Jennifer Lopez And Latino Culture

May 23rd, 2005 // 18 Comments

Jennifer Lopez does it all (you be the judge of how well). The actress / singer / dancer / designer / marraige machine is always everywhere. The Washington Post has an analysis on Jennifer Lopez and her affect on Latino culture.

It’s because Lopez is a figure who straddles an amazing number of Latino fault lines, areas of often-vehement disagreement about what is and isn’t Latino.

The price of ambition? Check. The importance — or not — of being identified as Hispanic? Check. Of speaking Spanish? Check. Of a bodacious booty? Check. Dating white? Check. Dating black? Check. The politics of going blond? Check. And so on.

“People argue passionately about her,” says Michelle Herrera Mulligan, co-editor of the essay collection “Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting.” “She’s a lightning rod, a catalyst and representative for everything.”

Is she the face of a changing Latino culture? Discuss.

Jenny’s Image On the Block [WP]

By Miu von Furstenberg

  1. ms pink

    Being 3/4 Cuban and 1/4 PR myself, it irritates me how absolutely ordinary J. Ho really is. She’s not very pretty, yes she has a big ass, so do 99% of Puerto Rican women. She can’t sing. Her acting is mediocre. Her pretentiousness knows no bounds. Turn on Univision any time of day you’ll be bombarded with plenty of hispanic women who are prettier, nicer and more talented than Mrs. Anthony can ever hope to be. She’s a novelty – a homogenized version of the Latin Culture that has been boxed and packaged to be soothing to the American palate.

    You want a true picture of a strong, beautiful, talented Latin woman? Look at Shakira. Look at Thalia. Even Paulina Rubio falls higher than J. Ho on the scale of likability, and she’s slept her way through most of Mexico.

  2. dislike jlo

    I agree that Jennifer Lopez is not the prettiest latina out there, she is just the first one who broke into Hollywood with success and now she is supposed to represent all Latinas? I think it’s a shame.

    And that articles talks about how she accomplished so much – now let’s be honest here – she dated every single guy who had something to offer her. She treated every man like a stepping stone to her career, used P Diddy and Motolla to jump start her music career, her stealing other ppl’s songs and making them her own hits, used Ben affleck to get her into A-list Hollywood (remember her comment about i hope Ben writes me an oscar winning script, ahem?).

    There are a lot of actresses and actors who came from poor backgrounds and now famous and rich, but J.Lo does not know how to be humble about her success. She comes off as low class, and that hoodrat part of her will never leave no matter how much money she has.

  3. jessica

    Jennifer Lopez is a different type of Latina. She’s the second generation Latina, one who’s born in the United States. Like most of us Nuyoricans, like Pinero, Miguel Alagrin and myself, parents instill pride in being a Puerto Rican from infancy. We identify with that more than being an American.
    I grew up watching Rita Moreno perform in plays and movies. Rita was a role model for my mother’s generation, but I did not see one for my generation. When Jennifer Lopez came in the scene, she came down like a lightening bolt.

    As for her love life, I don’t find her any different than Julia Roberts 10 ex-boyfriends with a broken marriage on the side. The white media is a little jealous of her success and wondered how she got there, making most latino’s ashamed of her success and rejecting her in the process.

    I am very proud of her and continue to support her career. It doesn’t matter how many lovers she’s had in the past, but how she sustains her spot in the entertainment industry. We should support her, not tear her down.

  4. Cassie

    Very interesting article. Thanks for the ling…I love when this site goes deeper!

  5. Gag

    J. Low and “culture” used in the same sentence.

    wow. just wow.

    She is horrible. She IS as bad as Julia Roberts.

  6. ma

    J-Lo needs a lot of makeup to look good.

  7. Steve

    Screw this talentless hack.

  8. Maria

    She’s the only “latina” person I know who cannot speak spanish. She cannot act, she cannot sing and she has no other talent that a big ass. She does not represent latin people at all. Salma Hayek and Eva Mendez, among others, do.

  9. marg

    J.Lo may have a nice ass and know how to move on the dance floor, but she has no other merits. She is not a good actress or singer. Personally, I think she actually looks a little mannish with her muscular body, flat chest and aggressive overbite. I remember she implied that Gwyneth Paltrow got “hot by association” with Brad Pitt. I think J.Lo said that for one main reason: they’re both New Yorkers (from different worlds) and J.Lo is a jealous type. Paltrow went to Spence School, which is THE most exclusive girls’ school on the Upper East Side and J.Lo went to a small Catholic school in the Bronx which was essentially run out of a small rented building. Paltrow’s godfather is Steven Spielberg and J.Lo grew up lower middle class in the Bronx. Paltrow went to UC Santa Barbara (thanks to a recommendation by Michael Douglas; it’s famous for attracting flaky rich-kid types) and J.Lo went to Baruch College (one of the CUNY commuter colleges). Well, Paltrow has proved herself to have actual acting talents despite her major advantages and J.Lo has not despite having a “real” upbringing. If you ask me to choose a Latina actress that I like, Zoe Saldana, Eva Mendes, Salma Hayek, Vanessa Ferlito and Rosario Dawson are MUCH better choices. I think someone already posted a list of MUCH better Latina singers. Dancing does not really bring anyone into major celebrity status.

  10. jHO

    “hot by association”??? ROFLMAO – J.Ho is the one to talk!!! Who would she be if it weren’t for PDiddy? She has been around for soo long yet she has always been a B/C- List actress until she had that record. What a joke.

    ANd please don’t compare her with Julia Roberts. Yes, Julia married tons of men, but i dont think she needed any of them to improve her career.

    P.S. And can we not forget that sex tape JHO made with Suge Knight and the gang?? JHo Classy and cultured? What a joke!

  11. jessica

    I compare Julia Roberts to Jennifer Lopez because Julia is one of the most untalented actresses in Hollywood. An Oscar doesn’t make someone a good actor (remember Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump). Her breakout role was Pretty woman, if I remember correctly, a prostitute.

    And if I also remember correctly, her bust-up relationships were on the cover of every magazine, tabloid, and newspaper through out the country. It helped her career too.
    (this is a woman who stole a married man away from someone)

    Salma Hayek does not represent LATINO’S. Her own country hates her because she acts like a total bitch to the Mexican Press.

    Penelope Cruz is European, not latina. Please, the mother country that enforced christianity and killed thousands of indigenous Indians, whatever.

    Rosario Dawson does not liked to be referred as
    Latina. Remember, she is ” French, Irish, Cuban, Black…”

    Eva Mendez does not like to be recognized as latina either. She doesn’t want to be typed cast.

    Zoe Saldana is another one who admits that she’s Dominican, but most of her recent roles were of African American descent. She also says that she does not want to be typed cast.

    At least Jennifer Lopez admits that she’s Puerto Rican and does not care about getting roles that are too ethnic. She does not play that game. She doesn’t starve herself to look thin either. Everybody hates her for her overexposure, fine, but you can’t take away the fact she had successful business ventures for the past 10 years.

    Why don’t you girls concentrate on hating Paris Hilton. That’s one of undeserving attention.

  12. marg

    um…..jessica? i didn’t mention penelope cruz at all in my previous post. nobody else has mentioned her in their posts too. so why would you bring her up? of course, J.Lo is not going to deny that she is Puerto Rican. That would be seen as politically incorrect and people would check her past out no matter what. I think I should note that J.Lo has sometimes made a point of emphasizing that her mother’s family actually immigrated to Puerto Rico from Spain within the past few generations (this seems to be used as a way of showing that she has a more purely European bloodline than some other Latinas). That’s a bad method of showing you’re “European” because quite a few Spaniards have Moorish blood. Even Queen Elizabeth has conceded that she has African relatives (by way of Pushkin and some other black “Russian” aristocrats) and Asian relatives (one of the Danish princesses is one-quarter Chinese). As for the movie roles, J.Lo has played Italians in quite a few of her recent movies. Let’s see. Gigli, The Wedding Planner, Out of Sight and Monster-in-Law. My feeling is that Selena was a good ethnic Latina role for her but she probably only took it to make an entry into Hollywood. She has not really portrayed any really ethnic roles except for Maid in Manhattan. That particular role is a little ambiguous because Latinas are stereotyped as maids and the focus of the movie was not on ethnicity, but on getting the rich guy’s eye. At least Paris Hilton does not desperately try to prove she has non-existent talents. Paris seems more willing to poke fun at herself and there aren’t rumors that she is abusing underlings (except for that rumored and not-yet-proven “N-word” incident as well as some abuse of people in equal social stature). Paris knows she’s just a dumb and rich blond. I’m not surprised that Salma wouldn’t like the Mexican press when they’re saying that she is Penelope Cruz’s lesbian lover (just because they’re close friends). Salma also isn’t using the press to flaunt her relationships (remember the Bennifer interview with Pat O’Brien?).

  13. marg

    i meant that jennifer has not had any recent ethnic roles after selena (except for Maid in Manhattan). Just clarifying a typo.

  14. Mayra

    I think J-Lo is great. GO MAMA!! As for all you haters out there… try getting a JOB yourSELF!

  15. another girl

    Just a thought on the subject of categorizing an actress as representing Latinos(whether or not anyone thinks that person has talent)… Latino or Hispanic is not a race or an ethnicity. It is a language group referring to the people of various cultures that happen to speak Spanish (technichally, someone like Penelope Cruz fits that definition).
    I think it is safe to say that the media and stereotypes have lead the majority people in this country to believe that all Hispanics are Mexican or Puerto Rican and that all people of Latin American decent share the same customs, colloquialisms, ideals, etc… Any relatively educated individual knows that is not true. If you put a Chilean and a Cuban in the same room and tell them to have a conversation, chances are they will have as difficult a time understanding each other as a Texan and Irish person would have.
    An Hispanic can be of any race and any ethnic background. Most Hondurans (Maya) are of Native American decent, most Arentines are of European decent (Italian, Spanish and German mostly- Argentina’s current president is Kirchner…not very “Latino” sounding), half of all Colombians are Mestizo (mostly Spanish and Chibcha, as well as some Inca and Calima), many Cubans are of African decent, and Peru had a president that was of Japanese decent (Fujimori 1980-1990).
    A great cause of tension, frustration, and prejudice in this country is the labeling and pigeon-holing of and by individuals. No one in my family ever experienced stereotyping or prejudice until they came to this country and that is ashame. Polititians, the media, the Census Bureau, and ignorance have categorized the population of this country to death. We are so concerned about our differences (blackness, latinness, asianness, italianness, irishness…) that we disregard our similarities. What does it matter if Jennifer Lopez is a “Latina” actress. I have nothing in common with her, then again I am not a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Ethnicity is less of a determining factor of education and success than socio-economic status.
    If youth culture wants an Hispanic to look up to why not Sandra Cisneros, Cesar Chavez, Maria Luisa Bemberg, Diego River or Frida Khalo? Surely they are better role models than someone who exploited others to get to the top.

  16. identity conscious

    in response to “another girl” actually both latino and hispanic refer to ethnic categorizations. “latino” describes persons of latin american descent who live in the united states. the term hispanic describes all persons in the spanish-speaking world, but, since it mainly acknowledges descent from Spain, many latinos/latin americans prefer to refer to themselves as just that, because, like you said, they are usually a mix of much more than simply european spanish. either way, both terms refer to much more than simply a shared language.

  17. ricardo

    Where selena was going with mexican-american music was beautiful. She was taking hispanic music and makign it mainstream but still keeping the mexican roots. Her death of course has nothing to do with j. lopez but she should not have played selena in the movie. She used it to propell herself and took the world view on latin music in the opposite direction. Down. She destroyed what selena was trying to do with hispanic music. Even though selena was converting to english they where still cumbia type beats and soft words. Jennfier brought new york urban living and hip hop beats into the picture and we lost our identity agian. Thanks j. lo for setting us back 10 years have fun makingmovies and pretending to be an artist.

  18. Saludos,

    This conversation about J-Lo is very interesting.

    In response…

    I am concerned that the expressions of anger about J-Lo’s success, that the fact that some writers on this thread think that J-Lo has not talent, are grotesquely racist. That is to say, by declaring that J-Lo is “not pretty” and has a “fat ass” – and that other, more European actresses and singers are ‘superior’ – you are saying that J-Lo, who is of obvious Taina indigenous, Afro-Puerto Rican and Spanish descent, is ‘not good enough’ to represent you, because you are European. The entire Latin TV network media empire in the U.S. is dominated by pure European news, variety show and soap opera /telenovela presenters and actresses/actors. Even the legendary Afro-Cuban Salsa singer/diva Celia Cruz could only get a part as a quiet maid on a novela.

    The reality is that Latin America is majority Mestiza (European and Indigenous), with a large Afro-Latin contingent as well. Only the fact that huge networks like Telemundo are owned by NBC oblige them to now, only recently, begin to show just a few more African (and even fewer indigenous) faces on their programs.

    Nobody can deny that anti-indigenous and anti-African racism run rampant in elite Latin culture across the Americas. Sure, it has a different ‘flavor’ from U.S. racism, but every time we turn on the TV, it smacks up in the face.

    Only by speaking up to denounce that reality will we end those ignorant practices that damage the spiritual lives of millions of innocent women, girls, boys and men in Latin America and in the U.S. Shame on the racists!

    It is about time that a Latina of color made a striking statement in U.S. culture. I say to J-Lo… You Go, J-Lo!!

    — Chuck Goolsby

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