Disney’s latest cartoon series, Elena of Avalor, has come under fire for its depiction of Latino culture by various figures, in part due to the fact that it combines a variety of Latino cultures, and for downplaying the historical issue of colonialism.

Where is Avalor?

The series depicts Elena, the latest of Disney’s long-line of animated heroines, rising to throne as crown-princess of her realm, the titular Avalor, after being sealed away in a painting for a few ageless years and defeating an evil sorceress. While set in the fictional kingdom of Avalor, the setting takes inspiration from various Latin American countries, such as Columbia and Chile, although the presence of a European-style royal family suggests Spanish influence.

The Letter to The Guardian

Writer Melissa Lozada-Oliva discussed the show in an op-ed with The Guardian, where she took issue with the fact that Elena comes from a fictionalized country that seems to represent various Latin-American cultures instead of just one, claiming that Elena serves as “everybody’s princess,” a term that had been coined by the show’s head writer, Sylvia Cardenas Olivas. While admitting that the idea behind alluding to more than culture probably was meant with good intentions, Lozada-Oliva felt that doing so also creates the risk of stripping a Latino “identity really thin.”

Another case in point made by the writer is the fact that characters on the show occasionally use the Spanish language, suggesting Avalor does not exist as a pre-colonial area. According to Lozada-Oliva, it can be hard to separate the Latino identity and culture without discussing the concept of colonialism.

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This in turn has brought up criticism over the fact that the show seems to ignore the controversies that colonialism can be associated with.

Ultimately, Lozada-Oliva wrote that even an attempt of a Latina heroine could be welcoming to Latino viewers, but felt that it should not come at the cost of a character that is a “caricature” and that people should look to themselves to develop identities and not fictional characters.

Other voices about the show

Rebecca C. Hains, the author of “The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years,” and an associate professor of advertising and media studies for Salem State University, previously made news when she had also found issue with the show’s use of restricting Hispanic accents to the older characters, suggesting that the show would give off the implication that people had to become more Americanized to be seen as modern.

Show creator Craig Gerber defended the decision behind the accents, claiming that it had been intended to showcase a generation gap that was present in the show and is a fixture in many Latino families.