It’s 2020 and Marvel still messes up diversity casting?
I know everyone is excited because of the recent news Marvel has announced at Disney Investor Day. Personally, I haven’t been able to fully indulge in it given the recent circumstances that has been happening in the US. However, there’s a certain news that left a bad taste in my mouth. What am I talking about exactly? I’m talking about America Chavez.
As a biracial Puerto Rican myself, this is unacceptable. I look at this, look at the actress and I feel grossed out. I have to keep reminding myself to not take it upon the actress but I ponder if I should, since when someone auditions for a role, they MUST have SOME knowledge about the role they are auditioning for.
There’s something a lot of you need to realize. Hollywood has a bad track of hiring Latinos, Hispanics or a brown people to play each other. Especially white casting directors, writers, producers, directors because at the end of the day this doesn’t affect them; they just need the space filled, doesn’t matter by who as long as they at least look the role. This is stereotyping Latinos playing other Latinos.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened in Doctor Strange. Many of you may or may not recall how the role of the Ancient One, an Asian man, was given to Tilda Swinton, a white woman.
The reason this doesn’t get called out as often is because it was given to a woman. Erasure of a minority for another minority is STILL ERASURE even if it was done to make it more "approachable" and by that I mean straight up WHITEWASHING.
In the case of America Chavez, this was Marvel infamously placeholding. What does this mean? It's what I call when they couldn't bother find an appropriate person to fill the role so they went with the "next best thing".
No one should be celebrating these people insulting your intelligence and yet people are applauding the decision to cast a light skinned indigenous Mexican girl for the erasure of one of the FEW if not THE most well known established Afro-Latina Caribbean PUERTO RICAN superhero (the other three are the mantle of the White Tiger and the last two were americanized women of puerto rican descent).
I know people are going to mention that she's an alien and that she represents brown people alike and that's all fine and dandy. However, one can not ignore her being black and the acceptance of puerto rican culture as part of her identity. You can NOT call this representation when they are literally misrepresenting the charaters herself.
This is all done with the illusion of "diversity" and it's pretty damn disappointing y'all are so accepting with this knowledge that you're okay with because it's “at least diversity” even if at the expense of another marginalized group.
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On “Dead” Cultures and Closed Spiritual Practices: Why Colonialism Is Still A Problem.
Let me start this by saying that, as far as my knowledge of Paganism and Polytheism as a whole goes, I’m what the internet witch community calls a “Baby Witch”. I’m stating this out of the gate because I know there will be lots of people, including witches who have more experience on the craft than me, who might decide to ignore what I have to say based on that fact alone, stating that I’m not knowledgeable enough to give my opinion about this.
Here’s the kicker: I’m a ‘baby witch’, yes, but I’m also a twenty-six year old Venezuelan woman. I’m an adult. I’m Latina. I’m a Christian-raised Pagan,but I’m also a Latinoamerican woman over all other things including that. I grew up on this culture, these are my roots. It is because of this background than I’m writing this post today.
Looking through the “Paganism” and “Witchcraft” tags of this website, I’ve seen a few posts throwing indigenous deities and spirits’ names around on lists alongside deties of open cultures. Yes, you can know better by doing your own research and not going by what just a random Tumblr user wrote on one post (as I hope its the case with everyone on this website), but the fact that pagan beginners are still getting fed misinformation is still worrisome to me.
There’s nothing like reading a so-called expert putting Ixchen (Maya), Xolotl (Nahuatl) and Papa Legba (Vodou) on the same damn list as Norse, Hellenic and Kemetic deities and tagging it on the tags aimed at beginners who might not know better to truly ruin your morning. I’m not mentioning user names here: If you know then you know.
To quote @the-illuminated-witch on her very good post about Cultural Appropriation:
“Cultural appropriation is a huge issue in modern witchcraft. When you have witches using white sage to “smudge” their altars, doing meditations to balance their chakras, and calling on Santa Muerte in spells, all without making any effort to understand the cultural roots of those practices, you have a serious problem.
When trying to understand cultural appropriation in witchcraft, it’s important to understand the difference between open and closed magic systems. An open system is one that is open to exchange with outsiders — both sharing ideas/practices and taking in new ones. In terms of religion, spirituality, and witchcraft, a completely open system has no restrictions on who can practice its teachings. A closed system is one that is isolated from outside influences — usually, there is some kind of restriction on who can practice within these systems.”
A counter-argument I’ve seen towards this when someone wants to appropiate indigenous deities and spirits is to use the “dead culture” argument: Extinct cultures are more eligible for use by modern people of all stirpes. It is a dead culture and dead religion. It would be one thing if some part of the culture or religion was still alive, being used by modern descendants, but the culture died out in its entirety and was replaced, right? They were all killed by colonization, they are ancient history now, right?
Example: “If white people are worshipping Egyptian deities now, then why can’t I worship [Insert Aborigen Deity Here]?”
To which I have two things to say:
Ancient Egypt’s culture was open and imperialistic, meaning they wanted their religion to be spread. This is why Kemetism is not Cultural Appropriation, despite what some misinformed people might tell you. Similar arguments can also be made for the Hellenic and the Norse branches of Paganism, both practiced by people who aren’t Greek/Norse.
Who are you to say which cultures are “dead” and which are not?
Religious practices such as Vodou and Santería certainly aren’t dead, not that it keeps some Tumblr users from adding Erzuli as a “goddess” on their Baby Witch post, something that actual Vodou practitioners have warned against.
Indigenous cultures such as the Maya and the Mapuche aren’t dead, despite what the goverment of their countries might tell you. The Mapuche in particular have a rich culture and not one, but two witchcraft branches (The Machi and the Kalku/Calcu). Both are closed pagan practices that the local Catholic Church has continuously failed to assimilate and erase, though sadly not for lack of trying:
“The missionaries who followed the Spanish conquistadors to America incorrectly interpreted the Mapuche beliefs regarding both wekufes and gualichos. They used the word wekufe as a synonym for ideas of the devil, demons, and other evil or diabolical forces. This has caused misunderstanding of the original symbolism and has changed the idea of wekufe right up to the present day, even amongst the Mapuche people.”
For context, the Wefuke are the Calcu’s equivalent of the Familiar, as well as reportedly having more in common with the Fae than with demons anyway.
This and other indigenous religions are Closed because it is wrong for foreigners to just come and take elements from marginalized groups whom are still fighting to survive and that they weren’t born into. To just approppiate those things would be like spitting in their faces, treating them and their culture like a commodity, a shiny thing, a unique thing to be used like paint to spruce up your life or be special.
I know some of you are allergic to the word “Privilege”, but on this situation there really ain’t a better word to explain it. You weren’t born here, you don’t know what it is like, you are only able to see the struggle from an outsider’s point of view.
If a belief or practice is part of a closed system, outsiders should not take part in it. And with how many practices there are out there which are open for people of all races, there is really no excuse for you to do it.
Why Colonization Is Not “Ancient History”
If you have kept reading all this so far, you are probably wondering “Ok, but what does Colonization has to do with any of this?”
The answer? Everything.
With the general context of culture appropriation out of the way, let me tell you about why the whole “dead culture” argument rubs me the wrong way: Here in Venezuela, we have a goddess called Santa Maria de la Onza, or Maria Lionza for short, whom’s idol statue I have been using to illustrate this little rant. If you happen to know any Spanish, you might recognize the name as a derivative of Santa Maria, aka the Virgin Mary, and you are mostly correct: Her true indigenous name is theorized to have been Yara.
And I say “theorized” because it is a subject of hot debate whether she was really ever called that or not: Her original name, the name by which she was adored and worshipped by our ancestors, might have been forever lost to history.
That’s the legacy of colonization for you: Our cultures were stolen from us, and what they couldn’t erase they instead tried to assimilate. Our ancestors were enslaved, their lands and homes stolen, their artwork and literary works destroyed: The Maya and the Aztec Empire were rich in written works of all kinds, ranging from poetry to history records to medicine, and the Spaniards burned 99% of it, on what is probably one of the most tragic examples of book burning in history and one that people rarely ever talk about.
People couldn’t even worship their own gods or pass their knowledge of them to their children. That’s why Maria Lionza has such a Spanish Catholic-sounding name, and that’s why we can’t even be sure if Yara was her name or not: The Conquistadors couldn’t steal our goddess from us, so they stole her name instead. Catholics really have a thing with trying to assimilate indigenous goddesses with the Virgin Mary, as they tried to do the same with the Pachamama.
On witchy terms, I’d define Maria Lionza as both a deity and a land spirit: Most internet pages explaining her mention the Sorte mountain as her holy place, but it is more along the lines that she is the mountain.
You’d think that, with Venezuela and other Latinoamerican countries no longer being colonies, we’d be able to worship our own deities including her, right?
As far as a lot of Catholics seem to think and act, apparently we are not.
The Catholics here like to go out of their way to shame us, to call us “cultists”, to ostracize us, with a general call to “refrain from those pagan beliefs” because they go against the Catholic principles. Yes, the goddess with the Catholic-sounding name, a name she happens to share with a Catholic deity, apparently goes “against Catholic principles”. You really can’t make this shit up. (Linked article is in Spanish)
This is just an act of colonization out of many, of not wanting to stop until the culture they want to destroy is gone. Don’t believe for a second that this is really their God’s will or anything like that, they are just trying to finish what years of enslavement and murder couldn’t. They might not be actively killing us anymore, but they still want us dead.
So no, colonization is not some thing that has long passed and now only exist on history textbooks: It is still happening to this day. It is by treating it as old history that they can keep doing it, and it is by pushing the narrative that our indigenous cultures are “dead cultures” that they try to erase our heritage.
Because we are not dead. We are still here, we are alive, we have survived and we’ll keep on surviving, and our gods and goddesses are not yours to take.
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Today Disney released the official posters of its upcoming movie “Encanto”
“Encanto” tells the story of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family that lives hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wonderful place known as Encanto.
The magic of Encanto has blessed all the boys and girls in the family with a unique gift, from super strength to the power to heal. Everyone except Mirabel. But when she discovers that the magic surrounding Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only Madrigal without magical powers, could be the last hope of her exceptional family.
To say that I’ve waited my whole life for this moment would be a lie, I never thought- I never let myself believe that a studio as renowned as Disney would ever look at my country and find it worth it of one of their big movies, and yet here we are. I remember the day Disney posted the first and only teaser, how i cried when “Colombia tierra querida” started playing, when I saw the same mountains that I see every day, and the flowers and butterflies that I know by heart.
My country is in the north of South America, but most people wouldn’t even be able to point it in a map, some think that it is named Columbia after the U.S. state, they don’t seem to understand, as many times as you correct them, it’s just a letter they say, it doesn’t matter, and the worst people make disgusting jokes about c*caine or about the 70 something years of war this country has known, they think their jokes are harmless, they aren't.
I grew up thinking that the only kind of representation I’d get in movies and series were productions such a Netflix’s Narcos, bc sure, exploiting the story of the men who brought so much misery and pain to our people is great 🤩, I’m getting too spiteful, but I hope you understand, I know many of you do.
My country has a far too long list of devastating events considering that it didn’t exist as a country 200 years ago, most days it’s hard to find reasons to feel proud, most days in “the happiest country in the world” there are no reasons to smile, but this? this movie, what I hope you see in this movie makes me cry tears of joy, this does make me proud and gives me millions of reasons to smile.
My country is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and 20% of all the butterflies are found here.
My people grow and exports the best coffee in the world.
Cumbia, with roots in indigenous and black culture, the only genre of music capable of uniting our continent, from the Caribbean coast till Tierra del Fuego, was born in Colombia
This country overflows in cultural diversity, as José Vasconsuelos said, we are the cosmic race, this constellation of people from every corner of the planet lives in all of us, we are a strange and wonderful mix of all their stories, their struggles, their traditions and their will to built something here.
All of this and more, all the things that I love and make me proud of my country I hope you can see them in Encanto, I hope this movie make people see what so many others have failed to see before, and I hope that at least part of this movie gets to live in your hearts, as it already does in mine
And to my fellow Colombians reading this, we know our struggles, we know how hard this year has been, but here's to all of us, this is our best, this is our pride, this who we truly are ♥️
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