya. She hopes to better her community by encouraging more teens to volunteers and make a difference in the world. She says, “I would not be opposed to a mandatory time in community service for all teens!”

Without a doubt, Disney’s Shake it Up star has become extremely successful these past two years.  Still, wherever there’s fame and success, the dark downhill spiral is not too far behind. But no worries, it looks like Bella knows what she is doing! This is what she had to say on the subject of responsibility:

“I don’t think it is any actor’s responsibility to be a role model. I think it is your family that sets the standards, and kids can’t look to Hollywood to do that for them. We are all human and make mistakes and it is a ton of pressure to grow up in front of the camera and have the whole world comment on your errors.”

So what lies ahead for Bella’s future? On March 30, 2013, it was confirmed by Hollywood Records via Twitter that Bella was officially signed to the record label.  She also landed a role in the comedy The Familymoon, along with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Well done, Bella! Keep up the good work!


Underrepresentation of Minority Heroines

It is no big revelation that women of color seldom see themselves in powerful positions in the media, oftentimes making them feel homely and irrelevant. But according to some experts, the lack of representation of minorities in cartoons could also be causing a similar effect for young girls of color.

Today’s Youth in Media

Maria O. Alvarez, the Hispanic media consultant at Common Sense Media,  a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, believes the lack of colored girls in youth media leads to low self-esteem among minorities.

“We do know that all these messages have a direct impact in all their behaviors and how they see the world,” said Alvarez. “You feel that you’re in a lower level in society when you see that people like you, your skin color, are not in powerful positions.”

Her thoughts are supported by a 2011 study by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison, which found that minorities tend to feel worse about themselves after watching youth media.

The study found that unlike white male characters, who are often presented as highly educated and powerful, which tends to lift white boys’ self-esteems, girl characters are often simplistic, sexualized beings, while characters of color tend to be more violent.

But this particular study, like many, lacks to demonstrate how youth media represent young girls of color.

According to Hugh Klein, who has been studying the underrepresentation of out groups in animated cartoons for the past 20 years, it is difficult to break down the representations of girls of color in animated cartoons because there are too few of them to analyze.

In Klein’s ongoing study, which examined more than 4,000 cartoon characters, he found that only 3.6 percent of the characters were African American, 1.8 percent were Latinos and 1.0 percent were Asian.  Out of the 27 Latino characters in Klein’s research, only one-third, or 9, of them were Latina.

“In the process of leaving people out of the media, you communicate a message to viewers just as much as if you were portraying them in a positive or negative way,” said Klein. “They’re so few in number probably because they’re unvalued in our culture,” said Klein.

According to his research, because animated cartoons are likely to be among the earliest media types to which young people are exposed to and because they are exposed to these messages on a daily basis, animated cartoons end up being “one of the earliest and most influential sources of negative messages.”

Minority Heroines

Some have argued, though, that with minority heroines like Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Kai-Lan, non-white children are now unburdened by stereotypes and underrepresentation.

But just as mainstream films or music videos feature the token colored gal, Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan are some of the only programs on TV with leading girl cartoons of color.

The halfhearted gesture to include a single leading Black, Latina and Asian cartoon character, according to Alvarez, sends the message that although several little white girls can be pop stars (Olivia from “Olivia”), mechanics (Widget from “Wow Wow Wubbzy”) and mathematicians (Milli from “Team Umizoomi”), there’s only room for one visionary girl of color.

“It’s not just cartoons. It’s all over. And it has an impact on how we see ourselves and how proactive we are,” said Alvarez. “We all have great value to share with the society; we can all be in powerful positions. It’s hard to believe that when the media doesn’t show you like that. But if together, parents and community, can share those messages with kids, that’s going to help.”

Alvarez believes that young girls need role models outside of the media.

“There’s a huge gap in reality and what they see in the media. We need to help them see that what they see in the media is not reality.”

Here are a few tips for young girls from Alvarez and Common Sense Media to help with self-image:

  1. Limit media consumption: Limit the amount of media you expose yourself to every day. Set limits. The earlier you start, the better.
  2. Become a media critic: Pay attention to ads, magazine covers, billboards—and talk to your parents about how these messages make you feel and ask them about their own reactions.
  3. Look for role models that look like you: Ask your parents or older relatives about professionals and community leaders who look like you do.
  4. Find everyday role models: Role models don’t need to be famous. They can be teachers, neighbors or family members. You just need a positive influence to look up to.
  5. Understand your value: Even if you’re not seeing people who look like you in the media, understand that race doesn’t define value. Compliment yourself and your peers on all of your/their wonderful talents, like your/their creativity or thoughtfulness.

Latinos Love Dios but Not Their Religion

Many individuals have the preconcieved idea that all Latinas/os are of Catholic faith. Regardless of these studies, more and more Latinas are saying religion is for followers. However, that is not to say that God is not near.

In fact, Maria Torres, 16, a devout Pentecostal, and her sisters Melinda, 13, and Jennifer, 9, are as committed as ever to their religion. She says, “I have full faith that God is real. When I was about five, I could remember my mom taking us to a Catholic church. We gave money whenever possible, but that church made us feel that all they cared about was money. I spoke to my mom about this and together we prayed over this.”

“One day a Pentecostal sister came to our house and it was great. She was a great speaker and I was hooked. I love my faith, my god, and all good things that have come to pass because of him,” Torres says.

Not all Latinas have their soul stapled to religion, meaning that believing in Dios is as good as anything. According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, about 68% of Hispanics trust that the bible is from God, yet, through further investigation, over 69% put more faith into praying as a means of guidance in a relationship with God. This is to say that nine out of ten identify with a religion, but studies show that Hispanic Catholics are more adament o attending weekly services as opposed to Hispanics in other religions.

Anna Vasquezz, 15, says, “I believe in [God], but I haven’t been [to church] in the longest!”

She says, “Since I was a baby, my mother told me about [God]. To be honest, I didn’t believe it until my mom got cancer and the year my dad almost got deported. Believing in God, has helped me have more faith.”

Vasquez adds, “It’s been a blessing to me to know him.”

Like Torres, Vasquez’ method of keeping a strong relationship with her God is with prayer. She says, “I pray night and day.”

“Without others to guide you along the way, like other church members, how are you to draw close to God? You can go seeking, but finding him will be tougher,” she adds.

Amy Ann Davila, 23, a Mission Coordinator (La Divinia Providencia) at Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, says, “I see so much religion and politics getting intermingled, but I know that with my faith, I can say that the most powerful weapon known to mankind is God.”

Davila says her faith is built on life lessons. Her father died in 2010, but she is not in a hurry to blame God. Instead she says, “As I got older, being Catholic has helped me in everything. When I was younger my family was in all sorts of religions. I always felt lost. About three years before my dada died, I started praying to God. Not religion, but prayer saved me. I got involved with my Catholic church at college. Since then, the Catholic church and God have become a part of my life.”

Vasquez is adamant when she says, “Having faith and believing in God plays a bigger role than religion ever did. It describes you as a person.”

Adding still, “My belief in God is bigger because miracles happened to me. I kept my mom and my dad was not reported.I have a better life now than I did then.”

Whether you believe in God, the church, or religion, let your choices reflect what is best for you. Though religion can get a little rough to speak about, you should always feel confident about your spirituality.

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