We're all familiar with the "spicy Latina" trope, the generalization that all Latinas are mysterious, hyper-sexual, exotic or a little crazy. It's a stereotype that goes back decades, with Brazilian dancer and 1940s film star Carmen Miranda being the progenitor of the archetype.
The "spicy Latina" archetype has most commonly manifested itself in pop culture: From Carmen Miranda "The Gang's All Here" to Rosie Perez in "Do the Right Thing," to Sofia Vergara on "Modern Family." But, lately, with the advent of social media and viralism, there's a new way the stereotype is being perpetuated, through memes.
There are certain pockets of the Internet, populated mostly by black men, where the fetishization of the "spicy Latina" has reached a whole new level. There are Instagram accounts and hashtags such as #crazylatinasbelike and #latinasarebetter that seem dedicated to worshipping Latinas for their sexual prowess, cooking and cleaning skills, and willingness to be the "ride-or-die" chick.
It's all, of course, based in gross generalization. In this world of male fantasy, all Latinas have fat asses, light skin and just the right touch of exoticism to set them apart from other women (especially black women). Memes proliferating this idea include ones with captions like, "Latinas make you love life and fear it too," or "N***as be like: I like Latin girls."
These memes are shared by men and women, alike, probably from a well-meaning place, maybe even in the spirit of playfulness and celebration of Latinas. But there's no denying that many of these memes aren't just about celebration: It's about fetishization.
And this objectification even, for some, goes further into the territory of fetishizing mixed babies, as demonstrated by this popular tweet which has been retweeted over 6,000 times, below, where (uncredited) photos of two seemingly mixed-raced toddlers are accompanied by the caption: "This is why Spanish women and black guys go together... look at the production."
Black men are by no means the only men active in this world of fetishizing Latina memes, but what's fascinating, and disturbing, is that for the black men who do make them and share them, colorism and misogynoir plays a huge role in the obsession.
The "Get you a Spanish [sic] girl" club, after all, actively ignores the existence of dark-skinned Latinas and Afro-Latinas, instead focusing entirely on the celebration of the light skinned, curly haired and bright eyed "spicy Latina" archetype.
As writer Shantyana C. Ledin wrote in an essay for The Feminist Wire, "When people tell me I must be a 'spitfire' or a 'freaky girl' in bed because I am Hispanic, I am not at all flattered. They’re working on stereotypes created long ago to subordinate women of color and cast them as the inferior 'other.'"
The ramifications of these memes are twofold. Not only do they diminish the complexity of Latinas by objectifying them (all they're good for is being sexy, ride-or-die girlfriends and producing beautiful mixed babies), but they also denigrate and demonize black women (including dark-skinned Afro-Latinas) in the process.
The unfortunate thing is that so much of the colorism, sexism and racism inherent in the "Get You A Spanish Girl" meme corner of the Internet is that it's ripe for the possible internalization by both Latina women and black women.
These memes aren't going away anytime soon. But there's something to learn from them. Specifically: Attraction and fetishization are two very different things. The line between them is thicker and far more defined than many men who buy into and perpetuate these stereotypes about Latina women want to admit to themselves. The harmful memes shared amongst men of color and white men that pertain to Latinas are not about attraction, or genuine admiration.
The beauty of memes, viral pics, vines and tweets are that each can pack a lot into a little: A picture of Kermit the Frog sipping Lipton iced tea can become shorthand for throwing shade. And in turn, the playful memes we create about Latinas, black women, Asian women and all women of color have the same potential to convey a larger idea to subtlety dictate the way we think about these women and the way these women think about themselves.