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21 July 2011 @ 11:19 am
EXCLUSIVE: Charisma Carpenter: "You Need To Get It Out That I'm A Proud Latina!"  
EXCLUSIVE: Charisma Carpenter: "You Need To Get It Out That I'm A Proud Latina!"

By Lee Hernandez | 07/20/2011 - 20:10

Her name is Charisma Carpenter and she’s best known for playing all-American cheerleader Cordelia Chase on the hit TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But there’s something many people don’t know about Charisma—she’s Latina! “I think it’s the best kept secret ever,” said the sweet actress, whose grandfather was born in Spain. “You need to get it out that I’m a proud Latina!”

Charisma says she’s been trying to tell people she’s Latina for years—but they don’t believe her. “They’re not buying it,” she says. “I feel a little rejected by the Latina community. I say that in jest—I don’t sincerely mean it. But I mean…a little bit.”

The talented actress, who has a huge fan base for her work on Buffy and its spinoff, Angel, thinks she knows why people don’t believe she’s Latina. ”I guess I’m too white, too pale,” she says. “I guess they’ve never seen me tan…I don’t know.”

The 40-year-old actress says she wasn’t raised speaking Spanish—but there’s a reason for that. “My grandfather had a pretty terrible experience being in America and being from Spain,” she says sounding a bit more serious. “He came to this country as an immigrant with his family. He was a crop picker: strawberries, cotton, all that kind of stuff. And what would happen back in those days is that parents would go away and send their small children to a boarding house or an orphanage.”

Charisma says it must have been a crooked operation because her abuelo was smuggled out of the orphanage in the middle of the night, with his aunt, and adopted out to an American family who mistreated, mocked, and humiliated them. “{They} thought it was so precious and adorable that they spoke Spanish. They would make them sing in Spanish in front of their friends. Their friends would come over and they were the entertainment, so to speak,” she says.

Charisma says the ordeal was very painful for her grandfather. “He was embarrassed by it, so he chose to forget the {Spanish} language,” she says. “He refused to speak it. So my parents weren’t raised speaking Spanish.”

Still, Charisma says she managed to learn Spanish on her own. “I took Spanish since I was in the sixth grade and I lived in Mexico for a couple of years {her dad relocated there for work} when I was in high school,” she says. “I went to a school that had a strong Latino environment in Southern San Diego—about six miles from the border, so I {grew up} in the culture.”

This weekend, Charisma says she’s attending a Latino film festival in support of the new film, Without Men, which stars Latinas Eva Longoria, Judy Reyes, and Kate Del Castillo. “I’m going to support Eva!” she says enthusiastically.
sherrilina: La Giralda (Sevillesherrilina on July 21st, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, interesting! I had no idea she was of Spanish descent, I wonder where in Spain her grandfather's family was from? And I wonder if his family came over because of the Spanish Civil War in in the 1930s, or just the hard times before then?

Although I feel like she's more Hispanic than Latina, since as I understand it the Latina identity is more about the Americas and the melding of Spanish and indigenous culture, not just about Spanish culture? O_o I've heard before that some Latinos dislike being called Hispanic because of the connotations with Spain which they do not necessarily identify much with....cultural identity is such a complex subject!

Thanks for sharing!

Edited at 2011-07-21 08:27 pm (UTC)
Kellyxlivvielockex on July 22nd, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
I actually wrote a huge post about this on Tumblr but I will copy/paste it here.

In regards to the whole Charisma and Latina issue, this is going to piss a lot of people off so I’m warning you in advance. And just at the start, I should say that I am Spanish and Venezuelan who has lived in Europe, South America, Mexico, and the United States.

First, I think people need to remember what magazine was interviewing Charisma. It’s Latina magazine. I had a subscription to them since they began and had one until very recently. They embrace pretty much any Spanish speakers whether they identify as Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, etc. I can understand why they chose the name Latina because it is more catchy than Spanish Speaking Ladies. To the people upset that the magazine is claiming her, they take basically anyone who speaks Spanish or comes from a Spanish speaking background.

Second, there is the whole issue of the US Census. This is something that probably most people who are complaining don’t realize. In Arizona, where I live, Latino, Chicano, and Hispanic are either all put into one category or there is simply Latino for ANYONE with a Spanish speaking background is told to mark. I have been told since childhood to mark Latino. Not to mention the fact that Latino has not always referred to simply Latin America but rather to any countries that had a Latin-based language. This meant that Spain along with France, Italy, Brazil, etc all fell under what was considered “Latino”. The term has gone through many changes through the centuries.

There are plenty of Hispanics, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, etc who mark Latino because for so long Hispanic has been lumped in with Latino on forms. A lot of them mark Other. It is very confusing to be labeled or put into a group by a government made up of mostly white males. And honestly, in my experience, Hispanics will call themselves Latinos and vice versa. They use the terms interchangeably in the spaces I have been in. Or they will say I am Mexican. I am Spanish. I am Puerto Rican.

What I took from Charisma’s interview is either she is a victim of this same kind of labeling and lumping in. She might have been told from birth that she is Hispanic and Latino without a differentiation. Or it just could mean that she is Latina as in a reader of the magazine or “Latina” as in someone that represents the aesthetic of the magazine.

As someone who has been told since childhood to mark Latina or Hispanic, I get where she is coming from and what she is saying. I’m not upset about it. The other Hispanics and Latinas I talk to don’t seem to be upset about it. Because we have all been there. We have all looked at some form asking our race and had to mark something that maybe wasn’t a textbook definition but it was the one that fit the best or was the way the term was defined at the time.

ETA: The United States Census: “The OMB defines Hispanic or Latino as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

sherrilina: La Giralda (Sevillesherrilina on August 19th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
Sorry this is so late, I've been meaning to answer this and it slipped through the cracks!

Anyway, I know what you are saying about the Census categories, I recently visited an exhibit about Race at the National Museum of Natural History that talked about that, and I was kind of outraged then too about the fact that (at least the most recent census form) singles out Spanish people as a separate racial/ethnic category, but not any other European people (I didn't know at one time French and such had to mark "Latino" as well)...because it just doesn't make any sense to me. Like, racially speaking a good portion of Spanish people are as "white" as many in the British isles...though all that category stuff is so muddled and messed up.

Basically, I know why she might have said that, but just speaking as someone who has lived in Spain in the past, I know that Spanish=/=Latino culture (though obviously there are many parallels thanks to colonization), since there was plenty of indigenous influence and all the baggage of the colonization, etc. So I find it kind of confusing/weird to group them all together like that...

EDIT: Oh and as far as your Spanish part do you know where in Spain that heritage is from, by any chance? :) (Sorry I'm just always interested in all things Spain!)

Edited at 2011-08-19 03:35 am (UTC)
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Kellyxlivvielockex on July 22nd, 2011 06:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, it has actually annoyed me a bit that she was coded as white in the series but after talking to eleusis_walks about it, it would make skeevy race issues in BTVS/ATS even worse if she was Hispanic and she lost all her money/prestige/etc. To my knowledge she has always played white but it would be nice to see her in something that plays up either her Hispanic or Cherokee heritage.
sherrilina: Arthur/Chicken (Merlin)sherrilina on August 19th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
But why shouldn't she be coded as white for the Hispanic part of her heritage at least, if it's just a grandfather born in Spain? (Leaving the Cherokee part aside for a moment). For all we know "Cordelia's" relatives in Spain lived an upper-middle-class white lifestyle (since they'd probably be coded as white there), and then her grandfather moved to the US for business which her mother or father or whatever continued, providing that life for Cordy....

IDK, all these categories are so complicated...O_o
ever_neutral: ats ~ mopey and consumptiveever_neutral on July 22nd, 2011 05:44 am (UTC)
Ooh, this is great. Thanks!
Kellyxlivvielockex on July 22nd, 2011 06:41 am (UTC)
You are most welcomed. :)