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Princess Elena is Latina Enough for Me

Photograph by Claudya Martinez

Disney recently announced that Princess Elena of Avalor is on the way — and before you roll your eyes or "R"s and think, "puh-leaze, like the world or marketplace needs any more Disney princesses," — you should know that this princess is kinda-sorta Latina. I say "kinda-sorta" because she is described as being "inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore," so she isn't really from any particular Latin country or background, just kinda-sorta a mishmash inspired by Latino cultures in general. Some people are none too happy with the lack of specificity of the very first Latina Disney princess and say she's not even really Latina, but I'll tell you why I'm kinda-sorta happy that Disney is finally introducing a Latina princess.

I personally don't give a flying chancla about any of the Disney princesses. I wasn't into them as a kid and I'm certainly not going to take up the habit as an adult, but the universe has a way of toying with us into not taking ourselves too seriously. As a sort of plot-thickener in my life, I gave birth to a bonafide princess-lover. My youngest daughter has it bad for Disney princesses, and although I could try to dissuade her from the interest — because gag me with a cuchara, how much more girly cliché can you be? — I've decided to let her love what she loves and encourage her to see past the clichés and stereotypes of your everyday fairytale princess.

Photograph by Disney
I felt my heart sink in slow motion. My beautiful brown-eyed, curly brown-haired girl couldn't even bring herself to dream of being a real princess because she's never seen a princess that looks like her.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of countering the visual stereotypes of princesses until one day my youngest walked into the kitchen wearing her princess dress-up best and said to me, "mami, when I grow up I wish I could be a real princess." I got down to her eye level and earnestly said to her, "but you are a princess already." She looked at me and said, while pointing to the blond-haired, blue-eyed princess depicted on her dress, "no, I mean a REAL princess; one that looks like this."

That's when I felt my heart sink in slow motion. My beautiful brown-eyed, curly brown-haired girl couldn't even bring herself to dream of being a real princess because she's never seen a princess that looks like her. Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! ARGH! It doesn't matter how much I tell her that a princess can do whatever she wants or be whomever she wants or do whatever she wants or look however she wants, I failed and the princess stereotypes won.

I took a deep breath and told my daughter again that a princess can have brown hair, brown eyes and brown skin. I promised her that a princess could look like her. I promised her that a princess could look like anyone. She didn't seem all that convinced, but she gave me a hug and said, "Okay, mami!" and skipped off.

So honestly, I don't give a flying chancla about Disney princesses and I wouldn't even care a tiny bit about this new princess on the block, but my beautiful, very impressionable 4-year-old does, and I'm happy that now she'll see that a princess can have brown hair, brown eyes and even brown skin — without me saying another word about it. I don't care that according to some Princess Elena is not "really" Latina, I don't care that she's "only" going to be on a Disney Junior show instead of in her very own feature film, I'm just kinda-sorta glad that, FINALLY, Disney is kinda-sorta giving my Latina daughter a kinda-sorta Latina princess that kinda-sorta looks more like her than any of the other Disney princesses do.

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