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Meet Elena, Disney’s (Overdue) Latina Princess

Disney is determined to finally do right by its diverse, impressionable young audience. On July 22, the Disney Channel will introduce its first Latina princess, Elena (of Avalor, as the animated series’ name proclaims). “It’s not a secret that the Hispanic and Latino communities have been waiting and hoping and looking forward to our introduction of a princess that reflected their culture,” Nancy Kanter, who oversees the show, told The New York Times.

When caricaturists and animators get together to illustrate race and ethnicity, eggshells must be walked on, and the company is doing its darndest not to tick anyone off (as they most definitely did with The Princess and the Frog). Of course, you can’t please everyone. The fact that the orphaned Elena’s adventures will be documented via 22-minute episodes rather than full-length animated feature is already causing critics to grumble. However, unlike many of her predecessors, Elena isn’t dangerously petite or tediously boy crazy. “We wanted to make sure that she didn’t have a doll-like appearance, and we really wanted to steer clear of romance. She has male friends, as teenage girls obviously do, but we did not want it tinged with, ‘Ooh, they’re falling in love,’” said Kanter.

Elena’s life in Aztec-inspired kingdom of Avalor will be filled with (hopefully historically correct) references to Latin folklore and cultural traditions, her songs derived from genres like mariachi, salsa and Chilean hip-hop. In her hair, she’ll wear an apricot mallow, a flower found in Southern California and Northern Mexico. So far, it seems that Disney’s hard-earned experience and raft of consultants did relatively good: “She’s not an ornament,” said Rebecca C. Hains, author of the book The Princess Problem. “This is a princess with real political power, and that’s genuine progress.” That said, Hains isn’t too pleased with the fact that Elena, voiced by the Dominican Republic-born Aimee Carrero, does not share her elders’ Spanish accent. You win some, you lose some.

Tentatively speaking, we’re happy that Disney, along with other notable brands, is giving its diverse devotees an opportunity to see themselves represented on television and in the media. Hats off to Walt (even if Elsa remains cis and straight for the Frozen sequel).

[ via The New York Times ]