I recently watched Christina Aguilera honored with a special achievement award at the NCLR Alma Awards. I also recently watched her on The Voice, a singing television show where she’s one of the judges. Considering I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, I was taking in a whole lot of Christina. As a young Latina, I was enchanted by her voice, which I was first introduced to in 1990 on Star Search, when I was 15 years old watching a lot of TV.
And now as an adult, I’ve remained a fan. So I had to ask myself why. The answer became clear. Christina is one super Mamacita. She’s a 31 year-old proud and successful artist, mother, and humanitarian. And she’s bi-racial - half Irish and half Ecuadorian. Christina’s confidence and pride in being a Latina is important to bi-racial women like me. Being half German and half Mexican wasn’t easy growing up. I grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico to Mariachi singers I couldn’t understand. I looked Hispanic to my white classmates and white to my Latino classmates. My Nana was frustrated I didn’t know Spanish. And I was frustrated I couldn’t fit in.
When recently asked by Latina Magazine to comment on criticisms of not being Latina enough, Christina replied, “I’ve dealt with that my whole life. I don’t speak the language fluently. And I’m split right down the middle, half Irish and half Ecuadorean. I should not have to prove my ethnicity to anyone. I know who I am.” As a teen, I remembered following the similar struggle of Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano singer who didn’t know Spanish. And today, the truth is that I’m still muy sensitivo to this issue.
Recently, I was reminded of not being Latina enough when I read a review on The Mamacita Murders. It criticized the Spanish translation portions of my novel. I became discouraged. I regretted allowing a friend handle the translations. I should have hired a professional. Or I should have learned Spanish. I’ve come to learn this is the ongoing saga of many bi-racial Latinas. Several months ago, I was filming an interview at UCLA and I met a bi-racial Latina who shared her similar experience. I began to understand it was a common thing. We didn’t speak Spanish at home. Our families encouraged assimilation. We are the product of American history, migration, and multi-cultural upbringings. But it doesn’t make us any less Latina. And it doesn’t give me any less determination to write Latina legal thrillers.
Today, I feel the same as Christina who recently commented about her Spanish albums. She said, “All I know is no one can tell me I’m not a proud Latina woman…I dove headfirst into a Spanish-language album for that reason and I’m planning another one even though I don’t speak the language. I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with some people.” Maybe I should follow her advice on how to handle reviews. She said, “I don’t read them. Ever…Why read what people are saying—good or bad?” The truth is that I do care, especially about my Spanish speaking readers. I want them to be proud of the artists in their culture, including me; so I hired a Spanish editor to review my novel.
I can only hope for Christina’s feisty Mamacita attitude; which no doubt comes with her success. She has earned a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, one Latin Grammy, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she has sold over 17 million copies worldwide of her first self-titled debut album Christina Aguilera, and is a currently a judge and host on The Voice. But more than that, she is a mother to four year old Max and a humanitarian.
Christina has used her voice to bring awareness to world hunger. She has filmed a public service announcement for world hunger, which benefits the United Nations World Food Program and other relief agencies. She has brought awareness to domestic violence, being an abuse victim herself. And she has raised money for Amnesty International. It’s no wonder why Christina ranks #2 on my list of top Mamacitas.
What do you think? Does Christina deserve a seat on my list of the Top 10 Mamacitas? Send your comments to Debra@DebraMaresNovels.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!