“So she adopted a Spanish accent, who cares? It’s not like she pretended to be Latina,” said a Facebook commentator.
It has been nearly 72 hours since the story of Hilaria Baldwin broke in la twiteratura, with Bequitas getting their yoga mats in a twist. And you really can’t blame them. The exotic mommy thinspiration they knew, is a fraud. The defense team has quickly mobilized to come to Hilaria’s aid, with some quacking that those who are coming down hard on her are just jealous haters unable to duplicate what Hilaria has achieved: picking up a second language, bagging an A-list celebrity and remaining string-thin despite having five kids, all while building a yoga-mommy brand as a social media influencer.
Many are going the extra mile to dismiss Hilaria’s lies as the product of embracing the bicultural lifestyle she was apparently immersed in. At the forefront of the myriad justifications is the fascination of a White woman being so fluent in Spanish, her “perfect” Castilian accent has earned her the title of linguistic genius by another Facebook defender. Even a lawyer was quick to offer his anti-cyberbullying services, as he could no longer bear the level of hatred and trolling toward this beautiful and talented woman.
*Laughs in Spanish*
I don’t intend to write an exhaustive manifesto on why Hillary’s forged identity is wrong on so many levels. Culture vulturism has been discussed and written about extensively. And while we can all agree that this is a case of a certain type of Caucasian (regular White American girl from Boston) purporting to be another type of Caucasian (Spaniard immigrant with an accent), we need to delve into the linguistic implications of this story.
There are about 41 million Spanish-speaking people in the United States. However, its unfortunate marginalized status also makes Spanish a racialized language and frequently weaponized against the majority of individuals who speak it, U.S. Latinos and Latin American immigrants. “It’s the language of the help,” I once heard someone say.
Hillary replicated what most Latinos already do, which is being bilingual and bicultural. However, Latinos are not afforded the enchantment Hilaria has received. In fact, I reckon that bending over backward to excuse Hilaria’s lies has nothing to do with her bilingualism and everything to do with her being a White woman who has once again leveraged her privilege for capital gain. This time, she packaged herself as a Spaniard, the most palatable of Spanish speakers. And now that the lie has been uncovered, she has transitioned into the exotic White person who has learned to fluently speak another language. Hence, this story doesn’t seem like a big deal to some because of America’s fascination with its White speakers of a foreign language. The hypocrisy is evident: Spanish from Spain, good; Dominican Spanish, bad; Bilingual U.S. Latino, bad; Bob I-Studied-Abroad-For-A-Semester, worshipped.
Dr. Nelson Flores and Dr. Jonathan Rosa, both associate professors at UPenn and Stanford, respectively, have written extensively about raciolinguistic ideologies, including the notion that bilingual Latinos are deemed less intelligent than their Caucasian counterparts. They write:
“We argue that people are positioned as speakers of prestige or non-prestige language varieties based not on what they actually do with language but, rather, how they are heard by the white listening subject. Valdés and Geoffrion-Vinci (1998) provide us a point of entry into illustrating this claim through their description of Estela, a second-generation Chicana from Texas who grew up speaking English and Spanish, has a BA in Spanish, and is a ‘doctoral student in a Spanish literature department at a prestigious university’ (p. 473). Despite these bilingual experiences and academic credentials, some of Estela’s professors described her Spanish as ‘limited’ and question the legitimacy of her admission to the doctoral program. Meanwhile, some of her fellow students laughed when she spoke Spanish in class. Valdés and Geoffrion-Vinci face significant difficulty when they seek to identify the specific linguistic issues involved in the stigmatization of Estela’s Spanish: When pressed to describe what they perceive to be her limitations, Estela’s professors can give few details . . . Most of the faculty agree that Estela’s written work . . . is quite competent. Still, there is something about her speech that strikes members of the Spanish department faculty as not quite adequate and causes them to rank her competence even below that of Anglophones who have acquired Spanish as a second language. (p. 473). Estela has clearly enjoyed a great deal of academic success, and yet her professors continue to ‘hear’ her as having linguistic deficits that they cannot quite identify.’”
In my own professional experience as it pertains to the Spanish language, I look no further than academia to observe how being Spaniard or a Spanish-speaking White American will get you hired before any bilingual U.S. Latino who is equally qualified. Thus, the fascination extended to Hillary is only perpetuating a racially linguistic bias that favors some individuals at the expense of others. The bilingual competence of Latinos will always be questioned, as underscored by Flores and Rosa (2020).
For some of you, the lies of Hillary Baldwin may be of no consequence, worth un pepino. But for those of us who have struggled with linguistic insecurity, contended against the mocking of having an accent and the perpetual skepticism about our bilingual education, Hilaria is not only a farce, but a painful reminder of how our society glamorizes some, while marginalizing others.
Luana Y. Ferreira tweets from @lingodom and shares more thoughts on her Medium page.
As a US Born Latino, I honestly am not in any way offended don’t see what the big deal is here. People like the author who have liberal politics and a victim mindset will look at any situation and see how they can fit it in to their world view and see it through the lens of oppression against people of colored.
The author does correctly note that Hilaria is basically one type of Caucasian trying to pass herself off as a different type of Caucasian. And I would say Hilaria does so very convincingly. Having been to Spain, Hilaria does in fact look very Spanish. If I saw her walking around Madrid, Granada or Seville she would blend right in. If she is able to monetize, and play the exotic card, more power to her. Good for her.
I think back in the day before all of this political correctness and woke non sense, it would not have been a big deal. People are hyper sensitive these days.
Honestly, in my entire life I can honestly tell you that I have never felt persecuted or oppressed due to my ethnicity. Honestly. My dad is the typical US Born bilingual Hispanic, and nobody cared whether his bilingualism came about as a result of studying abroad like Hilaria or growing up in a bilingual household. It just has been a benefit overall for him. And with me, I grew up speaking English but eventually taught my self Spanish by listening to audio books and my bilingual skills have benefited me, nobody cares how I learned Spanish. My clients just want to know that I can serve them.
Anyway, I say kudos to Hilaria. Beautiful woman. And if she is able to pull of an image as a Spanish woman and monetize it. I say more power to her. Quit hating.
[…] Hilaria Baldwin and Why It Matters (OPINION) – latinorebels.com […]
Here is the dangerous reason why what Hilaria Baldwin has done is a dangerous thing, should be noted and called out. I first must point to how the US census designates the categorization of who is Latino or Hispanic. It states, [SIC] People who identify with the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” are those who classify themselves in one of the specific Hispanic or Latino categories listed on the decennial census questionnaire and various Census Bureau survey questionnaires – “Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano” or ”Puerto Rican” or “Cuban” – as well as those who indicate that they are “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”
The MASSIVE thing of note is the last two words, “Spanish origin” this means the government and those who write policy inadvertently recognize people who are Spaniards, people born in Spain, and not of a traditionally recognized Latino as Latino. LEGALLY, a Spanish person could claim all benefits set aside for minorities that we would traditionally understand as a Latino meaning, a person of the Caribbean, Latin American, or Central American diaspora living in the United States because of a simple loophole.
So here is the other layer in the framework of parading around as a Spaniard, Hilaria being a business owner could qualify as a minority-owned business. It would be legal. I am not saying she is doing that but what I am saying is that the conversation needs to be had about making sure whatever small benefits are available to people of the Caribbean, Latin American, and Central American diaspora who have earned them, keep them.
Do note some individual states are going out of the way to redefine the term Latino/Hispanic/Latinx to exclude Spaniards. However, as long as it remains part of the base definition on the US census it remains intrinsically part of the American government and policy. It means Spaniards, my colonial oppressors, have equal rights to scholarships, business loans, home buying incentives, and other potential subsidies that my people have gained through their historical oppression in the United States.
Let me speak plainly, my current historical oppressor’s reparations can be used by my former oppressors. Good times.
Hilaria masquerading as a Spaniard is a problem for us and it should be called out aggressively.