As many of you, I was very excited to learn of Nina, the new Latina on Sesame Street, after actress Sonia Manzano’s character Maria was retired 44 years from its first appearance. Personally, I was not only happy because Nina is Latina, but also because it represents the millennial generation of American Latinos who are changing the face of the United States.
After my initial excitement, I read about the petition that Angelica Perez-Litwin, PhD, creator of Latinas Think Big initiated on Change.org and couldn’t help but to let my imagination loose to create a life for this new Latina on sesame street, and therefore imagine the life of many other millennial Latinas.
Once I started to imagine the new Latina on Sesame Street I could clearly see that, like many other millennials, she has great aspirations for her future. As per the Pew Research Center, “Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in history compared with older generations when they were the same age.” We all know that millennials are the most diverse generation, including a high percentage of Latinos.
The report continued by saying that “…millennial women are nearly four times as likely as women in the Silent generation to have at least a bachelor’s degree.” That being said, it is only natural to assume that millennial Latinas are entering college at higher rates than ever before. Therefore, it is easy to imagine ‘Nina’ as a Latina working hard to support herself while attending college, and having a plan for a future beyond working at a Laundromat and babysitting.
I also imagine that Nina, like many other millennial Latinas, comes from a family that highly values education and hard work. It is also possible that she is the first one to go to college in her family, which is a source of pride, but also of great responsibility. She probably has to work, as many Latino students do, to be able to pay for expenses while attending college.
It is not hard for me to imagine Nina’s life or the lives of many other millennial Latinas around the United States, because this is a reality. So, why is it hard for a creative writer to picture that? A simple answer to this is the potential lack of representation in the creation of the character, due to the unilateral view that mainstream media has had historically when it comes to Latinos.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that there is a new Latina on Sesame Street, and that the creators of such important show have decided to have her. I recognize and appreciate the other Latino characters we’ve seen on Sesame Street throughout the years, and I’m sure that as the progressive show they have shown to be, I know we, as a community, have a great chance to make this character to represent Latinas everywhere, show how this new generation is changing America, in a good way.
UPDATE: Petitions work! Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin had created a petition to request that Nina, the new Latina on Sesame Street, was changed to a College/Graduate student. It was a success, read about it here.
I love it when the power of social media is used to impact social change, especially when it comes to American Latinos. Also, I am happy and proud to know so many great, intelligent Latinas that are changing the world. So proud to know Angelica Perez-Litwin, PhD, who put this in motion, always thinking about the advancement and future of Latinas.
I loved what she said on the petition letter, “…having Nina play the role of an ambitious college or graduate student, who also happens to babysit Elmo and works in the community, is a more accurate reflection of today’s millennial Latinas — across the country. Sesame Street has the power to inspire millions of children, from all ethnic/racial backgrounds. We want Nina’s character — as a young Latina pursuing an educational degree — to serve as a role model for all children.”
On April 11, 2016 there was an article published about Sesame Street on the Miami New Times and it described Nina, the new Latina on Sesame Street. This is what it said: “Lopez’ Nina is a college student working various odd jobs on Sesame Street to pay her way through school.” It was a sweet victory for all of us who had rallied behind this petition and it is a testament of the power social media has when we all come together to affect change.
I can’t help but to think of all the many American Latina little girls who will grow up watching this character and imagine how is Nina’s life while starting to think about going to college one day. That thought warms my heart.