Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hialeah: Mythical Land of Churros and Chongas Part II

Part II
To refresh your memory on part one click here.

Very Funny.
A lot of people like to say “Relax. It’s just a joke.” Take for instance popular local drag queens Juleisy and Karla that tout sharpie lip liner and neon color Lycra and claim to live in Hialeah, the land of churros and chongas. The two have appeared in music videos, local television stations, and have even been featured in an article on the Huffington Post.These two men have built their entire act on the stereotype of a “typical Hialeah woman”. Funny, right? As a typical Hialeah woman, I do not think so...

I do not find it funny when a person makes automatic assumptions about me because of where I am from. I do not find it funny when I tell a person I just met that I am from Hialeah and a light in their eyes dims. I can feel them close off from me, not expecting much, their assumptions painting a pre-determined portrait of me. To put it into perspective for you, I get more shit about being from Hialeah than I do about my gay dads...

While, I understand that these men are doing this for exposure and their 15 minutes of fame, I think it is a shame that the only way they could do it was by perpetuating this damaging stereotype of not only Hialeah but of Hispanic American women in South Florida.  I feel the Juleisy and Karla act and the Chongalicious video are as damaging to the ethos of Cuban Americans as the Jersey Shore reality television show is to Italian Americans. Irreparable. 

The Damage
According to George Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, people that are constantly exposed to stereotypical portrayals of minorities in the media, believe that those stereotypes are not only true but that they are true about everyone. This makes the negative portrayal of such stereotypes of minorities extremely damaging.

Suddenly, it was a bad thing to be from Hialeah. Suddenly, because I was from Hialeah, I was expected to be ill mannered, illiterate and promiscuous. Suddenly, because I was from Hialeah I was a chonga.

We need only to look at the early 19th century depictions of Jezebel and Mammy to see how minority women are stereotyped and demeaned in popular culture. Similar to the African American stereotypes of women Jezebel or Sapphire, the chonga is sexually promiscuous, uneducated and negatively perceived. The Hialeah chonga is the new Jezebel, a sexist and discriminating stereotype of Hispanic American women. Juleisy and Karla, this is what your “act” does... It perpetuates this stereotype and it tells the world that Hispanic American women act and dress this way.

Unfortunately the stereotyping didn't stop with the chonga. Derogatory internet memes of incorrectly spelled signs were circulating social media networks, claiming to be from Hialeah. Some of them where legitimate, some of them clearly photoshopped but all of them were equally damaging. Things as common as robberies (they happen everywhere) are automatically associated with Hialeah, often followed by the coined phrase “Only in Hialeah” even when said incidents did in fact NOT take place in Hialeah or have anything to do with the city.

Let's take a look at this popular internet meme as an example. It was widely circulated around email and social media and even the Miami New Times around December of last year. It reads "Welcome to Hialeah."

In fact, this picture was not taken in Hialeah but on an expressway and the man driving with a dead pig seat belted in his convertible is none other that Executive Chef Todd of the Front Porch Cafe in Miami Beach taking his purchase back to his restaurant. Yet, this photo is famously associated with Hialeah. See the picture of the cooked pig on The Front Porch Cafe's facebook.

Another disturbing example of this can be found below in definition five in the Urban Dictionary of Hialeah:

“A little suburb in Miami, Florida that contains wild beasts called Cubans.
They are loud, wild, and love to party.
They have very enormous breasts and their accents are to die for.
They can " Booty Dance " and they'll fer sure wet your panties !
Another word referred to them is this category called Chongas or Chongos.
Nickname for Hialeah : Chongaleah. “

What is even more disturbing is the 75 people that gave this lovely description a thumbs up. Congratulations. You are the scum of the Earth.

Yes, this caricature of a Hispanic American woman known as the chonga can be found in Hialeah. I am not denying she exists. She is found everywhere including Miami, Broward, the rest of South Florida, New York, and California. There is NO statistical evidence that the chonga personality is more prevalent in Hialeah than it is in neighboring cities. The fact that in South Florida she is immediately and directly associated with Hialeah speaks volumes of the massive stereotyping of the working class immigrants from the suburb as uncultured, uneducated and unable to speak English.

I am the first generation American child of Cuban immigrant parents. I was born in Hialeah Hospital, graduated from Hialeah High School (Go T-Breds!) and I work for the City of Hialeah. If there ever was a Hialeah girl, I am it. I am employed, educated, articulate, traveled and intelligent as are all of my friends and family. My name is Meghan Martinez and I am from Hialeah.

[Drops mic and walks away]

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