Though virtually unknown a year ago, actress Gina Rodriguez is already a Golden Globe winner for her lead role in the stereotype-breaking hit CW show Jane the Virgin, and her fans adore her. Yet Rodriguez has faced plenty of backlash for speaking out for better Latina representation in the media, which, she recently revealed, sometimes comes from other Latinos.
Rodriguez shared her People en Español cover with her 331,000 Instagram followers on Aug. 5. The brief caption, written in Spanish and English, thanked the magazine for not only supporting her but also "uplifting the many hardworking and successful Latinos in this country."
For such an innocuous message, Rodriguez received of a barrage of racially charged criticism. Followers latched onto Rodriguez's Spanish translation and questioned her "Latino-ness," she told Fox News Latino on Tuesday.
"There was an interesting conversation that ... was deeper-rooted than just what I look like," she said. "It was an interracial Latino racism that was eye-opening."
Although the (racist) belief that Latinos are a hegemonic group is unfortunately common, it's patently false. For instance, filmmaker Kat Lazo recently explained the distinction between being Latino and Hispanic in a Bustle video.
"Hispanic is a term that refers to Spanish-speaking origin or ancestry," she says in the video. "Latino is a more frequently used term which refers to origin or ancestry to Latin America."
Many first-generation Latinos in the United States speak Spanish, but with each new generation for a person of Latino or Hispanic heritage, use of Spanish as a primary language drops. This is evident with Rodriguez, who is not fluent in Spanish but whose parents are Puerto Rican.
Beyond language barriers, inter-Latino racism persists and proliferates in the media. "We see white privilege play out on Telemundo — a quick Google search will show you that the anchors are of lighter complexions," Mark Travis Rivera wrote last year in for Fox News Latino. "We see it in the roles given to white Latinos versus black Latinos in novelas, and America's representation of the Latino community."
But rather than let this ignorance go unchecked, Rodriguez, who has spoken out against various forms of hatred and in favor of equality, took to Instagram to explain just how damaging this criticism is.
"When did we decide social media was for hating, for putting others down rather than lifting them up?" she wrote on Instagram the next day. "I refuse to participate in that kind of world."
While it's unfortunate that Rodriguez received such negative feedback, her response is another inspiring example of her commitment to making visible the common experiences of Latinas in this country and working to construct a media landscape — and world — that honors this community.
"My question to you today is this," Rodriguez wrote on Instagram. "Do you know the power you have in the world and do you desire to use it for good? I do."