It hurts my heart to see hurtful Latinx representation in fiction. We don’t have many and it’s hard to see that some of that isn’t even good representation. I have encountered it a lot and it seems sometimes authors follow some steps to write a Latinx character, like it was from a guide, when those steps are clearly not the right way to go and easily will lead you to a stereotype.
I’m going to mention some of the usual stereotypes you may find in your books with the hope that maybe they can be avoided for next time. It’s like we are only going to be that and nothing more. But it’s wrong. So if you want to avoid writing a superficial, stereotypical Latinx character, I hope my post gives someone, at least, a bit of help.
Exotic is not a good adjective
Most of the time when Latinas are introduced to the scene, their main description is being curvy and her “exotic” brown skin. It’s not a good start. The word “exotic” is only ever correct when you’re talking about animals, like a bird. Why would you say something like that about a person? What you are doing is othering that character, and saying practically that they’re different from your usual characters eg. probably white characters. So I just recommend you all to stop using “exotic” to describe characters of color.
Also describing a person of color’s skin as food is something someone should avoid. Caramel, coffee with cream, chocolate with a teaspoon of milk. These are just bad examples of what I’ve encountered while reading.
Don’t Google translate Spanish, please
This happens quite a lot, I swear I’m not lying. It always goes wrong somehow. Don’t just do the Google Translate way. We all know Google Translate does a terrible job when it comes to actual verbal conjugations and coherence in sentences, so I recommend you to never use it.
Also want to point out that not all Latinxs talk the same and Google Translate doesn’t know this. So if you’re writing a Puerto Rican or writing a Chilean character, better research on typical things. Latinxs are not the same and we do not use the same phrases.
And this comes to….
Latinxs are not the same. Our cultures aren’t interchangeable
“They look Latinx.” What does this even mean? Please specify the character’s heritage if you can. Because everyone is so very different and our cultures just as well. I have encountered books that use this phrase and literally I don’t even know what they’re trying to say. How can someone look Latinx? Don’t reply.
“They speak Puerto Rican” is something I have also seen on the pages of a book. First, why. Second, research please. I swear this is something that is in a romance book. I can assure you many have seen this phrase and have voiced out the confusion of what does it even mean. It’s clear something is wrong here.
Your only Latinx character is in a gang?
Uhm. Nope. Just walk away. It’s for the best. I think this is one of the most used stereotypes. To bring some explosivity and drama to the story, I guess it’s easy to make your only character of color come from the “bad side” as many people might describe. But if your only Latinx character in your story, your only character of color is in a gang, it’s not a good look. Never. It’s a bad look to have your only character of color be the bad guy.
If you want an authentic representation of Latinx culture, it’s a good idea to follow Latinx authors and their books. You can find them on Twitter and to be honest, their feeds are really great to follow and I love that they always recommend each other’s books. I’ll be listing some Latinx authors next but obviously there are far more and they’re all incredible but this could be a start.
Some of them write Latinx characters in their books, some might not write them in all of them. I have loved and followed these next authors and can assure you all the love stories they write are some of the best I’ve read and highly think you all should give them a go.
For Mimi Milan, you can try her books, The Dancing Lady, a holiday novella about a mail-order bride and a restaurant owner, and Victoria: A Cinco de Mayo Bride novella. This one is commemorative of the Battle of Puebla and it’s sort of a battle of cooks between a baker and a chocolatier, so you know it’s going to be epic.
For Priscilla Oliveras, her books, Resort to Love and His Perfect Partner, are good titles to start with. His Perfect Partner is the first book in a series, but all of them are standalones! Resort to Love is also part of a series, but this series is written by different authors. The story following around a group of friends coming back home.
Zoey Castile has an upcoming title, releasing on August, named Stripped. It’s about a school teacher and a stripper meeting up because of laundry bags delivered wrongly. And then meeting again because he is dancing for her best friend’s bachelorette party. It’s one of the highly anticipated books this year.
And finally I want to recommend a new-to-me author, Lina Langley. They wrote a book that I really found fascinating, mainly because it’s a choose-who-he-ends-up-with. My Favorite Sin follows Alejandro del Bosque and his decision of who he will end up with. This decision will be made by you, the reader! You can choose three outcomes for his love story and it’s really fascinating. Plus there are tropes like: childhood friends, age gap, enemies to lovers, and more.