#NoMames, Modern Family: “Fulgencio” Episode Enters Uneasy Territory with Portrayals of Colombians

Jan 28, 2013
12:34 AM

ABC’s “Modern Family” is still the country’s most popular scripted show, averaging about 11 million viewers per week. It has made a star out of Colombian actress Sofía Vergara, and it would not surprise us if the show’s creators were inspired by Charo when they invented the role of Gloria Pritchett.


Knowing that Vergara’s character really doesn’t do much to break the perpetual stereotype of the hot, oversexed, accent-heavy man-dependent Latina, it’s clear that “Modern Family” isn’t rushing to transform Gloria’s character. However, we will give the creative team a little advice: it’s probably not a great idea to explore Gloria’s family history or introduce new family characters from Colombia. If last week’s “Fulgencio” episode is any indication of what the show will be doing in the future, then it will surely get the MEGA #NoMames from us.

The whole episode can be viewed below. What was the story about? Like one synopsis says, “Gloria’s mom, Pilar, and sister Sonia have made the voyage from Colombia, and they come bearing traditions, baby names and a whole lot of family baggage.” Chuckle, chuckle.

When we tried to edit a few of the scenes that we felt crossed the line from witty satire to cultural ignorance, the producers of the show (FOX) claimed that we were violating copyright. We don’t think so, since we were just using the scenes to show some of the more dumb examples. No one is selling this episode hot from the back of a truck, guys. Yet in the interest of not freaking anyone out, we will share the following official clip from the show to present one example of how the show just missed. Again. In this scene, Gloria (played by Vergara) is having a conversation with her sister Sonía (played by Stephanie Beatriz). Ugh.

Other “highlights” from the story’s main arc include the following:

  • Sonia asking Gloria where the garden is so she can pick vegetables for dinner.
  • The show’s writers not knowing Spanish for one of the bigger jokes of the episode. Guys, it’s HUMBERTO and not UMBERTO. The kid is of Colombian descent, he is not from Italy nor is he related to UMBERTO ECO. But, hey, even if you don’t get the fact that the “h” in Spanish is silent, why don’t you still try to go “viral” with a silly meme.


  • Gloria’s mom Pilar (played by Elizabeth Peña) wielding the “family gun” as a gift to her grandson and speaking to Jay as if she were the head of some Colombian crime syndicate that wanted Jay dead. Did anyone on the show stop to think for a second about this message?
  • Sonia in her unwanted role as Gloria’s housekeeper who also wanted to know where the “river” was so that she wash clothes, because, hey, you know, there are no washing machines in Colombia.
  • The whole uneasy relationship between Gloria, saved by her rich white man, and her almost peasant-like sister Sonía (the show officially calls Sonia “underprivileged.”). That just didn’t feel right.
  • The whole ending scene, which just went down the typical overly dramatic, telenovela path because hey, when it comes to dealing with Latinas, you know that you have to make them loud, and hypersexual, and man-hungry, and materialistic. (BTW, just because Latin American TV, Univision, Telemundo, and MundoFOX all do the same thing, doesn’t make it right.)

Catching the episode reminded us that even though the show’s creative staff THINKS it is poking fun at the absurdity of Colombian stereotypes, they are just PERPETUATING some rather ignorant and musty portrayals that, quite frankly, do nothing to improve how the mainstream views U.S. Latinos. We have  few chances to see more nuanced and deeper portrayals of Latino characters on TV, that when we see such blatant stereotypes appear in one of the country’s most popular shows and when we don’t have other shows on TV that don’t balance out “Modern Family’s” sins, then we think it is just another example of bad TV by another clueless American network.

Let’s hope that we don’t see much of Pilar and Sonía, although we know that will not be the case, because you know those Latinos! We are the next big thing, so let’s keep talking in funny accents and washing our laundry in the nearby river, señora.