Cojelo suave, mi gente

On January 17, 2013

"Don't calm me down! I don't like it when people calm me down!"

So far, that sole line has been the standout quote from MTV's latest exploitation device, Washington Heights. The show follows a group of young people living in the primarily Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights district in Manhattan, as they follow their respective dreams.

When I first heard about the show, I immediately rolled my eyes and asked God, "Why?"

In a perfect world, I would be elated that Latinos finally had a shot to represent themselves as opposed to letting the stereotypical cholo, chola or Consuela from Family Guy represent us. But after MTV put the nail in the stereotypical coffin for Italians with Jersey Shore, and VH1's current exploitation of people of color with shows like Love and Hip-Hop and Basketball Wives, I grew wary of how the cast would be portrayed.

Since the show premiered on Jan. 9, my Twitter timeline, which includes people who live in or frequent Washington Heights, has been full of complaints about the show's authenticity.

For those who aren't aware, Washington Heights' Latino population consists of mainly Dominicans and Puerto Ricans and is synonymous with their culture. The show's lack of bodegas, chimichurri sandwich trucks, larger derrières and bachata and salsa music called for an instant uproar about how watered down the cast and story line are.

The show's first episode opened with drama between Reyna Saldana and Eliza Jefferson, two women connected by Eliza's boyfriend and aspiring professional baseball player, Jimmy Caceres. With a fair share of alcohol in her system, Reyna blew up a Facebook confrontation and resorted to throwing blows outside of the club, but not before she told people to refrain from calming her down.

Was I upset the first episode went straight for drama between two women with overwhelming NYC/Latino accents? Sort of, but the show also has more redeeming qualities than people want to admit.

This group of Latinos might not fill the expectations nor reality that actual Heights residents experience, but they don't exactly give the Heights a poor name, either.

Yes, JP "Audobon" Perez wants to be a rapper, Reyna wants to be a singer and cast member Rico Rasuk wants to be an actor (three extremely competitive professions), but they at least have aspirations.

This week's episode featured Ludwin Federo at his GED graduation, and the Twitter mocking continued. But why knock him for trying to make up for his mistakes? It seems the audience would've preferred Ludwin stay a high-school dropout and soil the poor reputation Latinos are already stigmatized with.

2012 set a spotlight on my diverse, beautiful, rich ethnicity, but it's time young people take the good with the bad.

In the past year, young Latinos have made headlines both in politics and their work against social injustices. Groups such as the DREAM Activists, United We Dream and The National Immigrant Youth Alliance have worked to defend and educate undocumented young people in the United States.

The Latino vote in swing states Colorado, Nevada and Florida helped President Barack Obama win his second term, according to CNN. Furthermore, the amount of eligible Latino voters increased by 4 million since 2008, resulting in Latinos accounting for 11 percent of the nation's eligible voters.

While those numbers aren't as much as other minority groups, I'm just happy Latinos are being recognized. When I read that many Republicans considered us a "problem" because of our impact in the 2012 election, I took it as any press - good press.

Washington Heightsmight not be the most legitimate representation of the Heights my peers know and love, but it's the Heights those young people know and love. MTV gave us the cookie-cutter version of this show, but the cast is at least doing what they can to represent us positively, despite what the producers might be trying to do. 

I'm not sure about you, but I'd much rather see a group of "boring" young Latinos, working toward building better lives for themselves and their families than the even more stereotypical people hugging the block.

Granted, I'd pick a show about Afro-Latino hood legend Joel "40Oz Van" Fuller over anything, but that's a different story for a different day.



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